At the moment: I’m lying in bed at my hostel in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The train had limited wi-fi, and I spent most of the trip asleep, so I couldn’t post what I wanted to post there from where I wanted to post it. So here’s the post-within-a-post:
Post-within-a-post: As I start this entry, I’m still technically in the province of Quebec. I think. It’s just after midnight, Eastern Time, on Thursday, August 6, and I’m on a train barreling toward Eastern Canada. I just spent way too long putting off writing down anything because I was busy with the all too important task of beating my too-smart-for-its-own-darn-good computer at Five-in-a-Row on the normal level.
Picking up from where I left off… (post-within-a-post-within-a-post)
Sunday (after ATHE ended): I decided to head out for some geocaching and exploring of various places. At my first geocache, I stopped for a moment only to see two other geocachers finding the same cache on the other side of the sign.
From there, I headed uphill to Mount Royal Park, walking up the inclined street that cuts through McGill University (Rue McGill, je pense pas?) and man, that incline is no joke. It was almost vertical. I can’t imagine climbing that every day. Anyway, Mount Royal Park is a pretty oasis of green in an already pretty city. For a park at the top of a hill, it sure has a lot of steps. Of course, I could have taken the serpentine path around the hill to the top, but it was then that I realized that I was not wearing the correct shoes for dirt-walking, so up the shortcut stairs it was. Even though it was a shortcut, my dogs were barking and I was drenched in sweat by the time I got up to the top. After an ill-fated geocache search halfway up, I made it to the top, and the view was not to be missed. Atop the mountain was a chalet with food, drinks, and (thankfully) water fountains and bathrooms, which I made use of before enjoying the fantastic view of the city and taking fun panorama pictures. The walk down was less eventful, although I did get a little turned around, as I wanted to exit on the northwest side of the park, on Rue Rachel Ouest, rather than walk down the same incline again. Eventually, I found the right exit, but I probably looked like a complete idiot, lugging a backpack with a computer in it past all the joggers and bikers.
Eventually, I ended up walking towards my intended goal: Fairmount Bagel. Before I got there, I stopped for a quick Starbucks on Park and Laurier, where I ordered almost entirely in French (go me!) and sat for about an hour. Only a block or two away was Fairmount Bagel, which was different than I thought it would be. I had heard so much about Montreal bagels, and had tried one on the culinary tour, but instead of a real restaurant, Fairmount was basically a food stand inside a storefront. The line was long, but not as long as the ice cream shop next door. Eventually, I got three bagels, a muesli, a multi-grain, and a pumpernickel, none of which lasted until I got to the Laurier metro station, which is deceptively far from Fairmount bagels.
Back at the hostel, I met up with my newly changed slate of roommates. Ariana had gone home and Colton and Andrea were planning to head back to Saskatchewan the next day. Three newbies showed up to occupy the remaining beds: in Neal’s bed (the one above mine) was Vernon, a student and mailman from Melbourne, Australia; in Ariana’s bed, Faith, a retail manager from London, and above her, some guy who was only there for that one night and barely said a word to any of us. I was a little hungry, so Vernon offered to go out for some food with me. I ended up having “salad in a jar” which was exactly as it sounded, and pretty tasty for what it’s worth.
Monday: my first non-conference day. It was strange not waking up and needing to immediately rush off somewhere, but I ended up getting dressed anyway to see Colton and Andrea off. Faith had been traveling across the USA and Canada for several weeks and was planning on leaving Montreal the same day as me, and as we were both new to the city, we agreed to spend Tuesday doing something fun together, as it was supposed to rain all day, and even though the sky was somewhat gray, there was barely any rain.
Around 11-ish I left the hotel and wandered down to Vieux Port, the old port of Montreal, walking through some of the same streets I’d seen on the culinary tour. Once at the port, I saw a zip line park and an indoor labyrinth. The indoor labyrinth sounded interesting, the line was not long, and it was only $18, so what the hey. It was kind of a schlocky thing where you got a card and had to find your way through different areas to find four different stations. It probably would have been more fun had it been a little harder, but it was still $18 well spent. They told me at the beginning that it would take 45-60 minutes to complete, and even though I was constantly lost, I ended up making it out in 27 minutes. So I felt smart for a little while there.
The sky got a little grayer, so I ducked into a café for lunch, after which I found some more geocaches and ended up in Montreal’s Chinatown. Even though there was an impressive arch, the area encompassed maybe two blocks. The stores had some beautiful mementos; fans, teacups, and Chinese-style shirts that I was so tempted to buy (prices ranged from $15-$25 for men’s shirts) but I knew I had very limited space, so I regrettably didn’t buy anything. I then looked for a street fair that was supposed to be happening, but I guess I must have missed it. Anyway, I went and had a pastry and iced cappuccino in Tim Hortons at Place des Artes before heading back to the hostel for nighttime activities.
Our hostel had a “sister hostel” (can hostels have sisters? Isn’t family a human construct? Can inanimate objects have relatives?) with a bar a few blocks down Sainte-Catherine AKA pink balloons street, so Faith, Vernon, and I headed over for the karaoke they offered on Monday nights. Once there, I felt like a real backpacker; the bar was teeming with hostel guests in their 20s. Faith introduced me to a friend of hers from Japan whom she’d met in a hostel in Vancouver a few weeks earlier. Before the night was through, I had met travelers from the USA (oddly, most were from Maryland), Canada, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Faith and I beat Vernon and Brad, a Canadian, at a rapid-fire game of foosball, and I managed to get 2 karaoke songs in: my go-to tune (Stacie Orrico, “Stuck”) which is always fun to sing, and later Tina Turner’s “The Best,” which most of the bar sang along with, which was fun. Most of the song choices were completely tuneless rap songs, which was no fun, or this French girl who seemed to sing every ten minutes and chose mostly Amy Winehouse songs.
Tuesday: Up and at ‘em at…11-ish for a fun day with Faith. Vernon said goodbye as he was heading back to Australia, and of course, he left his coat behind, so guess who was a good friend and mailed it back to him the next day? (hint: it was me) We had originally planned to go to an archaeology museum, but the weather was so nice and sunny that we headed to St. Helen’s Island instead to see what was there.
St. Helen’s Island, or Ile Sainte-Helene, is a tiny island in the middle of the river with a surprising amount of attractions, and fortunately, we were only one metro stop away from it. Once there, I introduced Faith to geocaching, and we found her first four geocaches. She seemed to be really into it, which was cool of her. Our first stop was the Biosphere.
Built for Expo ’67, the Biosphere is a giant latticed dome that now hosts a science museum. It was honestly one of the best museums I have ever been to. The 360-degree opening show, about the environment, featured actual rain and snow falling on our heads. One of the most fascinating exhibits was the recycled fashion exhibit, one giant room full of mannequins dressed up in haute-couture outfits made completely of recycled materials. It was like being inside an episode of Project Runway. There was a dress made of melted-down plastic pill bottles, another made from aluminum cans, and tons more. One dress was made entirely out of car parts. I could’ve probably passed on seeing the dress made out of swept-up human hair, though. Ouch. The top floor had even more science exhibits and a great lookout point. I could go on and on about how fun much the Biosphere was but according to Microsoft Word, I’m on three pages single spaced so I better move ahead.
Next stop for me and Faith was Fort Stewart, a history museum on the other side of the island, less than a kilometer away. The building was beautiful, and there was a costumed soldier greeting us out front, which was promising. Even though the museum’s collection of artifacts was extensive, we agreed that the Biosphere was much better in layout and content. I have to say, though, that I have never seen so many maps in one place before. The collection of objects they had was truly impressive, from weapons to spice boxes to children’s toys from 15h-18th century Canada. They also had a great diorama of the city, with little videos you could watch featuring different sites in the town. The temporary exhibition was one about modern-day cinema and TV that was interesting, but seemed a little “out of place.”
After about 4 hours of sightseeing on Ile Sainte-Helene, it was definitely time for food, so Faith and I headed to the Underground City for sandwiches and a shared crepe. Overall, it was a pretty incredible day with beautiful weather.
So, at this point in my writing it was about 2:30 in the morning Eastern Time, so I decided to see if I could try and get some sleep. After a few false starts, I managed to fall asleep and woke up at around 11 AM Atlantic Time (10 AM Eastern Time), so I think I’ve gotten more uninterrupted sleep on this train than I have all of last week. I didn’t intend to sleep so long and miss so much of the scenery, but at least we only have an hour or so left until we get to Moncton. When I woke up, we were having a brief stop in Miramichi, which is in New Brunswick, apparently, and we just left Rogersville, a town so adorable and tiny that by the time I got my camera out to take pictures, as my phone is at capacity, we had passed it.
(Back to post-within-a-post-within-a-post)
That brings me to yesterday, Wednesday, which seems already like a long time ago. Nobody new moved into our room, so it was just me and Faith for the night in Room 16. It didn’t take too long to pack up, but we took our time and both checked out at 11 AM. We said our goodbyes and then headed off to enjoy our respective days; the hostel kindly allows guests to leave their bags in a luggage room if they have evening flights (or train rides, in my case). So, I set off in a different direction than normal, north, just to see where I would end up. Walking up one street led me to the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, which was a perfect spot to walk around and explore on this mostly sunny day. I say mostly sunny because in mid-afternoon, it was raining on every other block. And it was what I call “run-between-the-raindrops” rain, which might now have to be renamed “Montreal rain,” because it was so light and misty, and it kept stopping and starting. Honestly, it was refreshing to get a little cooler, even if it meant getting a little wet. I didn’t take a shower this morning (mistake) so at least I got a little rinse.
I found about 5 geocaches on my walk, including one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever found. It was called “Le Suppositoire Inn de Montreal,” which, if you couldn’t tell from the title, has something to do with suppositories. And sure enough, on the corner of Rue St. Denis and Rue, there was a large white sculpture which looked like an incredibly constipated person. The coordinates led right to his…um…posterieur…and there was indeed a hole, so…yeah. I stuck my head up the sculpture’s butt, then stuck my hand in to grab the geocache. And this was on a street corner, at about 1 in the afternoon, in broad daylight.
What is my life about?
At least it had a travel bug in it, a little navy blue elephant from Germany. I traded it for a gold Travel Ingot that I picked up awhile back in Eau Claire, WI, putting several hundred miles on that one. Then, across the street, I saw a sign on a door and I just had to go in.
Cat Café of Montreal.
I wandered in, and it was exactly like it sounded: a café where people could eat and stuff, and eight cats just kind of hung out and slept and walked around you. And they had wifi. After putting on hand sanitizer and getting a menu, I set my bag down and explored. The cats were mostly sunning atop cat perches, on windowsills, or in baskets. The décor was not too silly; it actually looked like a regular café, except with a few more posters with quotes about cats than normal. Strangely, I was tempted to sit with a cat and watch some funny cat videos on YouTube, but for some reason, I just checked my email and got some reading done instead. As far as a drink, I wanted to get a “cat-puccino” but the waitress advised me to get a latte, because it was cheaper and she could draw a cat on the foam for me, which was tres jolie. After I finished my latte and petted all the cats (even getting a kiss from an adorable grey cat called Peace, which is a great name for a cat), I walked up the street and there was ANOTHER cat café. I ducked into a nearby vegetarian restaurant for a salad, and the woman there told me that the one I went to first was started by a husband and wife, and then when they separated, the other one opened the rival cat café, Coffee, Cats, and Happiness, just a few blocks away.
I don’t know about you, but I smell a musical about rival cat cafes and I think the world is just about ready.
After a few more geocaches up and down Rue Saint-Laurent, it was getting close to 4 PM so it was time to catch the Metro and head back. I must have walked in almost a complete circle, because the station where I ended up after my 5 hours of walking, Saint-Laurent, was exactly ONE stop away from my stop, Berri/UQAM, on the green line. After realizing that I had lost all the postcards I bought at some souvenir shop in Old Montreal for 50 cents each, I made a mad dash around Rue Sainte-Catherine to find somewhere with a few postcards to buy and send quickly. The first store I went to had postcards for a dollar, the next store had them cheaper but they looked like they’d been sitting there collecting dust for five years, so I ducked into a pharmacy and bought some dollar postcards and got in line at the post office inside Pharmaprix, the same one from where I sent Vernon’s jacket off to him in Australia earlier in the day, and hastily scribbled a message to Aunt Ruth and bought a stamp; barely made it by 4:55 PM. But at least it got done.
From there, it was off to pick up my bag from the hostel and head to the train station. I was pleasantly surprised to see Faith there, doing the same; she had done some sightseeing as well and her flight back home to London was leaving about two hours after my train, so we came back at literally the same time. After another hug goodbye, I gathered my bag and hit the road (well…the Metro) to le gare centrale (central train station) which was conveniently located at Bonaventure, the same station where the conference hotel was. I arrived and picked up my ticket at around 6 PM, and after getting a final muffin and iced cappuccino at Tim Hortons, I joined the incredibly long line near the end, but still managed to get a pretty good seat, and I’ve been camped out here pretty much ever since. The cars have two seats on one side and one on the other, and I was lucky enough to get a one-seat side, so I’m in Seat 11S.
(Back to post-within-a-post)
The ride has been pretty uneventful so far. I thought the train might have wifi, and it does, but it’s restricted to the car with the food stand, which is two cars back. Fortunately, I can walk in between them. I sat on the floor of that car for a while last night as the scenery faded to black, and got to know two girls going back home from Osheaga, Catherine from New Brunswick and Emma from Prince Edward Island, who assured me that I’d have a good time there. I don’t know anyone there, so I hope I do. I missed a lot of the morning scenery, but as I’ve been typing, we’ve being rolling through forests and marshland with interesting-looking green and yellow islands of reeds. The sky is beautiful and blue and I just want to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Fortunately, it’s 12:43 Atlantic Time, so that means we have maybe a half hour left go to until we arrive in Moncton.