Montreal, 2014

Another Fantasia Festival, another road trip to Montreal.

Thursday July 24, 2014

All of us in the car were splitting a farm share, and I had converted some of my portion into food for the road. I brought a small cooler bag with a cabbage salad, plums and apples. I also made sure to pack my rain jacket since I always seemed to get caught in a storm on these trips. Forest picked up the rental car that were were splitting and then he and Vanessa came to get me at around 10:30am since we'd all wrangled the day off. I got some tea at a gas station to try and keep awake in the back seat. We made a lunch stop in Hopkinton, at the Covered bridge restaurant. We had a great river and bridge view from our table by the window, though there was a long involved discussion about tea bags at the next table that kept distracting us. :-) The food was delicious, I had a curried chicken soup, salsa grilled chicken and couldn't resist the sweet potato fries with maple dipping sauce.

Forest kept consulting me for details when the border guard started drilling him, luckily I had all the hotel info on hand since I'd booked it for us. We hit horrible traffic on the bridge onto Montreal island, but we made it by 6pm. I'd found a good deal on the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth downtown, but it turned out that the deal only counted for the per night rate, everything else was extra, like wifi and breakfast and parking. We circled the block once to check for parking spots then just went with the hotel valet for the night, spending the $30 to save us some time. My preferred free street parking space wouldn't work during the day on Friday anyway, and we got 24 hours in the garage for that rate at least. Adding it to the other nights we were staying was not going to happen though, that would undo the deal factor. We walked over to Concordia to get our movie tickets for the festival, they just asked for our email addresses, I don't think they even checked our IDs.

We were all pretty hungry so we wandered down Crescent looking for a place that could seat us right away. A sangria and nacho special caught our eye at a pub so we went in and got a small table near the open balcony (no one was smoking right then). The sangria induced a headache in me right away, the salmon in my salad was over cooked, and the nachos were late and uninspiring. Then we had to fight for the special deal price, the waiter hadn't seen the day's chalk board since it faced the street.

From there we took a cab to Bar le LAB, a craft cocktail bar that Vanessa had found. We had a very courteous cab driver, it was a bit odd not careening through the streets. We were on the early side and had no problems getting three seats at the bar. Forest got the cocktail that came with suspended beef jerky, I got the delicous Tom Tom. I wanted to try their creme de menthe and Chartreuse shooter, but drank amaZones instead when the other two voted that way. The bartenders were very good, a joy to watch.

I had my first movie that night, so I left them there and hustled down to Sherbrook trying to get a cab. I was a bit late since I'd been unable to flag a cab down anywhere near the bar, but I was able to get a seat higher up in the Concordia Hall theatre. "Predestination" was so good, a bit slow to start, but the time travel and gender change plot threads twisting around each other kept me fascinated throughout. I walked down Peel to join up with Forest and Vanessa for the cheap shots, but we ended going to another pub where I just got a gin and tonic. We walked back to the hotel, and I was showered and asleep before 2am.

Friday July 25, 2014

I was in training for Spartan Sprint (2 weeks to go!) and got myself out of bed early enough in the morning to hit the very nice hotel gym - it had barbells! I just had sprint intervals on my todo list for the day, and the treadmills worked well to program them. I hit the shower and must have gone out to grab breakfast with Forest and Vanessa but didn't write down any details.

We had to meet up with Tony and Juliet and the rest of the Boston crew, as well as some Montrealers, at Fear Depot at 2:30 for our 3pm ticket. I'd convinced a work colleague to join us as well, Matt easily found us as we were hanging out by the picnic tables and eyeing the costumed actors trying to scare people into going through the stacked cargo containers. The plaza nearby was being crisscrossed by people who'd rented Segways, quadcycles and bouncy shoes. Finally it was time to line up, and get into quartets to go through the experience. I got pulled forward to join Forest and Vanessa and Chris's group, glad I had some trusted people around me to help me get through the scary bits. :-) It went on just long enough that I was shaking when I came out, I'd jumped and screamed and clutched my way through it, though I was amused to see that I was half smiling through my scream in the official picture that they'd caught of our group when we were menanced by a run-away car (biker nightmare right there). The experience focussed on real life fears, of radiation, earthquakes, crushing, storms, traffic, serial killers, the dark, rather than supernatural things, that was unexpected and interesting.

From there we were led by the locals over to a disturbing art gallery, there were hugely detailed Nazi/KKK dioramas showing the horrors of WWII and the fight for civil rights, using thousands of small plastic figures. Though I think in each one there was a Jesus figure as well as a Ronald McDonald, just to make it more disturbing. The other rooms in the gallery had some neat stuff as well, I liked the overhead beams painted with quotes and with crows perched on them.

We were getting peckish after that, so stopped at an Old Port restaurnt with patio seating, a Spanish place called Toro Toro. The kitchen didn't open until 5pm, so we shared a cheese plate with mancheqo and pumpkin seeds, and I had a cilantro gin and tonic. Then I had a mojito (vacation drinking!) and the patatas brava once we started ordering tapas. The cheese and potatoes were very filling, that's all I really needed, though I tasted a couple of other dishes. I'd decided to skip an early evening movie so that I didn't have to rush around much. We headed back to the hotel and I hit the gym again, this time to take advantage of the barbells to get my strength workout in. Nice to have the time to fuss with the plates, though some were hard to find.

My first movie of the evening was at just before 8pm, "Jasmine", a heart warming heartstring tugging coming of age movie about a young female Silat fighter in Brunai. The female director and male fight choreographer were there to do a short Q&A after the film, she said that her only real limitation due to the country's religious laws was that she couldn't show any sex. After my movie, they said that ticket holders for the next could wait in the lobby, so I did that and saved seats for Forest and Vanessa for "Goal of the Dead". The characters were mostly annoying, the movie could have been shorter, but the zombie fighting tools of nunchucks and a lacross bat were pretty awesome. That let out just before 1am, and we walked down Bishop to Kafein and went into their bar area. I had a gin and tonic with lavender, and a mint julep with a bit of maple. There was a laptop and ipod playing 80's music, and we moved from the bar to some comfy couches as they cleared out. I think we stayed until 2am or so.

Saturday July 26, 2014

I'd made plans to meet up with my aunt Monica and uncle Roger to go for brunch. I went down to the hotel lobby to meet them at around 10am. We ended up going to Ben and Florentine, I had a delicious portabella and brie omelette, but they only had Red Rose tea on offer. We did a short tour of the underground mall, though the stores were just starting to open then - I found out that there was a liquor store close by the hotel. We took some family pictures by the cathedral across from the hotel. They took off to head back to Laval and I went to scare up some good and more plentiful tea. I also popped into La Senza so see if I could replace the running hat that I'd lost at Tough Mudder, but no luck. I couldn't resist browsing Borders for a while, finding a book called "Chicks Kick Butt", and picking it up for the P.N. Elrod story featuring Bobbi Smythe. Forest and Vanessa ended up going to B&F as well I think I joined them briefly to sort out plans for the day. I redid the ice in my hotel cooler since the last set had all melted. Then I joined the line at DB Clarke theatre to head down to the basement theatre to watch "Jack et la mécaniqu edu coeur". It had gorgeou sanimated visuals and a sad story about a boy who if he falls in love it will kill him due to overload on his mechanical heart. Of course he falls for a dancer (who also sings!) who wears glasses and is super cute. The subtitles went by way too fast, but I hadn't been expecting any since the listing had said it was only in French. The writing that appeared in the film was all in English though.

Today was my movie heavy day, it was pretty much non stop after this, with 3 before dinner, then two more after. "Dancing Karate Kid" was fun, "Once Upon a Time in Shanghai" was slick (with a bromance, messy eating, fast fights, gorgeous 20's inspired visuals). Dinner break was at La Belle et la Boeuf on Ste Catherine with Forest and Vanessa. We got a table off to the side and I finally got to have my first Montreal poutine of the trip. I also had a couple of cocktails, the Pacman and the Belle tonic, they had an extensive list with drink pictures. :-) Then it was time for "Let Us Prey", an Irish retribution movie with Liam Cunningham, I think I saw it with Chris. There were a couple of jump scares, but it was mostly tense, taking place mostly inside of a police station. Then our whole Boston group got together to watch the most anticipated movie of the weekend, "Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead". Worth it, in a blacker than blackest comedy way. :-) The way we ended up summing it up was that you'd wonder in a horrified way if they'd go there, and then they gleefully did. :-) Forest totally got me at a wedding in November by whispering in my ear that the reception song currently playing was the one from the final scene in this. I had to put my fork down and pause to let my stomach settle a little. :-) We were all dragging a bit by this point I think and just headed back to the hotel.

Sunday July 27, 2014

I managed to hit the gym this morning for more weight lifting before grabbing a shower and checking out at 10:30. Forest and Vanessa had already left to get breakfast at Ben & Florentine before their movie, I met up with them and had my Florentine Benedict as they were finishing up. Service was slow as it was peak Sunday brunch time, I never did get a refill on my tea water. They ended up having to dash before I was finished in order to make their movie at noon (it was a long one, almost 3 hours). From there I hit up the SAQ on Ste Catherine to grab the bottle of Ungava that I had been wanting, to replace the one Justin had brought me and was now long done. I also did a browse around Le Chateau, but didn't find anything this time.

I was seeing two animated films for my Sunday festival wrap up, the first was "Hal". It deal with a robotic carer who was brought into a family to help with grief. I recognised bits of Kyoto in the background of scenes. It was a melancholy movie, but with lovely animation. I had some time after that movie to hit up a Tim Horton's for tea and a blueberry muffin and read for a while until it was time to head back for my last movie, "Giovanni's Island". I managed not to break down sobbing while watching this, but it was close. Two brothers live on an island off of the coast of Japan, and when Russians take it over after the end of WWII, they have to live in their stables while the Russian commander and his family live in their house. The Russian children who come with the military get the best area of the school, the best food, and all the priviledges, but the two Japanese boys manage to befriend the young girl living in their house, despite a language barrier. But then their father is caught illegally distributing rice and they're separated from him and moved to an internment camp in Russia. Hardships continue to ensue. File this one with "Grave of the Fireflies" for heart wrenching anime.

I popped into the cafe near the theatre to get a snack for the road, some guys butted in front of me but then let me go ahead anyway, for my dry almond croissant and a bottle of water. I said bye to Mark and Amanda when I saw them sitting at the outdoor tables there, then made my way back to the Hall line side for pick up for the drive home. Forest and Vanessa had gone to get the car after their movie finished and they were waiting for my second one to complete - I'd double checked with them that they were okay delaying departure a bit, glad that I'd managed to squeeze one more movie in. But then Foe stopped so we could run into Timmie's for more road snacks, I got a box of Timbits to "share". There was a bit of construction related delay, but soon enough we were scoping out the duty free store at the border. I was kicking myself since they did actually carry Ungava and for significantly cheaper than I'd got it for in downtown Montreal. We drove with lightning and rainbows as sunshowers sprinkled water on us. We stopped in Burlington for dinner at Sweetwaters. I ended up sending back the melon liquor containing drink that I'd ordered when the "just a splash" on the menu came out tasting only like melon. It took a bit of convincing to get them to make the same drink just leaving out the melon, but I did, and that was good. I had a good bean burger and coleslaw, and we were back on the road by 9pm. I napped on and off, and was finally woken up by Somerville potholes as we got off the highway to make our way to our apartments. I was home at midnight, but I unpacked and did my scheduled workout anyway. :-)

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