0

One Island, Two Musicals

And so it begins…

Not just the semester, but the laziness, the over-tiredness, the slacking on blogging that comes with settling back into the Madison groove.

Before I go back and edit my last Charlottetown travelogue post, here’s a review of the two main-stage shows I saw when I was there.

“It’s your garlic press.” Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/steffid3

First up, Bittergirl, the story of three women in various stages of relationships – one dating (Marisa MacIntyre), one co-habiting (Steffi DiDomenicantonio – try fitting that on the back of a baseball uniform), and one married (Kathy Auerbach) – with one man (played by Jay Davis) representing all three of their partners. At the beginning, each of their respective partners breaks it off, and together and separately, they go through the motions of how to deal with the breakup through classic girl-group songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and through it all, come out on top. It was performed cabaret-style, with the actresses sometimes walking around the audience, seated at tables. I saw it on Saturday night at the Mack. For $35, I got lucky enough to be seated front-row center with a lovely family from Boston. Together, we laughed at the jokes and I hummed along to such re-interpreted favorites as “He’s A Rebel,”  “I Hear A Symphony,” “Tell Him,” “Be My Baby,” and the finale number, “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” during which Kathy Auerbach came offstage and gave me a hug while she was singing!

Overall, an evening full of oldies and fun. The only weak spot was probably Jay Davis as The Man. Reasonably attractive, but no match for the three ladies, especially DiDomenicantonio, a combination of Anne Hathaway and Liza Minnelli who arguably was the star of the show. Davis’s vocals weren’t as on point, and I often found myself bored during his songs, but maybe that’s because I was just so entertained by the other three.

Two nights later, at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, it was time for Canada’s longest-running musical, Anne of Green Gables. The house was packed, but $50 got me a reasonably good seat house right, seated with three generations of women from Miramichi, New Brunswick – the town I woke up in without knowing where I was – who’d made this a yearly tradition. Of course, it was well worth it, and well-rehearsed. The strongest actors were those who played Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Diana; very impressive. The plot followed the books pretty well, but left out a few key points, especially one of my favorite incidents, the one about Anne lying about Marilla’s brooch to make her feel better. The costumes and lighting were spot on, but the sets looked a little on the rickety side. On the downside, the songs were cute but not the most inspired, and the second act kind of veered away from Anne, until the pageant scene. Overall, it’s a show that was magical on Prince Edward Island, but probably would fall a little flat elsewhere.

Advertisements
2

Charlottetown, Day 3: Green Gables and Graveyards

I can’t believe that tomorrow marks two full weeks since I experienced Charlottetown. I’m hopeless in my attempts to catch up on all my recollections, but here’s Day 3.

Wonder of wonders, I don’t set my alarm, yet wake up bright and early, actually on time for breakfast. Avery joins the group eventually, and we plan our day. Side note: one of the reasons Avery has come to Prince Edward Island, by car, all the way from Atlanta, is to find the graves of her great-great-great (and possibly great-great-great-great grandparents), who immigrated to PEI from Scotland in the 19th century. The night before, with a little bit of research on my laptop and one of the computers in the living room, we discover that not only is the cemetery where she believes that they’re buried indeed in existence and on PEI (St. Columba), but it’s also in the town of Marshfield, which is only twelve minutes outside of Charlottetown (even though PEI is Canada’s smallest province, it does take about seven hours to get across the island, and it very well could have been a day trip rather than an hour-trip). I suggested we get some crayons at an art shop and some drawing paper so that Avery could take home some rubbings of the gravestones for herself and her family, and she loved the idea. First, we found the cemetery, then we backtracked to Charlottetown for art supplies, and then returned. We saw a lot of McLeod/MacLeod (Avery’s ancestors’ names) gravestones, but were losing hope when none of the first names matched the information Avery had. Of course, the very last gravestone we looked at turned out to be that of John and Mary MacLeod, whose names and dates matched Avery’s records. Even though I had only met Avery less than 24 hours ago and I’m not related to her in any way, I too got emotional when we finally found the elaborate gravestone, which was a remarkably well-kept and beautiful white obelisk with not only their names but poetry. After a big, excited hug, we set to clearing away the few cobwebs, and set up crayons and paper for gravestone rubbings. I had peeled all the crayons in the car, so we were good to go. Even though the indentations in the obelisk were not especially deep, they were enough to make some good impressions on the paper after a few tries, and it was great fun to experiment with different colors and different parts of the gravestone; for example, a carved leaf at the top came our beautifully, but the poem ended up just being blobs. We made several copies of both names and dates in different colors, so Avery could keep a few and give some to her cousins and grandmother as souvenirs. After I left a few rocks at the gravestone, I took a short walk around the cemetery to let Avery have some alone time to communicate with her ancestors. After a few minutes, I came and gathered up our stuff while Avery wrote a letter to her ancestors and stuck it in a crevice in the gravestone.

After a snack break at Tim Hortons (they really are everywhere in Canada!) we returned to CBI to pick up Katherine, a Quebecer who was interested in joining us for the drive to Cavendish and Green Gables. She had gone to the beach with some other people, but that was fine because we met Leanne from Ontario, who had just checked in, and she hopped along for the ride.

The trip to Cavendish took about 35 minutes, and it was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Much like Iris and I imagined the pioneers hiking in Wyoming, I imagined Anne (well, Lucy Maud Montgomery, really) traveling along these idyllic island roads, which really were as red as her hair. Driving through PEI is like driving through a series of primary color paintings: red roads, blue skies, and yellow or green fields, with the occasional white house. Every turn provided us with a view of either a hill or a flat meadow.

We finally arrived in the town of Cavendish and at the Anne of Green Gables Visitor Center, and even though it was 11 dollars to get in, it was absolutely worth it. First, we explored a mock-up of Green Gables, laid out with rooms for Anne, Matthew, and Marilla, as well as other rooms as described in the novel.  Of course, “Anne” was there for photo ops, in character. We took turns sitting and taking pictures in the horse-drawn carriage, and visited exhibits about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life there; she never actually lived at Green Gables proper – it was the home of her cousins – but many of the books were written on the property. We walked through the Lovers Lane Trail, which was, again, gorgeous around every corner, and not too overrun with tourists. We found an apple tree and helped ourselves. A Japanese family with selfie sticks (one of many) came up to us quizzically, and once we explained what we were doing, they tried the apples too. After we continued back down the trail, I looked back to see them collecting handfuls for later…heh.

Next, we took a walk through Haunted Woods to the actual location of Green Gables, across a street, stopping in a wheat field for another snack, and then saw the foundation of where Green Gables once was (the house we toured previously was a replica). At the small bookstore, we got to meet Jennie MacNeill, a lovely lady who was actually first cousin once removed to L. M. Montgomery. That was a treat. After visiting Lucy Maud’s grave, we headed back to the car to find out that we had spent three hours there, when they told us at the visitor’s center that it would be around one hour. No regrets though.

Before heading back to Charlottetown, we stopped at Cavendish Beach to walk along the red sand and feel the water on our toes, and then stopped to buy some groceries. By the time we got back to Charlottetown, I had to run to make it to the theatre, but I got there just in time to slide into my front-row seat to Bittergirl. More on that in another entry.

After the show, I came back to the hostel to eat the leftovers from dinner, which included Leanne’s salad and Yurie’s potatoes. I think that also might have been the night where Kaj and I went out for drinks at the Merchantman, which unlike the night before, was packed and loud.

Next up, Sunday-Wednesday in Charlottetown, then a brief Boston recap, and then…back to the random! I guess time does fly when you’re having fun, or at least it wises up and taps its cigar in the ashtray and goes, “Jacob, ya gotta live a little.”

A bientot!

3

Charlottetown, Days 1 and 2: A Rough Start to the Fun Part

My week in Charlottetown was packed with so much fun and excitement that it’s hard to remember it all, but I guess I’ll just start at the beginning of the adventure and see how far I get.

Thursday afternoon: arrive, exhausted, in Moncton, New Brunswick. I pick up my bags and head to the Maritime Bus counter, only to find out that the lady in front of me got the last Moncton-Charlottetown bus ticket package of the day.

Damn.

So, at this point, my options are a) take a $300 taxi to Charlottetown, b) call the hostel, cancel tonight, find a place to stay in Moncton, and catch the next bus at 9:20 AM the next morning or c) take a $100 taxi ride to Amherst, Nova Scotia, in hopes of beating the bus there and hopping on the Amherst-Charlottetown bus, for which there are still tickets, understanding that if I miss the bus, I’ve gone from being stuck in a small town in New Brunswick to being stuck in an even smaller town in Nova Scotia for the night.

I opt for C. Challenge accepted.

The lady at the bus counter gets a cab for me. I have a little over an hour to catch this bus, and it’s 45 minutes between Moncton and Amherst. The cab driver turns out to be this little old man called Joe who moves. And. Talks. Very. Slowly.

I’m. Screwed.

I put on my best Shirley Feeney and keep up high hopes that this guy doesn’t croak before we leave the parking lot.

But, am I wrong.

After we get past the second red light, he murmurs something like “that’s the one we had to worry about.” Then, it’s on to the highway, and we are flying. The fields of New Brunswick quickly become the windmills of Nova Scotia, and the first two things I see in the province are signs forbidding police scanners and importation of honey bees. Both are good to know.

Joe gets off the highway one exit too early and needs to ask for directions, and I panic a little, but then I see signs for the Anne Murray Centre and start singing “You Needed Me” to myself, and soon enough we are at the Amherst bus station which is actually just a gas station. And we are early. I give Joe a generous tip for his troubles and go to wait in the gas station with a banana and a Coffee Crisp at which point my dad calls me, asking where I am, at which point I answer “So here’s something funny, I’m in Nova Scotia…”

I end up spending a little longer than planned in Nova Scotia as the PEI bus driver arrives early as well, and the Moncton bus driver is a half hour late. I don’t remember too much about the two-hour ride back through New Brunswick, only that I woke up in time to watch us go over the Confederation Bridge, which is gorgeous in mid-afternoon, and soon enough we have arrived in Charlottetown, which is a little further away than I thought.

Once in Charlottetown, the bus doesn’t even stop at a gas station; we get out in a big, empty parking lot at dusk. Fortunately, two good things happen: one, I meet Matt, another traveler, who has come from Ontario and is staying with me at the Charlottetown Backpackers Inn (CBI), and two, that our bus driver has an incredibly loud whistle that can summon a cab out of nowhere. As soon as Matt and I have gotten in and introduced ourselves to the driver and each other, we are there. Matt covers the cab fare, and I should have probably covered my fingers better because I scrape some skin off of one while reaching for the clasp to shut the back after getting our bags.

CBI is a much different hostel than the one in Montreal. It’s much more hippie and friendly, with a comfy living room and communal eat-in kitchen. There are only seven bedrooms: a tiny, unmarked one on the first floor along with others marked 1 and 2, and on the second floor, 3, 4, 5, and a private room, along with three bathrooms washrooms. I snag a bottom bunk on one of the three bunk beds in Room 3 which will be home for the coming week, and Matt is in the bed above mine. Room 3 has a revolving-door situation of roomies, but on that first night, it’s us, Brian from British Columbia, Yuning from Taiwan, and Gil and Arnao from Spain. I don’t remember every single person who shared that room, but after Matt got a job at the hostel and moved over to the staff house, Kaj from Germany moved into the bed above mine, and then after he left, Illeana from Manitoba, who stayed there with her sister Jane. Room 3 is also where I met my dear Heloise and Jade, before they shifted to the girls’ room. There was a couple from Alberta who was there for most of the same time I was, as well as a Japanese guy called Leo.

That first day, I did not do too much. I rented a towel, and since I was just about out of anything clean to wear, I went down to a corner store to do laundry. I had about a load and a half’s worth of stuff, and was kind of reluctant to split it into two loads, when all of a sudden Yuning appears with about a half-load of her own clothing (she had gotten the idea from me) so I happily tossed a few of my items in with hers. By the time we were done, it was dark, so we went back to the hostel to hang out and meet more people. Around the kitchen table, I got to know Karen and Natalie, both from Halifax, who seemed to know more about Charlottetown and PEI than anybody in their right mind should know, but it just turned out they’d been there for a while, and by the time I left, I knew the same things. Karen brushed me up on my Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery knowledge, and Natalie filled me in on which shows to see. Karen said that I’d have to rent or find transportation to get to all the Anne sites, which were mostly in Cavendish, about 45 minutes north of Charlottetown. (Sidenote: Charlottetown, if you had a bus to Cavendish, it would sell out every day from the amount of people who want to go there. Then again, I guess that’s why you have the expensive tours). I go to bed, do some more research, and drift off to sleep wondering if I made the right choice with this whole six-night-seven-day stay in Charlottetown.

Friday morning: Wake up at 10:30 AM, having missed breakfast completely, despite my alarm going off and waking up everyone else (whoops).

At noon, I head out to explore what Charlottetown has to offer. I sit through a wonderful free show at the Confederation Center called “We Are Canadian” which is basically a 45-minute-long showcase of cultural dances from the many nations who live in Canada. It is fun except for this pink whale of a woman who keeps walking in front of me to get her wandering child. Afterwards, there is a short historical reenactment outside the Confederation House, depicting the circumstances surrounding the meeting that took place there which made Prince Edward Island effectively the “birthplace of Confederation,” where the premiers came together to create the idea of Canada as a nation. After that fun bit of history, I headed inside to purchase 91 dollars’ worth of theatre tickets: Bittergirl on Saturday and Anne of Green Gables, Canada’s longest-running and most iconic musical, on Monday. I keep telling myself, it’s for the island. Then, I wander upstairs to see a replica of the room where the Confederation meeting was held, and then to the art gallery for a fantastic exhibition on the mapping of Canada and the plotting of Prince Edward Island and some weird modern stuff which doesn’t really belong. After stopping for a Tim Hortons and a few Anne of Green Gables and Island-themed shops, I realize that I’m exhausted, and that in four hours, I have walked all of…one block. I head back to CBI, sit down on my bed…and wake up three hours later. Whoops, again. This day is just a giant fail.

Just when I go downstairs to the kitchen and lament to Natalie how much of a fail today was and that I probably won’t be able to get to Cavendish to see the Anne of Green Gables sites, along comes Avery. A theatre student from Georgia with whom I have a scary amount of common interests, she has the one thing that I don’t – a car – and Cavendish is on her list of things to do on her one day in PEI, so I hop on, promising that we can get an early start so we can find the graves of her ancestors first in a nearby cemetery. We are both hungry, so we head out to Merchantman for dinner and beer, where we see a fantastic performance thanks to the Island Fringe Festival: a one-woman show called “Busted” which is a hilarious piece about breasts and aging. Some delicious Cows ice cream makes a perfect coda to a night and I go to bed with newfound hope.

The bulk of this post was typed in Boston, but I have a whole lot more Charlottetown to go before I’m caught up to today (which, incidentally, is exactly a week from when this entry happened). Next time, stay tuned for my adventures on Saturday and Sunday, which include Cavendish and Anne of Green Gables/Lucy Maud Montgomery House, as well as the Farmers’ Market and the fringe caravan!

0

That’s So ::splash::

It’s a hot and sunny afternoon here in Charlottetown, and since I left my notebook upstairs, I completely forgot what I was going to write about originally, but I guess that gives me the best excuse to write about the here and now.

I am sitting in the living room of the hostel. It’s much more different than the last one; the Montreal Central was more Holiday Inn and business, and this place, CBI, is a little more Regency Lodge and put-your-feet-up. Benefits to both, definitely, but this leather couch is so comfortable I’d have to say that CBI wins. Sitting on the couch next to me are Jade and Heloise, two lovely students from Quebec, who are quiet with an occasional giggle at the movie they’re watching on their tablet. The three of us have been hanging out a lot and have done a lot of fun activities together, like the lame factory tour and the fringe festival; more on that later.

After a morning of geocaching solo, I met up with the aforementioned Jade and Heloise for two hours of paddleboarding. For those of you who can’t imagine it, paddleboarding is standing on a surfboard while propelling yourself with a paddle; a cross-breed of rowing and surfing. Anyone can do it, all you need is some balance and arm strength, both of which I like to think I have, but apparently do not have enough of.

I started out on my knees, then after a few minutes got to a kneel, then a squat, and finally, my own two feet. I managed to paddle out of the maze of boats in the marina while standing for ten minutes, then had a lovely fall into the water. The first of many. To my credit, I did spend about half of the two hours standing and paddling (or at least standing and trying not to fall; about 1/4 of the time on my knees or bottom frantically paddling to keep up with the girls; and then spent the rest of the time falling in the water (about six times, overall, including onto some rocks) and yelling “I’m fine!”


It was a good exercise for the arms and legs, and I think I might have gotten a blister or two, but it’s not something I wouldn’t do again. Even though while I was out there, I was like “why would anyone want to do this?” by the time I got back, I felt like I was just getting my groove on.

And every time I fell, I got back up, even if it took a few minutes.

And now I know I can do it.

And I raised my paddle in victory and triumph.

And then I landed on my bottom on the dock while Jade was helping to pull me in.

5

Gettin’ Down in Charlottetown

So far, Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island has been amazing. Off to bed now, but stay tuned for:

  • Details on my epic journey here
  • My first day in Charlottetown
  • My second day in Charlottetown (and Cavendish, for Anne of Green Gables)
  • …and whatever tomorrow may bring!

Sorry for the infrequent posts, but having a fun vacation and being in Travel Mode just makes me want to go-go-go…

4

A Post Within A Post Within A Post

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.

(Post-within-a-post)

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.

So. There.

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.

(Post)

Good night.