Montreal, 2008

I convinced my friends Chris and Forest to join Cris and me on a weekend road trip to Montreal to take in as many movies as possible at the Fantasia movie festival. Cris and Forest brought their bikes and the plan was for Chris and I to rent hybrids once we got there.

Thu Jul 3, 2008

Our grand plan to get up at 6am was put into operation, with much grumbling about the midnight+ bed time the night before. Cris still wasn't done packing up his bike for his next trip, but on my advice was letting the recalcitrant bolts soak in WD-40 to try and get them loose enough to turn (we'd both tackled the last pedal and it didn't budge). But, that was last night. This morning, we packed up the car, got the other bike on it and headed out the door for work around 7am. Picked up his dry cleaning on the way, and found a $10 lot in sight of my office to leave the car in. He took the bike back off the car and rode to work from there, leaving me the car key.

work work work
avoid getting pulled into meetings that would interfere with planned 3pm departure time
get call from Cris saying he got pulled into a meeting that would interfere with planned 3pm departure time

I was keeping an eye out my window and spotted Forest leaning against the trunk of the car just before 3pm. I called to let him know I'd be downstairs in five minutes, dodged my boss, grabbed my crap, and helped sort out getting his bike on the roof. Called Chris and found out that he was walking from the T stop, so we drove up to meet him, and then I drove through downtown to pick up Cris. Forest called him to warn him we were on Atlantic and we just had a short wait for Cris to come by with his bike. Chris and Forest picked up snacks at Sel de la Terre, Cris got his bike on the roof again, and settled into the passenger seat with his cell phone and lap top to continue working. :/ Luckily he was on mute for most of the conference call he had to take, so I was able to keep the CD playing low. I drove for quite a while, dealing with the traffic leaving Boston for the long weekend, and through a few downpours as we went north through New Hamsphire and Vermont, and through construction detours as well. As soon as we switched over to Cris driving, the rain almost cleared up and traffic was flowing nicely. We were semi rushing to get there before 9:45 for a movie, and luckily the border crossing was quick (they let us through even though Cris said we were going for "fun" - yay sleep deprivation! :) ). We got to Montreal just as the sun was setting and were able to point out a few land marks to Forest. We didn't quite have time to check into the hotel first, so we parked in a lot near the theatre and ran up to the box office to pick up our tickets. The line was pretty long, but a guy was standing there with printed tickets for our movie and let us pick up just those ones, we'd have to go back the next day to get the rest.

I think we had a short wait in line, and then got into the almost full theatre to a welcome of hot humid air. We managed to find four seats together up in the last row and settled in with a sigh of relief for making it on time. The festival program director brought out Gordon Liu for a sneak preview hello, and then we dove into Sukiyaki Western Django. I really liked this movie, except for the bits with Tarantino (he grates on me for some reason), though his steampunk wheelchair was neat. A stranger rides into town that's held in uneasy tension between two gangs, the reds and whites, and he disrupts the balance by his sharp shooting skills. A cowardly and MPD sherrif, a mute boy, a hooker with a heart of gold, and a wise old granny (played by the actress who was Mother in Memoirs of a Geisha, I loved her) try to survive the depredations of the two gangs as they vie for the stranger's gun. One of the actors was also in Archangels and Casshern, another was in Hero, so I kept half recognising people. The final show down when the snow starts falling was just gorgeous. Almost all the western movie tropes were on display, I think we could only come up with them missing a poker game. There were a lot of funny bits as well, one of the gang leaders was determined to become Henry VI and would keep quoting from Shakespeare.

After the movie let out, we moved the car down to the hotel and checked in, getting a fairly small room (two double beds, night table, tiny desk, dresser/tv cabinet with two strips of floor visible, and a tiny bathroom with just a shower (I kept bumping my elbows on everything in there), but for < $100/night within walking distance to the festival, it fit the bill. There was a bit of panic when they couldn't find a second set of keys, but we figured we could just pass it off depending on who had to be back in the room when. Hunger was hitting, so we tried Mad Hatters but the kitchen had closed. Across the street was Brutopia and they were still serving, so we settled in there, in the alcove next to where a small band was playing. A jazz group was playing downstairs, we could feel the vibrations through the floor. Our waitress was nice, and the food was decent, we just snuck in under the kitchen closing time. Forest tried an odd beer that wasn't made from hops, and Cris had his curiosity satisfied by his. Chris wisely stuck with cider, and I stuck with water. We went back across the street to Hatters for another drink, since the band was going to start back up, and walked back to the hotel, getting in around 2am.

Fri Jul 4, 2008

We started waking up at around 8am I think, and took turns in the shower. Cris and I went downstairs first to check out the free breakfast, he got the croissant on offer, but I stuck to the toast and juice. Chris and Forest joined us, and then we handed over the room key and the map of Montreal and let them loose on the city while Cris and I drove up to Val David to visit with my aunt and uncle. Traffic was fine until we hit 15N, and then construction also hit and the 1 hour drive got expanded. I'd meant to leave at 9, but we didn't hit the road until after 10, and didn't get up to the house until around 11:30. We ended up deciding to skip trying to see La Antena at 3pm in favour of a more relaxed visit. Mons made us lunch and Roger showed us pictures from my second cousins' graduation ceremonies. I took Cris on a quick run through the woods on the path that we used to play on, quick due to the horse flies buzzing about our heads. I also took him through the house, pointing out the rooms I'd stayed in on various visits. Roger had an appointment and had to leave just after 2pm, so we started our departure process then as well. It was sad to drive away knowing that it might be my last visit before they sell it and move back to Laval.

We stopped in the village to take a look at the artisan's alley, some neat jewelery and carving but nothing that I wanted to take back with me. In a fit of nostalgia I asked to stop at the ice cream place at the turn off, but they only had soft serve cones and the butterscotch one gave me a bit of a tummy ache. Cris started feeling tired as we headed back south, and pulled off to let me drive the rest of the way.

Traffic forced me off the highway on the way back and we pulled up next to the theatre at just before 5pm. We spotted Tony and Hilary in line with Rachel and co, and joined them. But once we got in, we went up to our regular seats and from there enjoyed the hell out of Machine Girl. I had to work a little to suspend my disbelief that a school girl could lift a steel machine gun attachment once her arm was cut off (by accident, by the yakuza), but the non stop gore was awesome. The movie started off with a revenge scene and then backtracked to show how she got the arm after embarking on a quest to revenge her brother. The women in this film were strong and insane, it was scary to watch certain lights gleaming in their eyes. I think this was my favourite of the festival, and they left it open for a sequel. Chris and Forest were going to see [Rec] after 9pm, but Cris and I were going right into Genius Party. We were both a bit cranky from lack of food, and I was stressing out about the line up, but once we had food and were in the theatre, I calmed down. We missed the first few minutes, but caught enough to sort of know what was going on. The shorts were generally good, I was only underwhelmed by the philosophising over abstractish shapes one (summed up by the silence at it's end broken buy a guy in the audience saying "What???" and everyone applauding him. Shanghai Dragon, I'm pretty sure from the same crew that did Tekkon Kinkreet, was awesome, a little boy using an alien artefact to bring his drawings to life to combat the evil aliens trying to capture him. A guy and a cyborg in a mecha suit try to help him but the 5 year old saves the day. The one about a baby, Happy Machine, was mildly disturbing. Deathtic 4 is about a group of dead monsters trying to save a live frog that drops into their world, mildly creepy but cute. Doorbell and Baby Blue were more reality based, well, the first one was about encountering other versions of yourself and which one is "real", but the second is about two teens who cut a day of school, before one moves away. There was a sense of melancholy that infused it, but it was very sweet.

Cris and I went back to the hotel room, and I asked if they had a second set of keys yet. They did, so I got kitted up to go clubbing while Cris crashed, and I walked back up to the theatre to wait on the guys coming out of [Rec]. I sat at one of the benches in the Hall and heard a girl talking on her cell phone about how she had to leave, she was screaming constantly, and it was the scariest movie she'd ever seen. But when people came out finally, they didn't look all that pale or shaken. Chris confirmed that it was jumpy scary, but not that bad in comparison with other Fantasia offerings. Forest had stayed in the theatre since he had a ticket for a midnight movie, Art of the Devil 3, so I handed over the key to Chris and talked a bit with him, Hilary, and Tony before they headed to the club and I walked back to the hotel to fall over at around midnight. Chris and Forest barely woke me up when they came in after the club, around 3:30 I guess, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

Sat Jul 5, 2008

Cris and I headed down first to grab breakfast, and this time I took the croissant. Nice and buttery and flaky. We went back up to the room and the other two were ready to go, they stopped downstairs to get a croissant but none were left. We walked up to Ste Catherine and over to Reuben's where we got a table quickly. Our waiter was nice, joking a bit with us when Forest said it was his first trip to Canada. I had the huervos rancheros, it wasn't too spicy, but it was filling. From there, Chris and I, maps in hand, walked over to Velo Montreal (?) to rent our bikes, and Cris and Forest headed back to the hotel to get theirs and meet us there. It was a bit of a walk, over to St. Laurent and down to Colonnade, but we beat the bikes at least. There was a moment of panic as the staff asked if we had reservations and we had a 50% chance of getting bikes. Maybe being short and tall helped, as we were able to get sorted out quickly. I made the mistake of declining a helmet, but not having brought mine with me, so we ended up doubling back to the hotel for me to pick that up, as well as my rack trunk, in case of bagels. :)

From there, Forest proposed that we go to the botanical gardens and insectarium, so off we went. The separated bike lanes are pretty neat, but they make it hard to navigate around slower riders. We zigged and zagged across the city, stopping to try and find sun block and water at various places. We had cold juicy fruits at one market that really hit the spot. We finally locked up at the gardens, next to the Olympic stadium, at 2:40. The locks were kinda neat, a two part pincher that went through the wheels and you locked them together through your frame.

Our movie started at 4:30pm, but I convinced the guys that we had time to see the insects, even with a bit of a line at the ticket booth. We tried to take the people mover, but it wasn't taking on passengers at the terminal, and it ended up being a short walk anyway, past the rose garden. Unfortunately we didn't have time to see the toxic nor medicinal gardens, or the Japanese garden, but we had a decent amount of time to browse the insectarium. I saw a huge walking stick eating a leaf, it was fascinating. The huge cockroaches were disturbing, I avoided looking too closely at the bees and ants (though I did sniff the bee's odour messages). There were so many beautiful butterflies, though all pinned the the wall.

We walked back through the rose garden, and headed back downtown. The downhill trend was great for me, though I felt sorry for Cris and Forest on their fixed gear bikes. We locked up outside the theatre at 4:15pm or so, and jumped in line with Tony and Hilary and Brian and the Cornings. Gordon Liu came out and said a few words before they screened Disciples of the 36th Chamber, and then did a Q&A (and tiny kung fu demo) afterward. It was a digitally remastered print of a 70's movie, and the quality was amazing. I wish there'd been more of Gordon Liu, but he was a supporting character, and we stuck mostly with Fong Sai Yuk as he made trouble for everyone due to his irrepressible nature. He and his brothers are sent to the Shaolin Temple to hide them from the governor, but hijinks ensue. We cut out before the questions stopped coming, as they were getting a bit lame, and we wanted to eat before our next movie. We took advantage of the bikes and rode down to Ste Catherine and went to Cafe L'Etranger. We sat in the below ground level patio, under an awning, and had good sandwiches and drinks. Unfortunately, my ice cream cocktail used chardonnay I think for the white wine, and I got a wicked headache. We biked back to the theatre and locked up on the line side this time. Chris peeled off to see Before the Fall in the de Seve theatre, and we joined the line for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer outside of Hall, finding familiar faces again. This was an homage to 80's horror films, with a slow build up to the monster fight, Robert Englund playing the nice chemistry professor who finds a black heart buried in his yard. Jack Brooks gets to channel his unchecked aggression into slaying monsters. We saw a short before it, Treevenge, where Christmas trees play first the victims and then the avengers in a horror movie. The creators of both films were in the audience and said a few words before and after the screenings.

I'd called Etienne from the line, and he suggested going to Passport that evening. I thought I found the listing in the phone book, it was on St Denis, but once we biked up there, it was a boarded up store. We went a bit further north to Casa Popolo and had a drink and snacks there. Veggie pate is ... odd, and the chocolate chip cookie ingredient lists missed the walnuts, so I ended up with an oatmeal coconut cookie with a dab of chocolate in the middle. From there, since we were so close, we popped over to St. Viatur bakery (first location was shut, the other was still open though). I was able to stuff a dozen bagels in my rack trunk, Cris and Forest put theirs in the former's courier bag, but Chris didn't get any due to them being out of poppyseed bagels.

We got back to the room at around 3am, and Chris was out like a light - we'd been biking around a fair amount all day, not quite realising just how far until we stopped (I think Cris's odo said 14km just for the club/bar/bagel run). I nibbled on a bagel to quiet my rumbly stomach and was the last to get to sleep. I woke up briefly at one point to hear someone snoring, so I dug out my ear plugs and was able to get back to sleep.

Sun Jul 6, 2008

People started to stir at around 9am, Chris heading out to nab his croissant this morning. I gave Mark and Etienne calls, and we arranged to meet at Eggspectations on de Maisonneuve at around 11:30. It was 10:30 then, so we packed up the car, checked out, and Chris and I started to ride to the bike rental place to return the bikes. I took us along Rene Levesque this time, but we encountered a problem on St. Laurent when we realised that we'd been following walking directions. We ended up just walking the bikes for a bit and got there just after the two in the car. They were able to take the bikes back w/o my having the rental agreement copy, though Cris was unpacking the trunk to find my purse, which was hiding in the back seat. Up to the restaurant and put our names in. A 20 minute wait was just long enough for Mark and Yvette to join us, but we didn't hear from Etienne. The food was good (I got two kiwi's worth of slices on my waffle), and it was nice to see Mark and Yvette again so soon after they moved up from Boston. We were in solid iron and wood chairs, up on the second floor balcony, able to see down into the ground floor. The place was much more rustic inside than the outside of glass and steel implied. The only disturbing touch was two statues of pigs in maid uniforms, bending forward to show their crinolines. My grapefruit juice was so thick I suspect that they just took the rind off and pulped the whole fruit. It was delicious. Chris and Forest left at 12:45 to head over for their movie, The Substitute, and Cris and I finished up and moved the car from a metre to a nearby lot, then meandered down to Chapters, where I left him while I went to La Senza. The bra that I'd picked up on my last trip was discontinued, I only found one in the wrong size in the sale bin, but I lucked out in the sale area on the top floor, getting a kimono robe and a satin bustier on deep discount. I had a hard time finding Cris back in the book store, we were probably circling each other on the three floors connected by stairs, escalator and elevator. We went back to the theatre to try and catch Forest and Chris coming out of their movie, but our timing was off and they were already in a coffee shop on Ste Catherine. We joined them there, and then meandered down to HMV to check out the DVDs from previous Fantasia festivals. The heat was oppressive by this point, topping 30C, and I was wilting. I kept grabbing water whenever I could and stuck to the shade when possible. We went back to Thai Express to grab some food before our movie, and Forest left a bit early to convert his cash back to American, and I hit the bathroom in the Hall before joining the moving line. We were back in our favourite spot up near the projector, and settled in for Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge. From the description of a high school girl battling a chainsaw armed figure that drops from the moon, we were expecting much more fighting and gore, but it turned out to be more about the relationship of the heroine and the reluctant hero, a love sick boy rooting for his female warrior, giving her rides on his bike to the fight sites, and feeding her hot drinks when her battles were done. I enjoyed it, it was sweet, and had a message. Best lines include "and we'll be relatively happy".

I ran to the bathroom and refilled my water bottle from the fountain, Cris moved the car from the lot to the corner neat the theatre, Chris and Forest went off to get a drink, and once everyone was back at the car, we were off. We passed Tony and Hilary as we turned by the theatre to head out of town and waved goodbye. Cris drove us to the border, we had a very short wait and a quick passage, the border guard just warning Chris to sign his new passport. Cris pulled over at the first close service station, I put gas in the car, changed into shorts and got myself some tea and settled in to drive at around 8:45. I lasted about 1.5 hours, as night fell, and I had to avoid deer and coyote(?) carcasses on the road. Luckily it didn't rain, but the number of bugs splatting against the windshield almost made me think it was raining at one point. Everyone was pretty quiet, and Cris was sleeping, so I wasn't able to stay alert as long as I'd hoped, but Cris got enough of a nap to take over at a rest stop near the NH border. I gave in to my heavy eyelids and settled into the back seat, half listening to Cris and Chris talk about gaming. We stopped by Cris's office downtown so he could grab things for his trip the next morning and then dropped off Forest and Chris. I unloaded the car and helped Cris pack up for his trip, and we fell into bed at around 2:30am. I barely woke up enough to kiss Cris goodbye as he got up to get ready for the taxi pick up at 4:45.

Monday morning was rough, I dropped off Forest's helmet on my way to work, since it was buried in the trunk when we dropped him off the night before, and powered through the day on vast quantities of tea. Totally worth it though, it was a great weekend.

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