So, we wake up freezing.
Its about 5 am, and we have been in and out of sleep all night. Our asian friend with all the blankets, however slept really well. I’m not surprised. I don’t know what that would be like, but I would sure like to imagine what it would be like.
We get up, and we want to get going, as we have only really got 2 days in Montreal, so we want to make it count. Bec has taken the awesome job on herself of researching all the places that we need to go and things we need to see in Montreal. She is the chief strategist of the day, and I literally am just following along.
Were up semi-early, and Mohammed is off to work. I am a little surprised as to how relaxed he really is. He just walks out the door, and is like “Alright guys. See you tonight”, while 4 punters are sprawled out on his living room floor. He’s super trusting and doesn’t mind having complete strangers in his house for a good 12 hours, while he is away at work.
One fact that I am beginning to wake up to more and more is that people inherently are good. Yes, you get some tossers and people who give us reasons to hate and fear each other, but largely, people are legends. I mean, I have never met this guy before, and I rock up to his house with 2 other punters already staying with him, and he is happy for us to just do what we want at his house while he is gone.
This is odd to me, but I am ok with it. I’d like to do a similar thing when we have our own place.
Anyways, were up and at it. Mo gave us directions of how to get to the city and the public transport. We rock up to the subway station, and the actual train that runs on the tracks with these little bumper wheels to stop it from grinding harder than an apprentice on the 9inch. Its not on any kind of rails. They are just concrete tyre tracks with a buffer on the outside, but man, they absolutely haul along.
So, the subway is more of an underground bus that it is a subway.
We get off, and one of the first things we see is a pretzel shop. Of course we have to, so we did. It was grand. As is customary in a few of the major cities in Canada, there is an entire shopping centre under ground at your fingertips. We walk through, and I begin to see that for every Australian store, there is an equivalent store in Canada. Husdon’s Bay = Myers. That’s the only one that is coming to mind, but I can tell you that there is heaps more haha.
As we are walking though the underground mall, I know that we look like tourists, but the French Canadians have this really unapologetic way of being able to feel no remorse for completely eyeballing you down. I don’t know why. I’m sure they have seen tourists before, but that doesn’t stop them in any way. This one chick on the train tried to play the stare game with me. We stared until I gave her the nod. She looked away. I’m thinking “Yeah. You learn your place among us tourists. We run this town”.
In case you’re wondering though, we don’t really run this town. It just sounds really tough when someone says something like that. That’s why I said it.
We leave the underground mall to be nailed with the cold from outside. For those who have been to Montreal, we got off from McGill station, and walked down to the Old Port. It is a beautifully cobble-stoned area of Montreal, and has a fair bit of character. I liked it. We explored a little, but we had places to see today, and a lot of walking to do, so off we went. On our list of places was a ceramic cafe, where you can pick a ceramic item, paint it, and they will fire and glaze it for you, Montreal’s best bagel place, Montreal’s best Poutine place, these spinny wheel things that you sit in, and Montreal’s ugly christmas tree.
With our hearts set on adventure, we set off into the depths of Montreal’s suburbs.
Aaaaaand. Its bloody cold. I mean, its a bonus to us, who the snow is a novelty for, but still, its really cold. We kinda wander through the streets and see everything that Montreal has, which we don’t. I maintain that Canada’s gift shops are second to none. They come up with some awesome stuff, or at least know where to find all the good stuff.
We’re walking for about and hour and a half and step into this boutique clothing store. Its really nice inside. As I walk in, I make eye contact with one of the staff members folding the clothes. He sets aside his clothes folding, which he is obviously in the middle of, and just kinda steps back against the wall and just kinda watches the events in the store.
He smiles at me, like normal. I smile back.
The real reason we are in the shop is because we just wanted to get warm again. Its like -17 degrees right now, so were looking for somewhere to just thaw out. Its actually that cold, that my beard will turn into a crackly nest of hyper-thickened hairs. Its mental.
Anyway. Back to our french shop clerk…
He just is standing there, keeping an eye on everyone. It doesn’t take long for me to realise that he is really just watching us, not the whole shop. We begin to wander around the shop, and he doesn’t make any conversation with us. None of this “Anything I can help you with today?”. He just follows us like a shadow and fixes up shirts that perfectly folded already. Always keeping us within eye sight. I’m beginning to think “Really? We are that suspicious?”.
So, with this frenchman acting more weird than what is an acceptable standard of weirdness, I decide I’m gonna start stressing him out. I begin my method of psychological torture by touching items that both he, Bec and I know are well out of my budget. Whats more, is that I decide to show a keen interest in these pieces and explain to Bec how much I love this item, but only while he is within earshot. I don’t want him to miss out on this stress I wanna inflict on him.
Next, I make sure that I keep looking at him to see where he is, so that he knows that I know I am looking for him. For my 3rd and final act, we head down to the end of the shop, and kinda around the corner. Naturally, he follows us, but only at a semi-distance. Bec is more inquisitive, so she goes right around and checks out the items around the corner. He is coming too, so I wait until he is nearly at the corner, and then I walk right up to him, and Lo and behold, as predicted, there he was. About to assume his watchful position.
With a father-in-law in retail, I knew his tricks all too well. I’d seen it all before mate, and even if I hadn’t, he wasn’t exactly subtle about it. I leave Bec to explore the depths of the shop. Completely unattended, while I head back out to the main area. With his current position, he is able to keep an eye on us both…
But not for long. You see, I keep making sure I look at him every now and then, and flash him the most awkward smile that I can conjure up. Just to make him really feel what I want him to. I decide that enough is enough. He has to decide who is the more suspect of the two of us. I walk further and further away, and then, like a thief in the night, I slip into an isle.
“Oooooooohhh. What are you gonna do now?”, I think to myself.
He’s processing his decision, and awkwardly chooses to follow Bec through the depths of the rear store. As much as I would like to say that I was the less suspect, it probably had part to do with the fact that he and his colleagues had some sort of military sign language going on and they had their eye on me now.
Regardless, Bec and I regroup with this punter in tow. We’re warm enough to not feel like convicts and put up with this knob’s suspicion any more. We’re off. I look back over my shoulder and shoot him one last condescending smile.
He will probably go home and tell his mrs about how he, through his keen powers of observation and surveillance, thwarted two tourist-thieves’ plans to ransack his store of their finest garments.
He looked like that kinda guy.
Whatever. We’re gonna eat bagels anyway. So ner.
We dip in and out of stores, checking out the local fashion and entertaining ourselves with clothing that we shouldn’t. I get talking with this one guy who tells me that when it gets real nasty snow-wise, that its not uncommon for people to cross-country ski to work. That is pretty cool. Its funny how things that are normal to one culture can be so foreign to another culture.
We keep zig zagging through the streets of Montreal, and finally, we reach our Bagel place. You walk in, and its all old-fashioned, and great. There is this behemoth of an oven, which holds like 5 rows of bagels being cooked at any one time. Its like a giant pizza oven. They will have these boards that the bagels get cooked on, and once the whole lot is done, they will just flick them into this big metal box. The counter is just in front of this box, so you just say what bagels you want, and they will scoop them up straight out of the fresh batch. Its so good, and they do it right before the customer’s eyes. Its great.
We get our bagels, which cost us $2.50 for 3. Not bad, I say. We start tucking in, and there is another punter around the corner tucking into his little treat too. There really isn’t any seating. Just a few heaters which look like oil heaters, but they’re built into the wall, which act like seats for us. The other punter offers us some of his dip. He knows how it goes. We decline, but only because we’ve got some duck liver pate, otherwise he would have regretted offering us his dip.
Its getting late in the afternoon, and we have been walking everywhere, so we ask our generous mate where the best poutine is. He tells us, “Well, this isn’t really the place for it, but if you go a fair while away..”
“To this place?” Bec asks.
“Yeah. That place does great Poutine”.
We had already walked past it. That was our destination. Except, I thoroughly vowed not to walk, so we decided to catch the bus. It was a good decision. We get off, and enter the warm, welcoming doors of this poutine palace. It was grand. They’ve got hand painted comics on the walls, depicting a modern day Romeo and Juliet. But, it was all in French. So, I get Google Translate out, and none of it makes sense.
So, when our waiter comes over, I ask him. He even struggles to make sense of it all.
Now, I cant make sense of a waiter not making sense of a language that he has grown up with, but I cant make sense of. I cut him loose, “Haha. All good man”. He walks away confused and all the worse for it.
After devouring pulled pork poutine, a beer each, and spilling water all over myself and the floor, and Bec nearly doing the same, we leave him the tip that he is due and bail for home. We head back down to the station, and find ourselves in the middle of Montreal’s christmas markets, with none other than Montreal’s ugly christmas tree as the centre piece. Oh my word. It is an ugly christmas tree. For a city that is globally known, you would think that it would have a nicer christmas centre piece, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
But that is what makes it even that much better. Its hideous, stands towering over the christmas markets, and I love it.
We tell pretty much anyone we talk to that we cant understand them, and then watch as they have to repeat themselves all over again in front of their colleagues, but with half the levels of enthusiasm shown to us in the first attempt.
On the way out, we have a quick look at this interactive installation that some dude has got with these light-up wheel thing-ys, which you spin and create a motion picture as you spin it. Its cool and all, but my hands are friggin cold, and my soul is ready for some sleep. We end our day with a purchase of a double sleeping bag rated to -4 degrees.
We get home, Mohammed isnt fussed, but he’s happy to have our company again. He shows me his homeland of Algeria. My God. If you have the time, just flick through a few scenes of this video. Its amazing.
I stay up late chatting.
Its been a good day.
Come back tomorrow,