Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Canada Miscellaneous Musings

Monday 22

First day of the conference was really hard. I still have jet lag and I sat from 0900 till 1800 in the conference room and was sleepy/tired the whole time. I fell asleep for a few minutes too many times to keep count of and each time I woke up I felt OK for about 20 minutes or so, then my eyes started to close again. It was very hard going. And the speaker was so slow on the topics, it didn't help. Luckily, the first day covered setting up the computers (which I already did in Australia) and some introductory topics, which I already understood fairly well. After 1800, I staggered up to my room and dozed off for another hour. I had set my alarm so I wouldn't sleep too long, so I can try to synchronise myself with Canada time. But it still isn't working, it is 0400 here now and I feel quite awake. :-(

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Tuesday 23

I woke up again at 0300 but feel OK for now. Helen's boyfriend arrived last night and lost his wallet on the bus from the airport. I think they were chasing around after it last night. They got the wallet and cards etc back, but seems they are $200 in cash lighter. After that I think they probably got out of it lightly.

Now it is lunch time. They are feeding us too much, I'll probably fall asleep cos of the food. I will have to go for a walk tonight. I think I will try to visit the souterrain. Museums are open late tomorrow night, so I'll visit at least one.

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Wednesday 24

It is now 11:00pm and I am off to bed. My time shift is better, I only fell asleep once in the seminar today. At 16:30 I went out to walk around the town to get myself sleepy and force me to stay asleep. Did about 5 hours walking tonight (add that to 6 hours Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday but none Monday as I was too tired).

It is afternoon break time...

I might go to the art museum tonight. Last night I got 6 hours sleep, the most I have had in one go since last Thursday. I was talking to 2 of the other Australians (there are six here in total, including Helen and me) both of them were having trouble sleeping too and one of them said he was taking sleeping pills! It's much more of a problem than I was originally thinking. Most of the participants are Americans with a couple of Canadians thrown in too, but there are two South Africans and two Malaysians as well. Tonight there is a company arranged game of “Walleyball” which is supposed to be like volleyball played in a squash court. Not me playing, though :-)

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Thursday 25

Yesterday I did go to the art gallery, I saw an Andy Warhol exhibit. Thursday I was far to tired to go out. I slept for about 3 hours after the course finished and were still too lethargic to do much. However, by 2300 I was a bit hungry so I went for a walk along St-Denis street to see what was open. I was a little surprised as a fair number of restaurants were open, even at this late hour. I finally sat down in a little Italian restaurant which had a front which was open to the street. Apparently the original owner came to Montreal in the 50's and tried to set up a sidewalk restaurant, but the council kept fining him. The arrangement of the restaurant seems to be a compromise between the footpath and being enclosed. I had a nice pizza there and was a bit bemused as no less than 5 fire engines tried to get down this narrow section of street. I don't know why they turned up, probably a false alarm.

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Friday 26

The course finished in the early afternoon.

I only went to the Economusee du Fier Monde, a few streets away. This is a very local museum, which concentrates on local information (for local people?). It has a permanent exhibition relating to the history of the area and a temporary one which covers contemporary events. Unfortuneately when I visited, there was no temporary exhibition. The building was made out of the old “Generaux Bains”, the swimming pool. The pool still exists and forms a central open theatre for the museum.

After that I was still very tired, a current theme of this trip. I went back to the hotel and slept for four hours in the early evening again. When I woke up it was raining, so my weekend plans might have to change somewhat. I went out at midnight to the latin quarter (again) to get a yiros. I have been eating too much, so I have to cut back.

I tried to get in contact with a number of couch surfing hosts in both Montreal and Quebec. There are not so many in the older age groups, they are mostly 20 somethings. I tried 6 contacts, ( 2 men, 2 women and 2 couples). None could put me up for any nights, but one (Daniele) offered something. She said she had a chap staying with her and we could all go for a walk around her neighbourhood on Saturday or Sunday.

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Saturday 27

I'm still suffering from odd sleeping patterns. I tried to get in touch with couch surfer Daniele, but she didn't answer the phone, so I went out to try to arrange for a short tour to Quebec. My original thought was to just book into a hotel and do the walk around thing. Sadly the weather looked like it was going to rain for the rest of the week due to the hurricane. I decided it might be less wet to arrange a bus tour, so I went down to the local information centre near Dorchester Square. There has a very long line and slow line so I went to have breakfast in Dunn's Diner. After I had a cheese omelette there I went back to the tourist info place to speak to the bus tour people. This didn't go so well as the tour I actually wanted to go on ended for the season last Wednesday. I tried to get some information about the other tours, but they told me all the Monday tours were cancelled due to lack of interest and to come back Monday to see if the Wednesday tours were going ahead. Simple to say, I wasn't going to hang around for a “possible” tour in 4 days time. I went over to the general information area and spoke to a nice lady called Alma who showered me with brochures (my Mrs Bucket “Holiday Brosshures” :-) . She booked me into a room in Quebec in the old part of town. I had a quick look at the Cathedrale Marie-Reine du Monde and then went to the central railway station to check out their timetables. With not much else to do I then wandered through the subterranean town to the McCord Museum of Canadian History. It is a small museum focussing on Canadian history. They did have a temporary display on the ground floor about womens fashion (it wasn't as naughty as the advertising makes out). If it isn't raining too much tomorrow I might go to the market or the Mont Royal Park. I spent a couple of hours at the McCord and then caught the Metro back to the hotel, for another afternoon sleep. I rang up Daniele and found that she and her guest, John, had already visited the Jean Talon Market, but they were half planning on a walk to Mont Royal the next day. I got Daniele's address and had a quick check on Google Earth to see what would be the best way there from a nearby Metro station.

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Sunday 28

I caught the Metro to Rosemount station and jumped off to walk to Daniele's place. I wandered around in the general direction of her apartment. The area here is, unsurprisingly, more residential than areas I had been to earlier. It was extremely deserted I thought, even for 10:00 on a Sunday morning. There are numerous shops along the main thoroughfares and typical three storey buildings on all the side streets. Overall it looks to be an interesting area. When I got to Daniele's place, she and John were almost ready and shortly after we went out on our trek. First we went up to Mont Royal. A fairly steep climb for my old legs. Not withstanding the walking I have been doing, the mountain was a little bit of a struggle. The weather has been cool and overcast, but fairly humid. I was a bit sweaty by the time I was finished. After icecream at the volunteer's shop to the west of the park we headed back through the cemetery. At the bottom of the cemetery we came out into a more upmarket residential area, full of new BMW's and four wheel drives. By a circuitous route through some parks and along Rue St-Viatuer back to Daniele's place. By this time John had to pack and leave for his next destination. I helped him carry his pack to the bus stop and then said a final farewell to Daniele. Back on the Metro for the hotel and a final afternoon snooze.

Daniele lives in Montreal and works as an english/french translator, mostly for banks I gather. She is a french speaker from birth. It was her house that I visited. It seems she had a boyfriend/husband who died some while ago. John was couch surfing there, he is an American, I asked him where he was from and I think he (and his family) had moved around a fair bit. He had lived in some Southern US states, including Florida, but now lived in one of the states just across the border (maybe Wisconsin?). He was travelling and making a film. I got the impression he was “working” for his brother and he was travelling for some other reason, but doing the filming as extra as the opportunity arose. He had already filmed other locations up the US east coast. Panthererouse is the couch surfing username that Daniele uses. I didn't put any names on there for anonymnity. The big mushroom on the tree was in the cemetery, there were lots of them, on the trees and on the ground. The cup and balls are a feature of the local restaurant. Daniele took us there to show us them. I am still not sure what their relevance was, other than a restaurant gimmick.

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Monday 29

I am almost ready to check out of the hotel (as I write). I went down to the foyer a half hour ago but it was really busy (Monday morning check out). I have had an interesting weekend, not too busy, but I was pretty tired from the jet lag and week before.

I took the bus to Quebec this afternoon and am now in a hotel for 2 nights in the old part of Quebec. Very touristy and expensive. I had a 2 hour walk this evening, and had tea in an Italian restaurant, it was very nice and had many waiters and even an accordian player but my cranberry juice and spag bol with chicken cost ca$35 (with tips) about Aud$45. Then I went back to the hotel. I saw a big flock of geese flying over honking, that was good, then I fell asleep at 8pm and slept for 6 hours, which is one of my better nights sleep. It is about 0300 now. Wednesday 1

Now I have just walked in to the Vieux Quebec Hotel.

It is 10:00 and drizzling. I had to back pack from my other hotel, which wasn't far away, to here.

Last night I was fairly tired so I laid down at about 19:00. I was thinking of getting up and going for a night time walk but it was getting very windy. The wind howled outside, and I heard all the passenger ships in the quay (less than a km away) blast their horns. But the weather was really off putting and I didn't have the spirit to get up.

In fact when the sun came up this morning my window was completely misted over (inside the hotel). Although the room wasn't cold, the glass itself was cold as ice and heaps of moisture had condensed on it. I got up for a 6 am walk and started to another part of Quebec which I hadn't been to, but not only was it cold and windy, that's when the rain started spitting down, so I retired to the hotel after being out only 15 minutes or so.

I visited the Ursuline museum yesterday. They don't allow photos to be taken, otherwise I could have shot off a few for you. They also had a reliquary, but not of Ursula, of one of her companions, I think. There was the back part of the skull and 6 small bones. Rib fragments and fingers.

And then on Wednesday night I lectured a class at O'Sullivan College (!)


Well it wasn't a lecture as such. Another couch surfer (Richard) who I contacted last week, asked me if I wouldn't mind having an informal chat with his ESL (French=>English) class. I said OK, but when I turned up his boss (Pablo) had decided that he would include his advanced English class with Richard's intermediate class and I got to stand out the front and talk about Australia and things in general to engage the students. I thought I might not like it too much as I don't normally enjoy standing out in front of groups, but this wasn't too bad after all!

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