Sunday, June 24, 2007

Montreal--Je me souviens (or 4 Chinatowns!)

So we drove to Montreal. About 5.5 hours plus stopping for lunch on the way up. My husband has a cousin there and so had been as a child and teenager. I'd always wanted to go. Now this is going to sound really stupid on my part. I forgot they would be speaking French! I'd have definitely brushed up before I went if I'd remembered. Or at least brought my dictionary. Although if you said Hello to their Bonjour everyone would switch to English. Truly bi-lingual. Lovely. We kept trying to reach his cousin, but they didn't have an answering machine. They had probably gone down to New York.


The drive up was pleasant and uneventful (except for my ears hurting somewhere in Vermont leading to a scramble to find gum). I kept thinking we should get gas before we got to Canada where it would be more expensive--remember that. We kept driving in and out of little showers that would sprinkle the car and then dissipate. Until we were 20 minutes into Canada when the heavens opened up. Nothing like trying to drive in a downpour in a country where you can't read the signs. My husband just pulled over and waited. It was funny to me to see what I remembered (avec le lait, s'il-vous plait) and what I didn't (what does Sortie mean? I dunno, but it's on all of the doors that aren't marked Entree--Oh!) I kept trying to translate the slogan on the license plates, Je me souviens. It means "I'm remembering." I thought it was just sort of touristy--like the Pennsylvania slogan is "Memories Last a Lifetime." {Side note--looked up motto's first instead of slogans found out that Kansas is "To the Stars Through Adversity," WTF? and Maine is "I Direct." Bizarre}


So, it turns out that je me souviens is more a motto than a slogan and there is some debate as to what is being remembered--not the beauty of Quebec, apparently. More like "I remember what the British did to the French," etc. And yet, there was a Rue de Wellington. J'oublie, apparently.


Speaking of language, the me souviens is what is known as a reflexive verb. This is the piece of French I really had trouble with, not the genders of inanimate objects. I'm not sure why. I could just never remember to add it in before I reached the verb while speaking. Partially because it seemed unnecessary half the time. Like se laver means to wash and the reflexive tells who/what you are washing. Je me lave--I wash myself. Ok, that seems necessary. But then doesn't it sound like me souviens should be I remember myself? And if it doesn't mean that, then why do you need it? Ah, the joy of being able to say about 6 things in 5 languages. I know something, but I don't know much.


About 5 miles from Montreal the "You really, really need to get gas" light starts flashing. Problem is there's a 5 mile back up of traffic over the bridge. We start to panic. There's also all this highway construction and signs for an airport. We finally get to an exit that doesn't seem to be going to the airport--busy commercial road--looks good. Drive, and drive--gas station on other side of divided road, not so good. Finally see one on our side just as we are about to try to turn around--cut across traffic, get gas, all's good. We cut back across traffic to turn around when I see a familiar green and red logo! KRISPY KREME! IN CANADA! OMG! We used to have one about 1 mile from our house but Krispy Kreme had trouble fighting Dunkin Donuts in New England and it closed. We miss it. It's hard to express how excited we both were about this. Well, there was no way to cut back for it then. Vous souvenez-vous!


We arrived at our lovely hotel and had a really nice vacation. Montreal is a beautiful city and the weather was pleasant (a little warm for my husband but still walkable). We had no real plans. We just bought a guide book on Sunday night and marked some likely things. Mainly just walked around enjoying the French and the little parks and the gelato. We walked our legs off--it's not San Francisco, but there's definitely enough of a slope to work the glutes and calves. Went to Notre Dame de Montreal and the art museum which was free (like England!) Passed on the Biodome because the reviews were mixed and it seemed to be geared for children. Again because I live in Boston all these expensive cities don't seem that expensive. Late in the afternoon we would come back and hit the pool and the hot tub. I can now add another Chinatown to my list--four in one year. I took a picture of the gate to commemorate.
And picture of husband being silly!

When I was a child I thought I would lead a life of travel--finances have kept that at a minimum until recently. I'm hoping this will be the start of a trend.

It was the perfect amount of time for us, really. We hit the art museum on Wednesday morning after we'd checked out and loaded the car. Planning to be back in Mass. around 7:30, 8. One last stop--to the Krispy Kreme--to spend our last $10 Canadian (except for the $2 and $1 coin we brought back as souvenirs) and bought some more gum with our change. Get on the highway and drive...and drive...

Shouldn't we be seeing signs for Vermont? This doesn't look familiar... Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we were so relaxed we were driving along Autoroute Dix in Cananda for about 1/2 an hour before we realized we'd missed our exit. Looking at Google Earth now I can see that we were moving parallel to the border. If we had had a map, we probably could have just turned right and taken another road, but instead we retraced our steps and caught up with highway 89. So that added about an hour. We did discover the town of Magog which my husband thought quite funny--I'm surprised he didn't take a picture. Then we were a little shell-shocked so we stopped in Vermont and ate at a Friendly's instead of grabbing a burger as we had planned--another hour. Made for a rather long day, but since we had nowhere in particular to be and nothing to do the next day it wasn't too bad.

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