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Tuesday June 22nd
And then we were there in Montreal – about ½ hour early. But by the time we'd got through passport/immigration it was nearly 2.30p.m. Which was the time Patricia had agreed to meet us. Not quite sure if I could remember what she looked like – but no need to worry, she found us! A big smile and hugs all round. She's quite tiny. But talks a great deal and with her french accent sometimes rather hard to understand. We got $200CAD ($NZ270) from a machine that also charged a $1.50 commission! Hmmm. P'raps just because it was the ATM associated with the Bureau de Change! We followed Pat out to the carpark and into her "small" car – a huge 4WD with a huge boot! She navigated through traffic talking all the time – Larry was in front, observing the traffic signs and road markings. Across town and through the tunnel to Champs de Mars. I was grateful for the air conditioning as it was quite hot and humid but it made me cough. We drove into the parking area beneath the apartments then took the lift to the 2nd floor which is actually the 6th (there are 4 floors of offices beneath the apartments). Along a corridor rather reminiscent of the Park Inn at St Petersburg (i.e. very long) and into a one room apartment with bathroom and wardrobe as side rooms. Very bright and spacious though compact. Windows the full length looking across the road into the offices of court/judge legal people. There are several keys to open the building and the apartment. Then there are things to understand about the internet, TV, washing machine, kitchen appliances and phone. Then by the time Pat had gone through it all again, following the "instructions for visitors" I was totally exhausted. But now we had to go downstairs to see the inner courtyard, the view from the end of the corridor then to the entrance to see how to open the main doors then to find the inside entrance to the convenience store – very convenient! Finally back to the apartment at 204 for Pat to collect her things – she was going to stay with her sister for the night. But she had so many bags, Larry had to go down with her to help . . . I was just too tired. We had met Denise the neighbour from 205 with whom we will leave the keys at the end. Larry had a shower then we bought groceries from the convenience store, came back for chippies and a glass of nice white wine that was ready chilled in the fridge for us! I made an omlet and we watched Coro St while we had coffee. It was 8p.m. Canada time (2a.m. Munich time) when we went to bed – we'd been awake 22 hours. Slept really well. Woke at 2a.m. Thinking it was 6a.m. And wondered why it was so dark. Back to sleep easily and woke with the alarm at 6a.m.
Wednesday June 23rd
Overcast. Humid. Warm but bearable. Out by about 8.45a.m. First through the Park Champs de Mars to the Information Centre. Parked across the road was a horse and buggy for tourist rides. White horse, "Mimi" was busy with her nosebag breakfast. We had a little chat with her owner/driver. The Information Centre confirmed prices etc. for a 3 day travel pass. Sat in a wee park where Larry took photos . . . some of squirrels! And a memorial statue - hommage to Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 – 1700). Moved along that street past the Palais du Justice where a number of (mostly young) people were waiting for their court hearings. We looked at the outside of Notre Dame – a replica of the one in Paris. We may go to the "Sound and Light Show" tomorrow night. Down towards the waterfront to the Museum of Archaeology etc. Designed by the same architect who designed our apartment building. A block/obelisk from Easter Island stood on the corner. Lots of photos for posterity. We noticed racks of rent-a-bikes. We walked along the Rue de Commune - suddenly there were the tents for Cirque du Soleil. We stopped in to check times and prices. Virtually 2 shows every day. Past a large building called Bonsecours Marche – now houses exhibitions and boutique shops as well as cafes and restaurants. Just up the road was the Church (Notre Dame Chapel) that we went into. There were 3 young ladies in traditional dress at the door. It also has a museum and we think there's a stairway to the balcony above for the view over the city. Home for lunch and rest. At 1.30 we were startled by a brief earthquake. We were expecting Pat and Mike to arrive at 4.00p.m. So we spent a quiet time reading, diary, cup of tea. Shortly after 4, Pat phoned to say she was dealyed but Mike could be with us any minute. He arrived around 4.30 – a pleasant , lively fellow – we had no trouble filling in the hour before Pat arrived. Continued to sit and talk till about 6.00p.m. Then took off in the car to Mount Royal (Mont-real? Get it?) - parked the car (commentary on sights as we drove past) then walked the short distance to the lookout. Photos. Talk. Then inside the chalet du Mont-Royal pavilion. A drive back to Old Montreal passing through the homes of the rich and famous (houses over $2m). Stopped at one restaurant but found they didn't have any room. So back to the apartment, parked and walked one block to a restaurant – we glanced at prices as we went in: mains $28 - $80!. Ouch! However, before we ordered they made it clear that they were paying – we invited you – "our treat". Wine was $10 and up. In addition to mains there were soup, entrees (cheapest was $7) and desert and coffee. Before we began we were all served a tiny dish of cold cauliflower soup with tiny sprigs of herbs. I think one was cress – quite hot. Absolutely delicious. Pat had soup, Mike had a finely shaved lamb entree – beautifully presented. Bread was served with little dishes of spread. I think one was capsicum – creamy pinky orange. The other was perhaps just a buttery spread. Went very well on the bread. (Bread nothing special). We had both ordered the steak and it arrived - a tiny steak in centre of big white plate – topped with a round, crumbed "fritter" with cheese. The steak was rare in the middle – tender and delicious, the fritter thingy was wonderful. A whisky-and-something sauce very tasty and mashed sweet potato – just a smear of it here and there. Totally satisfying, totally delicious. Pat talked a lot (mainly to Larry) about a wine school she'd attended and so had learnt how to appreciate wines. Home at about 10.45. Pat and Mike collected a few things from the freezer then took off for the one hour trip to their country house in Bromont. Left us some cherries.
Thursday June 24th
French National Celebration Day.Rain. Warm. Scattered showers throughout the day. When we turned the TV on first thing this morning the news was of a tornado that had ripped through Midland (one of our next destinations) – so we sent emails to Judy and to the Campbells to see if they were OK. Got replies back pretty soon. It seems it had missed them – was on the southern side of town. After breakfast we headed for the metro – down a few steps, basically this was just the subway under the road, then into the metro proper. Successfully bought our 3 day passes instructed how to use them then went down the orange line 3 stops: Place d'Armes, Victoria Square then got out at Bonaventure from where we walked (very hot!) through to the Gare Central – all underground. Drew out $CAD300 from our debit card at an ATM somewhere round here. We enquired about VIA Ocean train and the lady at the desk went hunting for the brochure in English – meantime I found one tucked in behind the french ones. She advised us to get our tickets as early as possible. Couldn't do it now as I didn't have the confirmation voucher with me. So we went back home, this time, timing the journey and noting the steps, escalators, lifts etc. in preparation for the final day . . . . don't seem to be any lifts! Home for morning tea for Larry to watch FIFA: NZ v Paraguay. Ended at 1.45 with another draw: 0 – 0 but this means NZ is now out of the competition. We then went along to Tim Horton (a really well loved Canadian fast food chain) for lunch. Egg salad (me) Chicken salad (Larry) roll with coffee and donut for about $4.25 each. Then on to Notre Dame to buy tickets for tonight's "Sound and Light" Show. Lots of people about – lots of flags, colour, national costumes (period) buskers souvenir and food stalls. A little light rain but too warm to bother putting our parkas on. While we were in Tim Horton there was a crowd of Americans from a coach tour (buses across the road) – gosh they were gross – fat and ugly as well as loud. So home for a rest. Sent an email to Mardi for her birthday. About 3.30p.m. Time for beer/wine and chippies. Then we left shortly after 6 to go to Notre Dame for the Sound and Light Show. We were issued with headphones and had to find our seats – a bit of confusion – each end of the row had different numbering - but we found places – gosh it was hot! No air conditioning here. The church was draped with white "sails" and a huge screen that totally obscured the interior of the basilica. The presentation was a sort of dramatisation of the history of Montreal from the viewpoint of the building of the church. Some fairly banal acting (dubbed english) – a bit like a sunday school lesson - like 7th Day Adventists or Mormons. Partly related by the ghost of the architect, O'Donnell. The high point was when the screen was lowered and the sails came down/dropped/drawn back suddenly revealing the altar with the most spectacular lighting effects – just about the most magnificant church interior I've ever seen. Quite breathtaking. Parts of the church were then lit one at a time as features were described and explained – in particular, the pulpit. At the end we were permitted 15 minutes to walk around and take photos – including the equally magnificent organ. The out into the cool fresh air. We strolled back enjoying the festive astmosphere – in Jaques Cartier Place there was a street performer (french speaking) uni cycle and fire juggling - also several stands with artists sketching people in pastels. We didn't go right down to the waterfront but we could see quite a lot of activity down there – no doubt folks lining up for the circus. Home via our convenience store for "dinner" – we bought 2 quiches – cheese/spinach plus tissues and an ice cream for Larry. (We were undercharged!) Home. Dinner – the quiches in aluminium plates were microwave safe! 1 ½ mins did not totally heat them – but they were OK. Had a tomato with them. TV "So you think you can Dance?" and CSI. Then suddenly I was really tired. Went to bed without even doing the dishes. Had sent birthday greetings to Mardi.
Friday June 25th
No sign of rain.First to Gare Central to get tickets for the Ocean train. Easy. Checked where to go for check-in baggage and where to go for the platforms. All clear. Next we had to make several connections to get out to the Olympic Village – up the leaning tower for a great view. 320 metres high. Then found the swimming pools – caught a practice session of synchronised swimmers performing to "Rock Around the Clock". Sadly Larry missed photos of them. Then we had a coffee and shared a muffin then tried to find the stadium. First the Biodome (whatever that was) but it was closed so we walked and walked in the direction of "Stade Olympic" but it was all very run down and deserted but we did establish which building it must have been. Back to the metro and it was at the change at Berri Uquam that Larry realised that he'd left his bag in the restaurant . . . so back we went – found it (phew!) and back on the metro. This time we got off at Place d'Armes and walked through to Rue de Notre Dame to the SAQ (govt controlled liquor outlet). Found a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc for a gift for Pat and Mike and a small bottle of Pinot Gris (Italy) for us tonight. Next to the info centre to inquire about Circus tickets. They didn't sell them but offered for us to use the free phone to book using credit card but we decided to walk down there. Stopped to listen to a street music concert (more than just buskers) this was part of "Spheres". At Cirque du Soleil there was already a queue of 20 or so people. The gates to the box office opened at 2p.m. And there were about 4 operators working. But each transaction took ages. We'd worked out what price, time and day we wanted but those ones were all sold out so we decided to go to the premier (Red) seating which even for seniors cost $125CAD each. Finally home with our precious wine (and milk and chippies from convenience store). Poached eggs on toast then a wee rest (only ½ hour) then off out at 3.20 or so to line up for our best seats for Cirque du Soleil at 4p.m. A stunning production – sound and lighing effects as well as the fantastic athleticism of the performers. Just over two hours worth of breath-taking stuff. Then a walk home for wine and chippies. Then decided to go out again – this time metro to the Ile de Notre Dame (Berri-Uqam then changed to yellow line – under the river – to Jean Drapeau station - to see the man made canal they used for the rowing in 1986 Olympics. Also a huge geodesic dome called a Biosphere. Also a lot of stands – emptoed of their seats - that seemed to be overlooking a cycle track or similar. Almost dark so home via Place d"armes to see if we could find an appealing eatery – but we couldn't so just called at the Supermarket to buy macaroni cheese (me) spaghetti bolognaise (Larry) and heated them in the microwave. TV bed before 11p.m.
Saturday June 26th
Last day in Montreal. Fine but relatively cool. Nice.VIA rail strike . . . .would it affect us? We were out by about 9a.m. Metro to Berri-Uqam and got out to look at that area. This took us into the heart of the Latin Quarter – quaint little apartment buildings – quite narrow 3 or 4 stories high often with an iron staircase outside leading to a balcony or to the front door. We just walked a couple of blocks and back again. There was an impressive looking church tower (steeple and all) but on closer examination it was just the front for a municipal building – modern, brick – and half way up the stairs a great pile of vomit – didn't venture any further. Also a pile of pigeon droppings. Back to the metro and this time got off at Place des Arts which ultimately (lots of construction underground) lead us to the underground Shopping city – big square with fountains and huge tower blocks rising above. We got back to street level to try to determine where we were: St Catherine Street and Jean Manque(?). Big open squares with several stages set up ready for the jazz festival which opened last night. We established our bearings and headed for China town – not far at all. Funny to see all the chinese shops with signs in French! A whole narrow street full of market stalls – some very cheap stuff – a bit like paddy's market in Sydney. Very soon we were back behind the Palais du Justice where several wedding parties were grouped. We could now see our apartment building and walked through the Champs de Mars park with the remains of the Old Montreal Town Walls (all that is left of the walls!). Also took photo of athletic lads trying to jump up a wall. Back for morning tea then a wee lie down till 2.15p.m and then out to find an eatery for lunch: our usual route but this time tried a Subway Sandwich then back home for coffee and a rest. After our sleep we decided not to go out again but just pack at leisure and relax till it was time to leave at 5p.m. Neighbour, Denise, from 205 had rung at lunch time to check on our departure time. We were basically packed and ready to go by 3p.m. So just fiddled about, reading etc. At 4p.m. I rang Pat as she had instructed and again she spent some time saying the same things she'd already told us several times before. Checking, double checking, then finally at 5.05 we put the rubbish down the chute (we'd done the recycling in the parking area before) and handed the keys to neighbour, Denise. We'd done the route several times before so knew that there were just a few flights of steps (Larry carried both bags). We encountered door openers in lots of places hoping for a gratuity! No luck from us! Trundled into the Gare Central for the Ocean Train and checked in the bags. Then to our surprise we were invited to the Panorama Lounge – complimentary drinks (no alcohol) and complimentary newspaper. Soon we were called to register (for our dinner sitting: 6.45 or 8.15 – we chose the earlier time). Back to the Lounge for a bit then we were called to board the train. Down a special escalator direct to platform 14 and walked to carriage 21 and to our room 9. Very nice. Compact but nice. Toilet/washroom like on a plane. Complimentary soap, bottled water, tissues. Fluffy white flannels and hand towels were provided. There was a little fold down table under the window and several little compartments to stow bits and pieces. A rubbish bin in the toilet and in the cabin. Our attendant, Joanne, came and introduced herself. Didn't impress us right from the start – couldn't get my name right even though Larry repeated it several times. We explored a bit, then chippies and water and read for a bit. At dinner we shared a table with an older woman from St John, New Foundland, and a young man recently graduated in Finance. Very pleasant company and we had a lively hour or two over a good meal with Chardonnay: beef and mash plus veges. Larry had a black forest cake and then we had coffee. Back to our room to watch the scenery. Flat. Lots of woodland – young firs and a mix of other trees. Quite green and pretty. 9p.m. We were told to put our clocks forward 1 hour and we asked our attendant to set the beds – she had to be found and told even though we'd hung our sign up for quite a while. So to bed – not much room. I took the top bunk – ladder and saftey rail – also my own light. Little shelf for water and book and also a little pouch where I put my glasses. Quite a lot of movement but got to sleep OK. Nice duvets, pillow and sheets. Hard mattress but OK when lying down.
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