Sunday, March 12, 2006

Visiting Canada - Part I

Our trip to Canada went fine, we enjoyed ourselves but it proved not to be the getaway I had hoped for.

DH had arranged for reservations in a charming B&B in old Montréal, a house with very thick walls, built in the 1700's.

The B&B was run by a young couple, there was a picture of them and their cute two-year old on their site. That troubled me a bit, but not too much... until we arrived, tired after a long flight, to be welcomed by the heavily PG missus. My heart sank and a feeling of melancholy settled over me that wouldn't lift until we left.
Mr and mrs B&B were very nice to us and we liked talking to them. Most mornings we had breakfast with them and enjoyed their company. She never talked about her PG unless one of the other guests brought it up, thankfully. But it made me sad to see such blatant fertility nonetheless.

On the last day, I was unfortunate enough to be present for the following conversation:
Nosy American woman*: So, how did you two meet?
Me thinking to myself: What an intrusive question to ask someone you've just met!
Mrs. B&B: We met a couple of years ago when we both rented a room in the same house.
Mr. B&B: Yes, a little more than two years ago.
Mrs. B&B: A month after we met I was PG with Kiddo B&B.
Me thinking to myself: Great, I really needed to hear that. Let's get OUT OF HERE!

All standard disclaimers apply, happy for her, sad for me, you know the drill.
But enough of my gripes about random fertiles.

French Canadian schoolbusBeing in Francophone Canada was a bit disorienting at first. Montreal is a North-American city and looks that way, but people speak French! Now French is a language I speak well enough, but Québéqois is a whole different ball game. What an accent!

chapel in Old Montreal

This winter has been relatively mild, I was told, but it didn't seem that way to us. The first day we were there it snowed gorgeously fluffy snowflakes. During our short visit to the Château Ramezey Museum 5 cm of snow fell.

Jean Drapeau ParkThe next day, the temperature rose just above zero only to drop sharply again in the evening. The top layer of snow first melted, than froze again into a solid crust. The streets and side walks were covered in ice. And if we thought that was bad, that night there was a spell of freezing rain, covering everything with a fresh coat of ice. This was a first for us, I had never heard of freezing rain before. I was glad we were only sampling winter, and don't have to live with it every year.

On the warmest day we walked up Mount Royal to enjoy the view over the city. On clear days you can see the mountains in the distance.

On the coldest day (-18°C) we ventured out to the Stewart Museum at the Fort on Saint-Helens Island. To compensate, we went to the Biodôme afterwards, and hung around in the tropical rainforest to thaw out.

The cold drove us to visit a number of (nicely heated) museums:
- Ecomusée du Fier Monde, the industrial and working class history of Montréal.
- The Montréal Museum of Archeology and History Pointe-à-Callière, featuring excavations dating back to first pioneer settlements as well as some aboriginal remnants.
- Contemporary Art Museum of Montréal
- Canadian Centre for Architecture, the exhibition showed a fascinating documentary on how the city dealt with all the snow in the 1920s compared to now.

Between visiting museums and ducking into the toasty underground system, we took shelter from the cold in a variety of eateries. When we're on holiday, we like to sample local foods. Here are some things we tried:
- scrambled eggs with maple syrup: nice.
- pecan pie: yum!
- smoked meat sandwich: not bad.
- tourtières (meat and vegetable pie): good.

After a week of winter, we were ready to move on. Lucky for us, the weather was clear on our last day there and our flight to Vancouver left on time. The pictures from that leg of the trip will follow later.

*She was from NY state. Clearly there are cultural differences when it comes to what are appropriate topics for conversation with relative strangers. Americans (U.S.ians?) are often perceived as forward or nosy where I live, but to many Americans we seem distant and reserved. I know some people are nosier than others, no matter where you go. :-)



At 12 March, 2006 23:24, Blogger Bronwyn said...

I love seeing what visitors get up to when they come here. February is a very difficult time to visit Montreal, but it seems like you made the most of it. The weather has turned now and everything has finally started to melt, which we're all very thankful for. If you ever get a chance to come back you should try to see it in the summer. The jazz festival is a lot of fun and the city is a lot easier to navigate without 3 inches of ice on the sidewalks!

(And sorry about the pg B&B hostess. I can understand how that might put a damper on your experience.)

At 13 March, 2006 00:42, Anonymous Lori said...

Ugh - sorry about the pregnant B&B hostess. What a drag.
Other than that, it sounds like a lovely trip. Except for the cold of course!
As for the nosiness issue - it's funny, I wouldn't have thought "how did you meet" to be a particularly intrusive question. Most people I meet enjoy telling their "story" and I think they are always fun to hear. So, I must confess, I have been known to ask such a question.

At 13 March, 2006 00:55, Anonymous Orodemniades said...

Yes, Canadian French is veddy veddy different to Parisian French, which is what I keep trying to learn (you'd think 7 years of French would be enough, but dude, one forgets so quickly...).

As for Americans, well, you did say she was from New York.


Most Americans find New Yorkers rude. :P

I love Montreal, though, and hope to get back there some day. And really, I only live about 2 hours south of the city, you wouldn't think I'd lived most of my life not going up there, but there ya go.

At 13 March, 2006 02:25, Blogger Ladybug Ann said...

Nice pictures, I've never been to Montreal (well, used the airport to transfer before ...). Ugh on the pg hostess. Looking forward to the Vancouver pics.

At 13 March, 2006 03:57, Blogger ninaB said...

Glad you got to see montreal in it's full ice & snow glory, but too bad about the B&B.
I always hear people comment on the 'bastardized' (my word, not yours) french spoken by Quebecers and my response is "well of course". I mean, I've never ever heard anyone comment that people in Texas, or New York, or Scotland don't speak the same english as the Queen. We don't expect them to, and often find local/regional accents and adaptations of the language quaint, lovely etc. So why would one expect those in Quebec (who have been there for 400+ years) speak Parisian french??..not saying that you did- just selfishly using your blog comments to make this point.
Bit sensitive to this. Married to a quebecer afterall ;)

At 13 March, 2006 05:11, Blogger Vacant Uterus said...

Glad to see you're back! I'm sorry that vacation didn't turn out to be all that you expected...nothing worse than a surprise fertile after a long, hard flight.

Americans are pretty forthright, it's true. (I say this as a big offender.) On the other hand, we make killer bagels.

At 13 March, 2006 17:04, Blogger Mellie said...

Such pretty pictures! And it sounds like you packed a lot in on your visit so it must have been fun. Though a pregnant hostess that you have to interact with would definitely be a damper of spirits for me.

As for the "How did you two meet?" question, well, granted I'm now a New Yorker, but I don't think that's a nosy comment at all. I prefer it to the generic "What do you do?" If she was being nosy she would've asked "How long were you trying?"

At 13 March, 2006 17:05, Blogger Just another Jenny said...

That is funny to hear that you have never heard of freezing rain - it is quite the thing. It's not easy to walk on if you aren't used to it.
I had no idea that pecan pie was a local thing, I figured they had it everywhere. I must admit, I put maple syrup on my eggs. Actually, I just pour it over my entire breakfast. I'm from Ontario, about 5hrs from Montreal.
I am sorry it was so cold but Bronwyn was right, Feb is not the warmest month in Montreal.

At 13 March, 2006 17:16, Blogger Robber Barren said...

Gorgeous pictures! Sorry about the fruitful B&B couple, but it sounds like you had a marvelous trip despite it!

At 14 March, 2006 01:50, Blogger projgen said...

"smoked meat sandwich: not bad"

Not bad? Not bad???

You must have had a bad one, that's all I can say. ;)

As for Quebecois French, suffice it to say in France they *dub* films from Quebec! heheh


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