DAY THREE ...
MONTREAL AT LAST
I arrived yesterday late afternoon in Montreal and travelled across the city to Laval
This is where I stayed last night - the Comfort Inn. And no complaints about the standard of the comfort either. There was even an Italian restaurant at the side of the hotel, run by a family of ... errr ... Greeks, and they managed to fix me up with a cheeseless pizza that went down very nicely, thank you.
There is one thing about staying in a motel such as this, and that is that there's a hairdryer in the bathroom. Not that I have any hair these days to dry, but if one washes one's undies in the sink the night before and hangs them up to dry, then a quick blow-over with the hair dryer next morning will finish them off quite nicely
One thing that I've been doing, in preparation for these long, lonely dark nights that I'll be having down the lower St Lawrence is to download a whole pile of old black-and-white films from archive.org and so while I was fetching my pizza I set another one to download. And to my surprise, having complained bitterly about my awful internet connection at home, the one here at the hotel is even slower.
The early evening was spent bringing up-to-date the photos that I had taken during the day. I was also planning on copying out my notes (you should know by now that I use a pocket dictaphone when I'm on my travels) as I don't want to get behind on this trip, but by 21:45 I had crashed out definitively and that was that.
But not to worry. At 04:00 I re-entered the land of the living, by 04:30 I was up and about, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and by 06:00 the notes were up-to-date too. I'd even caught up with some from my 2011 voyage.
Once I'd finished the notes, I reckoned that I would go for a walk. It looked like a gorgeous bright sunny morning outside. The wind was quite chilly, though. Never mind, though. I'll cope with that.
You can see where the motel is situated though, right at the side of one of the big highways that cross the city. And I can't remember which one. So what I did was that I cheated and looked at the original photo in all its glorious megapixels. It's actually northbound on Highway 15 right by the Route 440 exit.
Anyway, the motel was quite easy to find and that always helps, especially when you are in a strange part of a city that you don't really know all that well.
As an aside, maybe I should mention that the full-size photos that you see on these pages are considerably scaled down and compressed, to aid web-viewing and download time. If you want to see a particular image in all its glory to let me know which one and why you want to see it, and I'll see about sending you a copy.
I couldn't resist taking this photo. At first glance it looks as if the rocket is being carried upright on the trailer of that lorry over there. Of course, it isn't. It's actually set upright in a little park just across the highway.
It has to have some significance, and so I resolved to drive over there a little later to see what it was all about. Unfortunately, Brain of Britain completely forgot about it when he left the hotel. I suppose that I shall have to do it next time I'm there. If you know what it's all about, . I like to interact with my audience.
As another aside, two things happen to you when you reach my age. Firstly, you forget everything, and I can't remember what the second thing is.
While I was out there I went to check up on the Dodge. I hadn't really looked at it in the daylight. That's going to be "home" for Strawberry Moose and me for the next 5 weeks or so, and so we need to make ourselves comfortable.
Notwithstanding their usefulness for the purposes that we use them, these Dodges are a dream to drive and it's much nicer roaming around in one of these than it would be scrunched up in a GEO Metro or a Toyota Echo. The only downside is that this one has a light-coloured finterior. What is that going to be like by the time I hand it back?
Walking back into the motel, I was hit by the smell of coffee and damp paper that I always seem to find in a foyer of any motel out here in North America. It's a characteristic or even a generic smell that brought me back straight away to the realisation that I was here again. How I missed that! It's a smell that always makes me feel at home
Another photo that I couldn't resist taking is the one below of the notice on the drinks machine. Most people have the idea that the Québecois language is nothing more and nothing less that pure mainland French, but there are some delightful differences, the kind of thing that Dutch-speakers will notice whenever they hear anyone speaking Flemish.
I've decided that on this trip that I would take a few photos of notices written in Québecois, where an equivalent notice written in French would be different, and post them on my Facebook page to see how many people would spot the difference. I'm not attempting to criticise the spelling or the grammar, for the benefit of the purists. That is something else again.
There is a word brisé in French and it does mean "broken". But "broken" in the sense of being smashed to pieces like a window, or even like your heart. What you would see on a machine in France would be défectueuse or en panne.
While we are on the subject, what's détersif? I saw a box of that in the service room as I walked past. Why, it's detergent of course. Silly me!
By now there were sufficient people moving around to make me feel less guilty about taking a shower. It's not the kind of thing that you can do at 04:30 in the morning. I wouldn't like it if my neighbour did it to me.
We had another surprise in the shower. Anyone who has ever stayed in a motel in Québec will tell you, and it's my experience too, that the letters "C" and "F" on the taps in the bathroom indicate "cold" and freezing". But not in the Comfort Inn. Here they really did mean chaud and froid
And the towels! They were so luxurious that I had to struggle for 10 minutes to close the lid on my suitcase. Not like one or two motels where I've stayed, where they were so bad that the owners were stealing the towels from the guests.
Last night you may recall that His Nibs was having a right old moan about the lack of loyal supporters waiting to greet him as he arrived at the motel. Not this morning, however. I did secretly arrange for him to be ambushed as he left the room on the way out. That cheered him up, of course.
Incidentally, if you want to follow his adventures (because he does have more than I do) on his travels, you can check out his Facebook page. He'll be happy to see you.
Then Strawberry Moose and I set off to do our shopping. Seeing as how Laval was a new area for me, I had done a fair bit of research before setting off and one of the things that had encouraged me to come to Laval was that there was a Walmart, a Canadian Tire and a Home Depot just around the corner, so close to each other that you could have dropped a handkerchief over all of them.
No grocery supermarket though, but I'd seen an IGA supermarket right by an exit on the highway on my way here, and no Scotia Bank (where my Belgian bank has an arrangement) but the hotel receptionist, a telephone directory and the Lady Who Lives In The Sat-Nav all combined to deal with that latter issue.
Having resolved the cash problem next stop was the Walmart. Here I bought some food, mainly tins, bottles of drink and things like that. For a Walmart I was quite disappointed. There was nothing very exciting to tempt me.
Mind you, I was nearly squidged on the car park by someone reversing out of a parking space. Why don't they drive in, anyway? And when I mentioned to my friends that I had nearly been squidged they all without exception expressed their regret.
As yet another aside, we once did a survey of parking habits. We worked out that the majority of men reverse into a parking space so as to avoid the problems of vision that arise when reversing out of the space into the flow of traffic. Most women on the other hand prefer to drive into a parking space, despite the problems of lack of vision while reversing out, because it's easier to put the shopping into the boot of the car.
That does not however necessarily hold for North America. I actually saw a sign for one of the St Lawrence ferries - the one that goes out to the Ile des Grues - that says "all vehicles need to enter this ferry in reverse. A chauffeur is available to perform this manoeuvre". I would die of shame.
Anyway, I digress. And you'll become used to this the further that you read into my adventures.
Walmart at Laval is built onto the end of a shopping mall, and so I went for a wander. At the Dollar Store; I bought a few more bits and pieces, some fruit bread and the like, and also a pile of Indian Corn seeds being sold at 3 packets for $1. I'll give that a try when I return home.
Surprisingly though, neither Walmart nor any of the specialist phone shops that I encountered sold any network-free phones. Well, they did, but in all of the shops that I visited, the total was just 4 and at a price that was totally crazy - cheapest was $99 and one was $629. I need a new tri-band phone to replace the old bi-band Nokia that I use back home in France, but I don't need one at these prices.
And why is shopping in North America so boring? Well, when you've seen one bunch of shops you've seen a mall.
I'll get my coat.
Canadian Tire didn't have too much either and that was really disappointing. I have all that I need that they could sell me.
However, at Home Depot, I struck it lucky once again. As you may know, back home I use Ryobi Plus-One power tools, with the detachable 18-volt power packs. I brought over here the spare drill that I had in France and I keep it in my storage unit. Each time I come over I pick up a couple of spare batteries. They are much cheaper than in Europe. One stays here with the drill and I take the other one home with me when I leave.
Two batteries today were priced at $69, which is cheap enough (they are $64.99 in Great Satan but I'm not going anywhere near a Home Depot over there). However, on special offer they had a kit of two batteries, a charger, one of the small lightweight drills and also a small 18-volt impact driver, all for $99.
Now an 18-volt impact driver is something that will really come in useful for dismantling cars back in France. And a spare drill will come in handy too for using as a permanent screwdriver. I'll have my money's worth out of that lot, that's for sure.
And then did you know that Ryobi sells a lightweight 18-volt router? Not many people do and it's hardly surprising, because it didn't last long in the range in Europe. But I could have an enormous amount of fun with one of those and the softwood that we use over here and so when I saw in a clearance bin one of those in a damaged box reduced from $59 to just $25, I didn't hang about at all.
Perishable food was next, and that IGA supermarket was not as easy to find as it might have been. I eventually managed to track it down and I stocked up with the salad stuff for lunch for the next few days. They also had some artificial vegan cheese, like most of the other supermarket chains in Canada seem to do these days. Their brand is made with rice milk. I wonder what this will be like.
Some of those raisin buns that I bought in the Dollar Store went down nicely for lunch, and I was finally able to steer a course to Anjou and my storage unit.
I rent 1m³ of storage space in an industrial unit and in there I have my bed, my mattress, the cooking stove, a pile of storage boxes full of important stuff, a box full of books, the tools and so on. I took most of the stuff out, assembled the bed, hung the curtains (it's really handy that tarpaulins have eyes in them), loaded everything up, had a really good chat to Fred, the guy who works in the office there, and eventually set out for the Highway.
And didn't we have a major change of plan just here? Not only was it rush hour, which was a serious inconvenience, the weather changed dramatically. The temperature suddenly plummeted 10° and maybe more and we had the most incredible rainstorm that I had ever seen. Nothing that I have ever had in the Auvergne was anything like it.
The traffic also ground to a dead stop, with fire engines, police and ambulances all over the place and it looked as if there had been something major happening up ahead. Eventually, after much ado about nothing at all, we did arrive at the spot to find that there was indeed a serious fire at the side of the Highway. With four lanes of traffic compressed into one, with billowing black smoke shrouding everyone and everything, and all in the middle of the rush hour, no wonder we were all so inconvenienced.
By the time we had passed all of this, it was pitch black, the rain was still thundering down, it was freezing cold and the traffic was still barely crawling along. It was enough to depress anyone, especially me.
Totally fed up of all of this, I turned off the Highway to see what I could find elsewhere, and I hadn't gone more than 500 metres when I saw a sign for a motel offering rooms for the night at a special price of whatever it was - I can't lay my hands on my notebook right now.
Copulatum expensium, as we Pompeiians say. I needed cheering up. It will also give me an opportunity to charge up the Ryobi batteries.
And also to cook myself a meal in the slow cooker. I have one of those in my storage unit too. Evening meal was a casserole of rice, lentils and vegetables cooked in the slow cooker and although I tried my best to stay awake in an effort to overcome jet lag, I was well gone by 23:00. That was just as well. Tomorrow I am to start on the first part of why I'm here and the earlier I can get under way the better.
It was 23:10 that that I was awoken by a text message. Thanks, Rhys. At 02:00 the alarm on the European phone went off to wake me up, and then at 05:15 the people in the next room decided to take a shower. I gave up shortly after that.
Note to self - disable the alarm on the European phone.