mspt47: (Default)
[personal profile] mspt47
Same deal as Day 1.


    5:50am: I try not to get up, but I HAVE to run to the restroom. Thankfully, there is a toilet stall just across the hallway, and it wasn't occupied. That is my one thing about hostels. When they are booked full, fighting to use the bathrooms can be quite a headache. Flashbacks to the Big Apple Hostel in NYC when I literally had to go up two floors to find an open bathroom.

    Oh, I didn't mention how the bathroom equipment is scattered. In other hostels I've stayed at, they're either individual full bathrooms (with shower, toilet and sink) or a single dorm-style bathroom per floor (with several toilet stalls and a couple of shower stalls). Here, we have the sink in our room. There's one toilet-and-sink half-bath across the hall. All the way down on the other end of the floor, there's shower stall with a locking door, and another shower stall next to it that has no door - just a curtain. Weird. Then there is one more full bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink.

    There's a third floor to the hostel, but I don't know if the setup is any different.

    Anyway, my eyes are dry and one of my contacts falls out on the way to the bathroom. Thankfully, I don't lose it and I'm able to put it back in. It's too early to actually get up, so I go back to sleep. I'm out like a light.

    8:10am: I wake up just as the last roommate leaves. I get dressed and washed up. The hostel provides "breakfast" but it only consists of toast, orange juice, and coffee. I can't have toast and I don't usually drink juice. So, I skip out on the free breakfast and go out and hope for something along the way.

    The original plan was to take the Metro over to the first of my planned destinations but a) that is a museum that probably isn't even open yet and b) I'm not really in the mood to be inside in a museum and c) I'm pretty sure most of the museums cost money and I'm trying not to spend much. So, I decide to skip ahead on my pre-mapped route and head toward La Basilique Notre-Dame, pretty much the ONE must-go-to place on my list. And since that is slightly closer, I decide to walk.

    I know I need to head east at some point, so I end up turning left off of Rue Sherbrooke onto Rue Jeanne-Mance.

    8:45am: I arrive in Quartier des Spectacles, which is part of a concrete park area called Place des Festivals. There is a lot of construction work happening, but otherwise it's a nice area. I find wi-fi there, so I sit on a bench to figure out where I am going, and then go to the Starbucks that is on the other end of the park (on Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest).



    9:00am Starbucks. While I am in line, I stare at the menu, which is entirely in French, and hearing the people around me speaking in French, I entertain the idea of attempting to order my drink in French. That is until I realize I don't know how to ask for soy milk. And we didn't have Starbucks in high school, so I have no idea where to put the adjective "grande" in a drink order in French. So, when the barista greets me to take my drink order saying, "Bonjour!" I say, "Hi ... may I have a grande soy latte, please?" Ugh. I feel like I might as well be wearing a sign that says, "Je suis americain."

    The barista doesn't seem to think much of it and happily takes my order. I guess it happens often enough. The cashier who rings me up heard me order in English and speaks to me in English when she sees that my Starbucks Gold card said that I've been a cardholder since 2004. She says, "Wow, that's a long time! Did you ever have one of those special black cards?" I actually have no idea what she was talking about ... I either never had one or I don't remember it. She says it was around before the gold cards and for a short time. Huh, interesting.

    I get my latte, put a little fake sugar in it, and venture out. I walk north, knowing I have to go north and east to get to La Basilique Notre-Dame, although I don't have a specific route to take. I find myself in Chinatown.

    I'm first mentally jolted when I hear two ladies greet each other with, "Joh sun!" After hearing mostly French in the last day or so, hearing Cantonese messed with my brain. Then I start wondering what it must be like to grow up Chinese in Montréal, where your primary language is probably Cantonese and you also have to be fluent in French since Chinatown here is TINY (maybe 2 or 3 square blocks) and you can't not interact with the French-speaking population.



    As I work my way west, I am as quickly out of Chinatown as I entered it and I was now trying to navigate myself with my offline map to find La Basilique Notre-Dame. It isn't until I get to the river that I realize that I've overshot and need to loop back around through Vieux-Montréal (Old Montréal) to find the Basilica. Thankfully, I figure it out.

    10:00am: I sit down on a bench in Place D'Arms to finish my coffee and also eat a Kind Bar. Then I go into La Basilique Notre-Dame. There is a $5 admission fee, but it is more than worth it.

    This is, by far, the absolute MUST-SEE location for a tourist to Montréal. Beautiful and gorgeous do not begin to describe the interior of the cathedral. There is an intricate balance between stained glass and soft colored lighting that makes everything inside seem to glow. I take lots of pictures, using different lenses to try to capture the beauty, although I know no pictures that I take will ever do this place any justice.



    Behind the main cathedral is a smaller chapel (the Chapel of the Sacred Heart) that I hear people saying is also a must-see and that there is quite a stark contrast in style. Indeed, it is almost golden. It is gorgeous in and of itself.



    11:35am: I am now making my way back through Vieux-Montréal. Somehow, I've managed to wander away from it, and I need to work my way back east to get to it. It is cold and windy, but not too cold.



    During this time, I get onto wi-fi from somewhere and I get an email from one of my professors telling me that I am missing a HUGE component in my final project. I swear that I included it. I KNEW it was a huge part of it. It is entirely possible that it fell out because I had trouble getting the staple through all the papers. I email her back and, knowing the exact files are in my Dropbox, I offer to email the worksheets as attachments if that works. I wait for a reply.

    I continue walking northeast and pass Le Palais du Justice and I see lots of chalk writing all over the exterior of the building. I get the gist of it that students are protesting tuition hikes, that it is unfair and unjust. The students want to study and get an education, but the tuition hikes are too much.



    I wander around through Vieux-Montréal, noting that the architecture here is older and more European than downtown Montréal. I've never been to France or Europe, but I do feel like I have traveled very far away from New York. Exactly what I wanted.



    I also wander through Le Marché Bonsecours which is an indoor public market that has lots of little shops, mostly for art and designer clothing. It also has space for expositions and banquets.



    At some point while wandering Rue Saint Paul (which is cobblestone and very narrow and lined with very European shops), I notice that there are a lot of cafés serving crêpes. I catch myself thinking in basic French: "Il ya beaucoup de restaurants avec les crêpes, mais je ne peux pas les manger." (There are a lot of restaurants with crêpes, but I cannot eat them.) 'Tis true.

    Then I decide that I need to make sure I have enough time to go visit the Olympic park and maybe also the Botanical Gardens, but they're not really within walking distance so I need to make my way to the green line Metro. I walk northwest on Rue Berri, knowing that there is a station at Station Berri-UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). When I get there, I see that Rue Saint-Catherine Est here is jam-packed with tons of large retail stores and quite a few restaurants. It is lunch time and I am hungry, so I wander around for several blocks trying to find somewhere I can get something to eat that is vegetarian and gluten-free. It's not easy. I go into a café that has some salads, but they turn out to be a very limited selection and everything else is sandwiches and wraps.

    I give up and go back to the Metro station.

    1:13pm: At the Berri-UQAM Metro, waiting on the green line to go northeast to Parc Olympique.

    1:24pm: Get off at Station Viau, which is the more northern stop on the green line at Parc Olympique. I see the Stade Olympique (Olympic Stadium) and I decide to walk down Avenue Pierre de Coubertin. I get to Boulevard Pie-IX and see that this is kind of the "front" as this is where signs are for the Stade Olympique. I take some pictures here and then cross Rue Sherbrooke to where the entrance is for Le Jardin Botanique. It appears to be closed on Mondays, but there are people walking around on the grounds, so I wander around a bit.



    I also need to use the restroom now, and while the Botanical Gardens itself are closed, the building is open and the gift shop is open. I go in and ask if I can use the restroom and they let me. Unfortunately, there are only three stalls and two of them are where water had flooded. There is a maintenance guy there and he directs me to use the one of the far right, in French, but I don't understand him, so he has to say it in English. Of course, that stall has no toilet paper so I have to reach over the puddle in one of the other stalls to grab toilet paper. Fun.

    2:23pm: I am back on the Metro heading southwest on the green line. I get off at Station McGill and spot a Starbucks across the street from Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest. There is a table to sit at and there is a power outlet. My feet were starting to kill me and I very much needed some time to sit and charge my phone.

    (Very early in the morning, I had noticed that the bottom of my left foot was quite painful. It almost felt like it did when I had plantar fasciitis years ago, but not quite. I spent most of the day until now trying to put weight on the outer part of my foot to keep from irritating the plantar fascia any further.)

    At Starbucks, in addition to my usual iced double espresso, I also get a blueberry Greek yogurt and a bottle of water.

    4:00pm: I notice that there is a small but very pretty cathedral across the street from the Starbucks. It wasn't on my list of places to go see, but since I'm here, I might as well take a peek. It is the Christ Church Cathedral. It is nowhere near as ornate as La Basilique Notre-Dame, but then again, nothing is. It's still nice.



    From there, I walk just a couple blocks to where St. Patrick's Basilica is, which IS on my list. At first, I am confused about where to enter as there doesn't seem to be an obvious front of the building from first glance from the street. Then I realize that the entrance is on the opposite site, facing the parking lot. When I go inside, I then notice that I could have just as easily entered from one of the side doors as well. The interior is beautiful - a very different style from La Basilique Notre-Dame. I walk around and take some pictures, but there are quite a few people who have come in to pray. I know from a sign I saw outside that there is a weekday mass at 5:15pm, and it is about 5:00pm now. I feel bad that my camera shutter is loud, so I try not to take TOO many pictures and disturb those who came in for peaceful prayer.



    I leave and then walk through McGill University, at first to find the Redpath Museum, which was on my list, but being as late in the day as it was, I figured it was probably closed. I get to the museum but then keep walking through the campus to my next destination on my list: the Underground City ... except I don't think I actually found it. I know I was in the right area (Place Bonaventure), but maybe I didn't go far enough underneath the building.

    Then I exit Place Bonaventure and head east to Vieux-Port (Old Port). I was there on the northern part of Vieux-Port earlier in the day actually, but my intention was to come back later in the evening to see it during twilight/evening hours. But the sun was far from setting, and it wouldn't be getting dark for quite some time. I take my time walking down Rue Saint Pierre and am intrigued by the building that houses Les Soeurs Grise de Montréal. It used to be the general hospital for Montréal.



    I keep walking down to the waterfront (along Promenade du Vieux-Port) and take lots of pictures of the water, the park that lines the port, and a couple of the ships that are docked there.



    Then I am hungry and decide to try to find somewhere in Vieux-Montréal to get dinner. Not many places are open, however, and of those that are open, not many are appealing to me or suit my dietary limitations. I almost stop at a sushi restaurant, but I pass on that as I don't like going to sushi alone. I walk up and down Place d'Youville and Rue Saint Paul Ouest, not finding anything. I decide to go west a little bit to see if going more toward the downtown area might help. I end up on Avenue Viger Ouest & Rue Saint Alexandre and see a place called Green Traiteur & Cafe that appears to have unique salads and sandwiches. There aren't any signs indicating hours but there are a couple people inside. I go in and ask the guy behind the counter if they are still open, and he says they are - until about 7:45pm. It is a little past 7:00pm now.

    I ponder the salad options, looking for something that doesn't have meat but still has some substantial protein. The guy explains that I can do a half-sandwich and half-salad, or half-soup and half-salad. I think I still want a full salad, though, so I pick one that has fresh goat cheese (fromage frais de chèvre). It also has tomato slices, cucumbers, leeks, and roasted pine nuts on a bed of mixed greens. Sounds good. I also inquire about wi-fi, which was posted in the window. The guy hands me a slip with the wi-fi network and password on it.

    I eat and catch up on Facebook and Twitter. The salad is quite good and I wonder why I don't have pine nuts more often.



    I'm also feeling very tired. I had wanted to stay out and visit some sights at night to get the nighttime perspective, but I don't think I am going to make it. Having gotten up at 8:00am and it being almost 8:00pm now, my day was more or less up.

    I head out and walk in the direction of where the hostel is. I find myself on a more sketchy area of Montréal, where there are quite a few strip bars and similar establishments. Those themselves don't bother me, but it's the people who hang around those establishments who creep me out a little, so I turn and walk up a different street. I pass through Chinatown as I had earlier, although I pass through another block that I didn't before. That block has quite a few bakeries that were tempting me with displays of don taat (egg custard pastry), except I can't eat them. Curses. I hear more Cantonese, and again, after having heard mostly French all day, it was messing with my mind.



    8:19pm: I end up back on Rue Sainte Catherine, then on Rue Saint-Denis where I find a Starbucks. I don't need more caffeine, but I feel a need for something sweet, so I get a tall caramel frappuccino. That I have no idea how to order in French, so I order it in English. I sit for a while, reading through my social media feeds.

    8:55pm: Okay, I have been at this Starbucks for long enough. I'm tired and should go back to the hostel, but the tourist part of me wants to go see signts at night, but I don't know where I can go that isn't too far away. I'm not sure I can walk too much more. I do take a picture of Rue Saint-Denis as it is on a hill and I can get a food perspective from near the top.



    9:20pm: I am back at the hostel, and I come into the dorm room just as one of my roommates is leaving - the one who didn't really speak to me (or anyone) when I first got settled. She still doesn't say anything to me, but she at least holds the door open for me.

    I go to my bed and find that it has been VERY neatly made. Not that I left it as a mess or anything this morning. I remember pulling the sheet and comforter back up to the pillow at the head of the bed, but that was it. But now, I find that someone has actually TIGHTLY tucked the sheet and comforter edges under the mattress and has smoothed it out. I look around at my other roommates' beds. None of their beds have been this neatly made. In fact, I'm pretty sure they look the same as when I left that morning. There is also a new roommate in the room and she's sleeping on the bunk above mine. Her sheets are neat, but not to the extent of mine. WHO MADE MY BED FOR ME AND WHY? I'm so confused.

    The wi-fi seems to be working a bit faster than it was the previous night, so I pull out my Netbook. There is also an open 3-pronged plug against the wall so I plug in my Netbook. The battery needed charging. I upload a few select photos from the day (La Basilique Notre-Dame and St. Patrick's Basilica at the very least).

    Roommate in the bunk above me comes back from dinner. There is no ladder for her to climb up to her bunk, so she has to step on my mattress to get up there. I don't mind at all. I try to be friendly and say that if she needs me to move anything out of her way that she can just let me know. She says "oh, it's fine" and doesn't say anything else. Okay.

    I decide to go shower before it gets later in the evening and people may be trying to fight for the showers.

    11:05pm: I'll be going to bed soon. I pack up some of my belongings, moving things from the bag I took out for the day back to my backpack and whatnot, just to make packing in the morning easier.

    I never got a reply from my professor, so I just send her another email with the worksheets that were apparently missing attached. If she wanted something else other than email attachments, it would have to wait. I mention in the email that I am in Montréal and will have limited Internet access until the evening of the next day.

    There is a very loud march or protest or parade or something passing by on Rue Sherbrooke. People are chanting in French. It sounds like a protest or march, but I can't quite figure out what it's about.

    11:21pm: Turning in for bed.


All photos located here: https://picasaweb.google.com/108956861203166366163/MontrealTripViaAmtrak4295112

( Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 )
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