Sunday, September 21, 2008

Since Thursday night...

Since Thursday night...

I seem to have been mostly running for planes because there wasn't
enough check in time and then the planes have been late.

I got about 4 hours sleep then I got up and went to the
airport. I was there at 0500 for the 0600 flight which wasn't really
enough. After about ½ hour in the line the PA announced all the
passengers in the check in line who had to catch my flight should
immediately go to the front of the line. Everyone(!) in the line moved
up to the baggage counters.

Then the plane backed out of the parking bay, but couldn't take off cos
the plane in front of us broke down... then got to Sydney with about 1.5
hours to transfer. It took about 30 minutes to get to the Air Canada
check in desk where they gave me my boarding pass which said boarding
would be at 0910. It was 0900 when I got that! Then run for the security
(my bags were checked at Adelaide) to be held up for explosives
screening (they seem to pick me out about 30% of the time) while I
fretted about the time. As it was, the boarding pass must have been
wrong as the plane didn't begin to board till about 0940. And then we
sat on the ground for another 20+ minutes.

Anyway, it wasn't all horrors. The plane was a newish 777 which was
clean and had a fairly good entertainment system. I watched 4 movies all
the way through and 2 part way. One was an interesting old 1945
Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None” which seemed like a good
movie but we ran out of time and had to land. The flight was 14 hours
and I got 2 naps of about 15 minutes.

One of the meals was really nice (maybe I was hungry). It was a beef and
cheese roll, but it had vegetable sticks, carrots, cucumber and
something else and a tomato dip called Kasundi. The dip was really excellent.

We got to Vancouver and landed at about 0700 their time. On the way in
there in the last hour or so it was just flat cloud with a few mountain
peaks, just poking through. I don't really know where this would have
been, because if we came straight in to Vancouver from the west, we
should have passed over hardly any land at all.

I had a window seat but I didn't really see anything for almost all of
the trip. It surprised me I saw a few islands, which I think was the
eastern extremity of New Guinea. We must have flown up the east
coast, but I couldn't tell as I was on the right hand side of the plane.

I got out of the plane and collected my bags (about 5th to last off the
carousel) and walked out. It was pretty deserted, most of my plane load
had gone through just before. Even though it was Friday, none of the
airport shops etc had opened. A customs lady standing apparently in the
middle of nowhere asked for my arrival declaration after I had just come
through immigration. She read it and marked it with green highlighter.
She told me to go over to a particular line, which also was deserted and
I walked through some doors expecting to go through quarantine and bag
checks, but I was out into the airport exit area (still deserted)! Helen
(who bought her boyfriend along) came in on a 1030 arrival flight and
said the customs process was exactly the same for them too, although she
said it took them 2 hours to get out of the airport, which included 1
hour on the ground in the plane waiting for a gate to clear so they
could park.

Once I was at the airport I rang the hotel and found that they had a
spare room and I could book in, so I caught the shuttle bus, booked in,
had a shower (lovely), tried the free internet, found I couldn't send
email or web mail and then went to bed a bit after 0900.

After about 3 hours sleep (making a total of about 8 in 2 days) I caught
a taxi to the main part of Vancouver. I spent about 90 minutes at the
aquarium. They have white Beluga whales, with a calf. I tried to take
some pictures but they didn't turn out too well.

I walked around the seawall about 3-4km and then into the
city. The art gallery was closed when I got there but went into “Sears”.
I went to a shopping centre called “Pacific Centre” and had tea in the
food court there. A “salad” shop where you pick out your salad from
the salad bar and buy it by the kg. Just like I do at the work canteen,
but about ½ price to what ETSA canteen costs. I actually didn't get
any salad. I bought their special, which was a bowl of soup and an
egg sandwich.

The weather was overcast and cool. All in all I walked about 6 hours.

I am still semi Adelaide time. That evening I went to bed at 2200 and
woke up at 0200 (Vancouver Saturday morning) and read.

I caught the plane for Montreal Saturday morning (it is 0600 Sunday
morning here in Montreal as I type). We left the hotel at 0700 for an
0830 flight. The airport is only a few km from the hotel, so I wasn't
worried too much. But what a mad house. Completely different to my
arrival. I won't describe it all, but it seems that Vancouver has only
just introduced (in the last few days) electronic check in. But they do
it in such a disorderly way. I had to ask an Airport Lady how to use the
check in machines. Similar to the Adelaide ones, but you print (and put
on) your own baggage tags. Then you line up to get your tag scanned,
then you line up again to drop your bag, then you line up again to go
through security. This plane was a bit more crummy and it was buy your
own meal too(!). But I was so tired I fell asleep for probably an hour
or so altogether, in little naps. It was a four hour flight and we
gained 3 hours flying across Canada so arrived at Montreal in the
afternoon at 1630. Helen, who was on the same flight, but sitting down
the back, has left her boyfriend in Vancouver. I think he was going to
do some sight seeing there. They arrived later than me and it sounds
like they only spent about 1 hour or so in Vancouver sightseeing on
Friday. Helen got three seats to herself, but I got stuck with a big fat
Canadian bloke who overflowed into my seat (yuk!). And he was a drinker
and I could smell the aldehyde coming off him (double yuk!).

After checking in to the Montreal hotel (Double Tree),
this one is a bit swish.

I went for a walk along Rue Ontario (I think, I still might not have my
bearings yet) and then a little walk in the Quartier Latin. Check it out
on Google earth on your laptop. It is a really interesting place. French
speaking for the most part, although people will speak to you in English
once you have started, all the signs seem to be in French only and the
default spoken language is French. There are lots of restaurants and
arty shops along the Rue Ontario and the Latin Quarter didn't seem much
different. I walked for another 2 hours or so before I got my tea, chips
and a chicken burger at “Frite Alors!”.

I have worked out where the nearest Metro station is (not far) and I
think I will explore a further part of the city tonight. I have found a
Persian restaurant on the internet, near a Metro station about 5 km away.

It's now 0625 Sunday morning (I woke up again in the early hours and
it's taken me about 60 minutes to write this. I am a slow typer.)

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