Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bienvenue à Montréal!

A trip out of the country would not be complete without some form of goof up.  Usually, it is someone else, but this time it was me!  I mis-took my husband's passport!

We arrived at the airport, ready to board.  Up since 4:45 a.m., and a little groggy, I reached into my purse to get my passport, and voila!   I have my husband's passport.  The kids looks at me with panic.  (My kids are adults, 24 and 26.)  I am not thinking clearly, so I tell them to go board.  I tell them I will catch up with them later.  Then, I stand at the counter, with the most patient, kind #Delta Airlines employee ever, @CaseyKeating.  He gets on the phone and tries his best to get my flights changed and still get me to Montreal the same day.  After 20 minutes, I have new flights, with only and additional $4.50!  Thank you Casey @TLH @Delta.

I have three and half hours to find my passport and return to the airport.  I drive home all flummoxed about by situation.  When I arrive, I begin looking in all the "safe" places that I put things.  I cannot understand this situation.  I am a creature of very organized disorganization.  My passport and my husband's are always in the same location.  The secret places to lock things up and protect from hurricanes are predefined.  This is highly unusual.  I go through every book on the bookshelf, every closet and every drawer.  Nothing.  I call my husband.  He assures me that he handed me both passports (they are usually locked somewhere else during storms.)  Racking my brain, I return to the kitchen counter for a sip of coffee. 
Standing in the kitchen getting ready to resign myself to the financial and fun loss, I stare at the small brown and black leather backpack that Morgan and I bought in Paris.  I had only checked the back zipper pocket.  Yes, indeed, this creature of habit put both passports in the bag, one in each pocket.  At the airport, I had failed to check my bag thoroughly.   And waisted, I mean wasted,  four hours in the process.

Good news is that the next plane was on time and after getting to spend four hours at #LaGuardia, I was on my way to Montreal.  The preparation for the trip included researching fellow #Tripadvisor folks and other top things to do sites.  Also, I had spent some time researching the bus from the airport that goes directly downtown.  For $10 Canadian dollars, you can ride the bus all the way downtown.  Cabs and limos are $40-$50 dollars, but they will carry three or four people.  If you only have two, then bus it.  My kids had already taken the bus and assured me that it was easy and safe.  Get off on Guy street my daughter advised.  She also told me guy is pronounced ghee in Canada.  Helpful to know.
They had already been to dinner when I arrived.  My son went off to visit a friend, so daughter and I walked the six blocks to the  @Provigo grocery store for nutrition for the evening.  By this time, it was close to ten p.m. and I was glad to get some warm soup.  Our Airbnb apartment is nicely situated and we had a stove.  Some chicken broth, vegetables and warm soup was on the way.  It was good to have something healthy after a day of traveling.  The warmth was even better.

My first impression of Montreal is the welcoming atmosphere.  Most shop attendants and transport people will ask if you speak French or English.  They easily switch to both.  They also recognize an American "Bon JouR" from their own, bonjour. I think it is the irrepressible desire to say the "r".   It is nice to be able to speak a few words to let them know that you are willing to try.  The other thing to note, is that no matter where daughter and I went, the city felt safe.  The people who ask for money, do so in a polite and distant way.  It is always hard to pass those less fortunate.  In Europe and in Canada, people tend to give food, rather than money.  Young people offer their chips or their half sandwich.  One man, who looked as if he too could use help, gave the person with the open hat, his transport ticket.  In many ways, I feel this is productive.  In Bordeaux, France, we saw people leave coffee, milk, bread and cheese next to sleeping homeless in the streets.  I thought that very kind.

The streets are fairly clean and in order.  The walk-able downtown is easy to traverse.  The cobblestone streets are charming, but careful footing for the weak ankled is advised.  The underground is fabulous during the rain.  More on that later.

Our first full day, we went to the Musée Art Contemporain, оr the MAC, to see the Leonard Cohen presentation.  For those of you who do not know him, his site is still active beyond his life.  Canadians love their own famous singer, poet, author and rebel.  I do too.

Our lovely Airbnb apartment is downtown and very close to transportation.  It doesn't feel quite so close in 21 degree weather with wind.  But, it felt just fine at 45 degree weather and sun.  Moments from the Boulevard René-Lévesque, we were close to grocery stores, restaurants and subways.

Our second day it rained.  So, to walk across the city, we enter the underground city of Montreal.  It is an incredible underground maze of food and shopping.  There are attractions, entertainment and people watching galore.  I cannot attest to the summer months, but the winter drives people underground where  it is warm and you can walk and shop or eat.  The underground  actually goes for many blocks and attaches to the subway.  It behooves one to understand the streets and the metro, or you will surely be turned around below earth.  However, you will be turned around with some of the best international shopping you have ever done.  Someone told us that the only underground shopping better than Montreal, is Atlanta.  Born in Atlanta, I have some innate affection for the city.  However, I have to say that underground Atlanta  is a place of transition.  And that Montreal surely has much more to offer in terms of a network.  If you were born to shop, this is your city.

My daughter and i moved to the usual tourist spots, seeing the Biodôme de Montréal with the frogs and more importantly the penguins.  It seemed odd walking into the first area and seeing an alligator as a display.  But, of course, we are from Florida, home of the alligator!  I asked my daughter to tell me the difference between an alligator and a crocodile.  She rolled her eyes and said, "Please!" Oy vey, those Florida girls know everything!

  As she entered the river fish display, I asked about a weird looking fish.  She says that it is a sturgeon.  I look at her with wonder.  How does she know this?  Then, I look with admiration.  Does it matter?  She does know it, and she is right!

Does anyone know what Brady 12 means?

We proceed to the next area, out of the river environment.  To my surprise, we see penguins.  Not just one, but four varieties of penguins in this habitat.  The penguins are very fun to watch and better than the internet.  I promise.  If you take your kid to see them, this is what will happen.

 Can you imagine anything cuter?  Does it matter that he slipped under the ropes to touch a penguin face?  This was so terribly fun and I vicariously wished him on, to laugh, to touch and go under every rope for the rest of his life!

I wish I could tell you that I was a rope ducker, but the truth is that my husband and daughter are the rope duckers.  I am the rope administrator.  Perhaps that is why only now, I take chances!

  For now, think of those ropes and the ones you can duck under!