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Canadian bakin’

February 7, 2010

A mad rush to South Station and the bus terminal ensued one cold January morning. I was entertained by a Bolt Bus conductor yelling at people for missing the bus before boarding the bus that would bear me to Canada. I dozed off on the way to White River, and then on through Vermont when we arrived at the Canadian border. Strangely, the immigration officer seemed more concerned with my plans in the US after my week in Canada. While not one with fuck with immigration officers, the thought did occur to me that this was the concern of his American counterpart and he should mind his own business. Either way, after some lengthy silent stares I was stamped and let into Canada, arriving in Montreal an hour later.

I checked in to the swanky hostel and met Carly from Australia, who was returning the long way home via North and South America after a two year stint as a teacher in the UK. With her were her boyfriend Blake and brother Evan, so along with a Dutch guy called Case, Tina the German and Del from Saskatchewan we set off to a nearby sports bar that served gallons of beer for $14. Alcohol fueled the introduction process and so by the time we left for another place called Obreuvoir we were all on friendly terms. The lights came on at 2 and so we staggered home in the cold.

In the morning I found the Australians had packed up and left and so I went down to Vieux Montréal, where the French influence was shown in the narrow cobblestoned streets and the architecture of ubiquitous cafés, restaurants and galleries. I continued down to the Vieux Port, which was covered in snow and boasted an ice rink. I managed to get stuck on an island while trying to get back to Rue de la Commune and so after many attempts trudging through snow found my way back to the pier and solid ground.

After an epic kitchen session making a dinner of stew that took almost two hours, Del and I got beer and drank in the common room downstairs, where we were interrupted by a Bostonian called Chris, the token fat old guy who stays in hostels. After putting up with his obnoxious laugh for more than long enough, we left at 1am to hit the town, again going to Obreuvoir. We sat and shared our gallon with a bunch of Quebecois out celebrating someone’s 20th birthday and wondered how the guy sitting next to us had managed to convince his outrageously attractive wife to marry him, at the same time being reassured by his success. All too soon the lights came on and so after a spot of poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds. Best drunk food ever) at a local takeaway joint we returned to the hostel.

The next day I headed down to the history museum, curious about how Quebec came to be. The museum answered questions on the French/English divide and was fairly informative, although it glossed over the Quebec/Ontario antagonism that erupted in the 20th century. I returned home and met up with Del, who informed me we had new roommates, so we descended to the basement and drank champagne with Grace, Shauna (I exhausted all Ferris Bueller jokes) and Fred from New York, Toronto and Montreal respectively. We went out and in what was becoming a habit found ourselves at Obreuvoir for the third night running, where Del and I were recognised by some of the barstaff. Fred and I attempted to converse in French, but his accent made this impossible. Quebec French is simply unintellgible, but I managed to learn some interesting swear words. The night’s festivities ended somewhat abruptly as Grace decided to start arguing with Fred, which continued all the way to a pizza place before she stormed out with Shauna chasing after her and us left wondering about the source of tension. We finished our pizza and went home to find Grace still criticising Fred, only stopping once she climbed into bed and passed out.

The next day brought me my final day in Montreal, and so after consulting a Lonely Planet lying around in the lobby I made a list of things to see and set off. First stop was Mont Royal Parc (where the city takes its name), and after a hairy climb up the snow covered paths I stood and looked over Montreal which sprawled below. Mont Royal is popular with joggers, cyclists (even with the snow) and other exercise enthusiasts, and at the lookout a guy was performing some sort of tai-bo-like routine, which provided a source of amusement. I wandered the peak for a while before beginning the treacherous descent, amazingly not falling despite my usual (unintended) success in doing so in such conditions.

Continuing along Saint Laurent I paused for a coffee and a pastry before heading back to the hostel along Saint Denis, marvelling at the trendy shops and cafes and amazing houses with high French roofs. After a last dinner in which I finished off the three-day supply of stew, Del and I prepared for one last hurrah with our new roommates Leanne from Kingston and Judith from Germany. Joining us in the basement was perpetual annoyance Chris, who attempted to speak German with Judith and then proceeded to hit on her, despite her being 19 and he at least 30 years more than that. At any rate we soon bailed to Obreuvoir, where the bouncer greeted us with a handshake and a “bonsoir” and we were officially regulars.

Due to the crowd we were forced outside to the smokers’ deck, where there inexplicably stood a table carved from ice. Del and Judith got friendly while Leanne wanted to go to a strip club “to see what they’re like.” We complied and once there Del and Judith proceeded to make out in not the most romantic location in my book (I would never sit on a couch at a place like this). After five minutes Leanne was satisfied, or at least no longer curious, and so we left. In the end we elected to return to the hostel; I was after all leaving in the morning. Down in the basement we found Chris passed out on the couch so Del and Judith claimed a bench in the corner while Leanne and I settled with a beanbag. Del and Judith had no intention of going anywhere and so after a chat about this that and the other Leanne and I went upstairs.

In the morning, I finally sampled the breakfast of croissants and muffins. I left a note in the room before checking out and heading to the bus terminal. 20 minutes later, and to my surprise, Del joined me. Our adventures would continue at the next stop, Toronto.

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