Montreal, 2015

John flew up from DC to Boston to join me on a road trip to Montreal for the Fantasia Festival. It ended up being just us going this weekend due to logistics, everyone else who was going was only able to go the following weekend when I had an obstacle course race and my regular DND game scheduled.

Thursday July 23, 2015

I had taken the day off so that we could leave whenever we were ready, so I had the time to take the T to the airport to meet John's flight. I was amused that it was going to take me almost as long to get from Somerville to Logan as his flight from DC would take. I ended up leaving the house before 7 to meet his flight that was landing just before 8, taking the bus to the Orange line so I could have an easier transfer to the Blue line since Government Center was still closed for renovations. His flight was on time and I was waiting in the right spot for him, success! We took a taxi back to my place for ease of luggage wrangling.

I'd reserved a rental car at the Enterprise office near me and the original plan was to walk over during the early afternoon to pick it up. We were pretty much packed up and ready to go though, so I called them to come pick us up with our luggage and we were able to hit the highway directly from the rental car office. I had put myself down as the only driver, with John playing the role of DJ and driver keep awake person. :-) Getting out of the city was pretty easy, it was nice not to be fighting too much traffic. I took us up 93 North to 91 North and we were feeling hungry right about the time we hit Lincoln, New Hampshire. I had a few restaurants that I recalled liking a lot from stopping there after camping or hiking or skiing trips, so I pulled off and we found parking right across from Gypsy Cafe. It was just nice enough out, sunny and a bit windy, to sit on the patio and enjoy the view of the mountains all around us. The food was good and filling and it was good to break the trip near the middle. I think we grabbed some gas here so we wouldn't have to do it in Quebec, and then hit the road north again. Traffic over the bridge was okay even though we ended up arriving at around 9pm. No problems getting checked into Hotel Espresso, though the pull up was a bit small for cars. I ended up putting the rental in the hotel garage and eating the parking fees since I'd have to move it from the street spot during the day on Friday anyway, so might as well put it somewhere safe to start. We got our stuff up into the room and then headed right out to hit the box office before it closed at 10pm.

We were a few blocks' walk from Concordia and made it to the box office in plenty of time, though we had a short wait while someone came back from their break. I'd prepurchased tickets for 10 movies so that we would get the bulk discount on the Admissions web site, buying a booklet and then using up the coupons for specific movies. Our first one was that night, Cash Only, starting at 9:45. We just had time to hit up La Belle et la Boeuf on Ste Catherine street. I couldn't resist getting a cocktail called the Vampire since I was done with driving for the day and officially on vacation now. It was a bit sweet, but a lovely blood red. :-) I also scarfed down a turkey burger. We sat on the patio, built up into the street, so it was a bit loud and busy with traffic going by not too far away, but the food was good. We went back around the corner to the small theatre, de Seve, and joined the line for our movie - though at least they weren't running too late. All of my movie reviews are here already so I won't go into them in this write up, just noting which ones we saw when. I enjoyed this one, and it was engaging enough to keep me awake after driving for 6 hours, yay! :-) I was glad of the short walk back to the hotel though.

Friday July 24, 2015

I'd arranged to go up to my aunt and uncle's place in Laval to meet them for lunch at noon on this day, since our movies didn't begin until 4pm. John did have to take a work call at 3, so the timing was going to be a bit of an issue for us to get back to the hotel so he could take it there. But first a few errands, hitting up the Toronto Dominion bank so that I could get a pin set on my TD credit card and John could exchange some money. It's always oddly relaxing for me to be back in Canada, it was nice half hearing John joking with the bank clerk. We stopped in at Tim Horton's for breakfast food as well, I became a fan of their yoghurt and granola parfait, and would treat myself to a caramel Timbit when we'd grab some sweets to share.

Then it was back to the hotel and getting the car out of the garage, with John's work briefcase in the trunk just in case the timing didn't work and he had to take the call on the road. I'm not a fan of driving in Montreal, but luckily the directions were fairly straight forward and I didn't miss any highway changes. I hadn't had a confirmation that they'd heard we'd be driving up, so we went to the Metro station first to meet anyone who was going to meet us there, arriving a bit earlier than anticipated. We found my uncle Roger and followed him back to the condo. We had a chance to sit and relax for a bit, seeing how the view had changed with all the construction (they'd bought the condo before the building was finished, and now more are going up in the area; you can also see the arm of the Olympic stadium off by the river). Then Susan and Jean Guy arrived and I got to catch up with them a bit, and as soon as Jean Guy learned that John knew something about computers, his advice was earnestly requested on various topics. :-) I mostly talked with Susan, catching up on family members - her kids had had a lot of stuff going on since I'd last seen them - we pretty much hung out as cousins since my siblings and I were 20 years younger than all of our actual cousins (Monica is my mother's sister, Jean Guy is Roger's brother). Monica made us barbequed salmon steaks, steamed veggies, a salad and brought out a lemon custard pie for dessert, we were well fed around the cozy dining room table up in the sky. :-) I passed on the wine due to having to drive back downtown, we'd stopped to grab a bottle to contribute to their collection, I can't recall if it got cracked or saved for later. We were having fun hanging out and chatting over coffee and tea, but John's work call was starting to loom a bit, so we eventually said our goodbyes and headed back down to the car, parked in the surface lot beside the condo building.

We stopped at a nearby Starbucks for wifi so that John could go online and do something before his call, and I grabbed more caffeine to help me last through the night's movies. John hopped in the back seat with his laptop and phone and I got to play chauffeur and drive back downtown alone in the front, it amused me for some reason and I was sad that I hadn't brought a hat. :-) We ended up cutting it close for the 4pm movie start time, I grabbed a street parking spot near the theatre and threw $6 in the meter to keep it save until just after the movie. We were back in de Seve for "On the White Planet" an animated movie that definitely wasn't for kids. It was fairly short, only an hour and thirteen minutes, so we had a bit of time to move the car back into the hotel garage before our next movie, Full Strike, in the big theatre at Concordia. This was a sports movie revolving around badminton, it was pretty silly. :-)

We had a big gap after that movie, which ended at just after 8, until our midnight one, and since it was a nice night we decided to walk to Bar le LAB which Vanessa had found on our last trip up to Montreal. It took a fair amount of time to walk up to Rue Rachel Est, but we did the last part of it through the park nearby where there was an outdoor concert going on. We got a high table across from the bar, a bit close to the group next to us, but we made it work by sitting close so we could hear each other over the bar noise. I had their take on an Aviation classic cocktail, the Labviation, and John tried the house specialty with the hanging strip of jerky. That was enough to get him pretty lit, especially with the lack of an evening meal (the bar food offerings weren't really appealing to us), but for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to have a second drink. The One More Word is a Last Word variation, it seemed fitting to get their takes on two of my favourite cocktails on this visit, plus I'm usually pretty safe if I stick to gin. It was getting even louder and more crowded as it got later, and we were pretty hungry, so we decamped soon to try and rustle up some food before heading back down toward the theatres and our hotel (still uncertain if we'd make our midnight movie or not). We walked around the small lake in the park, the concert having mostly wrapped up and decamped by this point I think. There was still a fair amount of people wandering around though. I think we walked over to about Berri and Sherbrooke and spotted a lit up poutine place that drew us in. We both got super greasy poutine and I caught a glimpse of the cook dumping out some dark brown grease after frying up a batch of fries. Urk. Turns out that having some good cocktails a bit too fast and then some bad greasy food to follow up was a bad idea for both of our stomachs. Mine started aching pretty badly as soon as I finished eating, and John was feeling even worse. We decide to cab it back to the hotel and bail on the movie, which turned out to be a good call. Lessons definitely learned.

Saturday July 25, 2015

It took us a while to get going in the morning, but we had a noon movie so we had some motivation to get out of the hotel and to find some breakfast. We didn't have time for a sit down meal, so back to Timmie's it was. I love breakfasting in Montreal and was a bit sad that I wasn't able to hit up any of my favourite places yet, so I went all in on breakfast at Tim Hortons: hot tea, orange juice, the yoghurt granola parfait again, and some Timbits. Miss Hokusai was some sort of premier (North American?) and from the studio who had done Giovanni's Island that I'd loved last year, so I was prepared for the crowd filling up the Hall theatre at Concordia. We were able to get decent seats despite coming in on the later side. It wasn't quite as gripping as last year's movie, but I was glad I'd seen it for some of the neat painting effects alone.

We had enough of a break until our next movie at 4 that I could finally drag John to Universel for lunch. We walked over to the one on Peel and got seats in the sun room area. I was able to get more tea, and enjoyed my veggie omelette with good home fries. John liked the food as well, which was good since I always try to hit up that restaurant as many times as possible on my trips. :-) We still had some time to kill and were feeling a bit under-exercised from sitting in movies all the time, so we walked along Sherbrooke a little bit and then turned toward Parc Mont Royal and walked just inside the edge of it. It was pretty hot out, I was definitely sticking to the tree lined sides of the streets whenever possible. We looped back toward Concordia and joined the line that was growing outside Hall, thankfully in the shade of the building. Princess Jellyfish was super cute and fun, I was glad I'd settled on it over doing two crime dramas that day. Deadman Inferno was in the same theatre, so we just moved to the lobby while they cleaned up and then they let us back in before the line outside. That one was gorey and funny, a pretty good B movie. :-) We had a short break to grab some food at Thai Express and then it was right back into Hall for Wild City, a Hong Kong crime drama.

That let out just before midnight, and we had a chance to head over to Bar Passeport for their Depeche Mode themed night. We headed back to the hotel to get fancied up and then took an Uber car over in the rain. We didn't end up getting there until close to 1am but it was still going strong. It was super dark and crowded, a $5 cover included coat check so I left my wet umbrella with them and edged into the main bar. The bartender was being super chatty with a client, I had a long wait to get her attention before I could order my gin and tonic. I had better luck with my second order of a cider and a martini later, it went faster. We found a ledge where we could rest our drinks and people watch for a bit, but the music kept drawing us onto the dance floor. It was hard to find room to move and the smoke machine was up high as well, it was a bit of an overwhelming experience for me and I tapped out first. We still didn't get back to the room until close to 3 I think though, not bad.

Sunday July 26, 2015

We cut it close the next morning, getting up at 11am to check out and get to our first movie. We were out of the hotel, bags in the car by 11:30, granola bar eaten while walking over, and at the theatre by 11:55 when I thought "Tazza: The Hidden Card" started, but we ended up ten minutes late for the actual start at 11:45, oops! We had to wander a bit through the dark theatre to find seats but didn't feel like we missed much. We both enjoyed this movie, it was long and plot-full and twisty and gorgeous. By the time it ended we were more than ready for breakfast, and we headed down to Ste Catherine to go to Ruben's. We popped into the Doc Marten store on the way since I had my eye caught by some neat big eyelet boots, luckily for my credit card, they didn't have it in my size. Ruben's Deli was busy but we were able to get a table right away. Our server was going off shift so there was some confusion about our order and bill, but we had a bit of time until our next movie. I fueled up for the day with a grilled chicken breast with tomato and chevre, and lots of tea.

From there, I wanted to hit up a Scotiabank to transfer some money into my Canadian account for pay for my Montreal and coming Toronto expenditures. I got a bit turned around, walking down to Rene Lesveque first and then following the directions from John's phone up to Sherbrook (I think I had thought a red and white restaurant sign was marking a bank location - I was also a bit tired). Got the money stuff sorted out quickly, and we had a short debate if we were going to stay for the last movie I'd prepurchased tickets for, with Henry Rollins playing a cannibal. If we stayed for it, we would start the drive home at 7pm and get back to Boston super late, and neither of us were super invested in the movie, so we decided to bail before 5pm in an attempt to get home before midnight. I got the hotel garage parking sorted out once we were sure we were leaving the city, putting it on my Canadian credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees.

The timing was just right, we hardly had any traffic at all on the drive to the border. I pulled into the duty free to pick up some Ungava gin, having learned my lesson on the last trip not to buy it in downtown Montreal but to wait for the cheaper price at the duty free. :-) They had a deal on a two pack of bottles, so I grabbed that and applied one toward John's allowance. :-) From there we drove down 89, going back a different way so that John could see that bit of the world as well. We stopped in Burlington for dinner when the timing was looking like we'd be really ready to eat a bit too late to hit a major town with an open restaurant. I missed the turn into the garage that was available for people going to the pedestrian mall in the downtown area and had to circle around again to get the car tucked away. We went to Sweetwaters, which has become my preferred stop on this route between Montreal and Boston. One last patio dining experience for the trip, we both got the strawberry arugula salad and John got an Arnold Palmer in case I needed to tap out and have him drive part way back. I was doing fine though, getting us back on the road south after wrapping up our meal, until the looming rain clouds burst in short hard showers. I was passing an SUV on a curve and it drifted me off to the left, hitting the rumble strips and sliding a bit, it was scary. I was able to recover and dropped back and had no more issues for the rest of the drive (I was wide awake though from the adrenaline!). I put the car right in front of my house so we could unload the trunk, then double checked the Monday street sweeping schedule to figure out where would be safe to leave it until I could get it back to the rental office the next day. Luckily I didn't have to go too far to find an open spot, sometimes it's a treasure hunt with half the streets off limits, I guess there are enough people who drive to work before the sweeping starts that they just leave their car in the danger zone overnight. :-) We were both feeling a bit hungry and ended up making the free packets of ramen that we'd been giving as a promotion at one of the movies. I used the rental one last time the next day (I was working from home) to stop for groceries on the way to returning it and got Enterprise to give us a lift home.

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