Montreal: Mont Royal and home 

Day three and last day in Montreal was another lovely lie in and slow start to the day – cheesecake from the nice chocolate shop for breakfast.  I had done everything specific I wanted to do, so decided to spend the day wandering around Mont Royal and Parc La Fontaine.  My first stop was a mushroom shop that I had passed before, but it was closed.  It was a mushroom lovers dream and I came away with a selection on nice looking Paellas and risottos and, of course, some mushrooms.   I continued walking up the hill and east along Mont Royal pottering in and out of the little shops, stopping for a burger for lunch on a patio in the sunshine.  I then went a lay in Parc La Fontaine in the shade for a while before having another sundae in the chocolate and heading back to the hotel to collect my bag.  It was so hot, I couldn’t do much carrying my bag, so after a walk around towards Notre Dame, I went to the train station a bit early and sat in the shade reading my book.  The train journey home was uneventful and I enjoyed sitting drinking tea and reading quietly.

Montreal: Notre Dame, St Joseph’s Oratory and a lot of walking and sugar

Day two in Montreal and I had an amazing sleep.  Breakfast was 7-9am, I slept til 10.  Totally worth missing breakfast.  I walked towards Old Montreal, looked around an indoor market, past lots of lovely looking cafes with amazing looking cakes and eventually got to Notre Dame.  The outside was nothing spectactular, but the inside was incredible.  The decoration was so detailed and beautiful.  There were candles that you could light and say a prayer, stained glass windows and ornate carvings in the wood.  Celine Dion got married there and her husbands funeral was held there.  It is still open for services, though they said it is never full on Sunday’s with around 100 people on a good day.  


Notre Dame done and I went for a walk around some little shops, finding a Christmas shop.  I love an all year round Christmas shop, especially one that has Christmas music on – I remember at Niagara Falls they didn’t have christmas music playing.  Unfortunately, there were no decorations that I wanted.  Well, maybe fortunately, as I have far too many Christmas decorations in my life, but can’t stop buying them.  I passed a Starbucks just as a sudden storm came, so sat and had a drink until it passed.


My next stop was another religious one – Saint Joseph’s Oratory.  This one was much more to look at from the outside with lots of steps leading up to a grand looking building.  As I was walking up, I saw a groundhog in the bushes!    Again, lots of candles inside that people could light and the kneel and pray.  There was a tomb holding the body of Brother Andre and a display where his heart was behind glass – again you could kneel and pray by the heart.  He was credited with healing people and had a huge following, hence most of the building being a shrine to him, though denied having any special powers himself.  He said that people should not try and get rid of burdens, but ask God for the grace to burden them.  The walls in the first room are covered with crutches and walking sticks where apparently people came asking for help and were healed.


After a religious, historical and pretty day so far, things took a different direction and I decided to go bagel tasting.  I was to.d by one of my beach buddies that I needed to try a Fairmount Bagel.  When I googled them, I discovered a debate over the best bagel in Montreal – Fairmount or St Viateur.  The Fairmount bagel store was the first bagel shop in Montreal opening in 1919.  They provided me with a warm, soft, sweet bagel with cream cheese on it.  Bagel number 2.  A very different experience.  It was bigger and a lot cheaper, but the cons outweighed these pros.  It was hard and I had to take it away and attempt to cut it and put my own cream cheese on with a flimsy plastic knife.  I asked if they could cut it in half with a sharp knife and told no.  I was also told I could rest on the counter to cut it, despite being the only person in there.  What a disappointment.  Flavour wise, it was more bland and not as sweet – personal taste I guess, but the customer service and hard bagel made Fairmount a clear winner.

I sat in a park for a bit and then strolled along Mont Royal enjoying the shops and atmosphere.  I would definitely recommend just meandering along this street to anyone pottering in and out of the shops and soaking it all up.  So many quirky little places.  By around 7pm I was ready to drop, so I headed back to the hotel for a quick pit stop and then ventured out for food.  I found the most incredible little cafe/ bakery/ chocolate shop – Juliette & Chocolat.  The menu was incredible – I wanted everything.  The sights in the display cabinet left me giddy with excitement.  I had an ice cream sundae with chocolate brownie, ice cream, chocolate, cream and a bowl of warm melted chocolate on the side.  I bought some extra desserts to take away because the fat girl inside told me to.  What a night.  I slept in a sugar induced coma.  Spoiler alert for day three… I had cheesecake for breakfast.

Montreal: Bidome, Stadium Tower, Just For Laughs

Six hour coach trip complete and I found my way to a metro station, navigated my way to my hotel and was able to check in a bit early.  The metro station reminded me more of the London Underground than Toronto subway as it was smellier and just gave off a different vibe.  My hotel is nice.  Cheap and clean, with private washroom.  I looked at rooms with shared bathrooms, but it is always nicer to have my own.  The decor is beyond dated, but that’s ok.


Not one to hang around, my first stop was the Pied Du Courant Prison a 20 minute walk from my hotel.  The prison has been closed since 1912 and was bought around ten years later by the alcohol supply board and used to store alcohol.  Unfortunately they ripped out all the internal features and all that is left is some of the original red brick interior showing through, the windows and of course the outside.  They are looking at restoring the gallows building outside, but all there is currently is a bit of wall with a door way.  


I made my way to the Olympic Stadium, home to the Biodome and the Montreal Tower.  The Olympics were here in 1976, but you would think it was last year by how modern the stadium design and surrounding areas are.  Everything is about bright colours and unusual shapes with big open areas.  The Biodome took me much less time than I anticipated, but it was well worth a visit.  The tropical rainforests were so hot, I didn’t loiter too much.  It is basically a big indoor zoo.  The thing that makes it different is that the zoo has been split into different large areas recreating the habitat of the animals living there, and allowing the animals to live mostly without cages within their zones.  There are monkeys swinging around all over, and apparently sloths in the trees – but I couldn’t spot one.  The birds fly around and I could have hopped into the crocodile enclosure if I felt so inclined.  


Biodome visit complete and I headed for the Tower.  The tower is at a 45 degree angle and is the tallest inclining tower in the world.  The leaning Tower of Pisa is only 5 degrees.  There were great views from the top and, as always, a gift shop.

After the tower, I decided to make my way to Notee Dame as it was still early and light.  I got the metro and then had to find the bus. Well due to the Just For Laughs comedy festival, the bus wasn’t in the right place as the festival was everywhere.  I stayed and pottered around the festival instead watching lots of little choirs assembling and singing up and down the street and looking in shops and at food trucks.  I got some poutine as I keep being told that the poutine in Montreal is the best.  It was tasty, but no different to poutine in Toronto!  And I still maintain that chips, cheese and gravy with a nice mature cheddar tastes better!  I tried to buy tickets for a show but was told that the English show was sold out both nights I am here.  Unperturbed, I showed up at the door as it was starting and was told, no sorry there is only one ticket left.  The joys of solo travel!   I saw The Ethnic Show.  It was one host comedian and six ten minute slots by others.  It was a mixed bag, but the host (Rachid Badouri) was great, and there were two brilliant female comedians that I will be looking to see again if they come to Toronto – Jessica Kirson and Gina Brillon.  I walked back to the hotel and slept solidly for a good ten hours.

Off to Montreal

In my first day off in 20 days, after about 140 hours of work at baseball games, music gigs, cleaning and bar work, I am ready for my next mini adventure.  I am off to Montreal.  With work at last nights gig running late, I managed just under 3 hours sleep before getting up and getting to the bus station with minutes to spare for my 6.30am Megabus.  This is the longest bus journey I have ever embarked on, at 6 hours.  I have managed to sleep my way through most of it, but find myself in need of somewhere to brush my teeth, many good stretch, some good and some fresh air five hours in.  I think I could still sleep for another 24 hours given the opportunity.

As always I am prepared with my list of things to do and approximate locations and distance plotted so I can optimise my trip.  I am not quite sure what I expect from Montreal.  I don’t have much on my to do list, mainly want to have a walk around, sit in cafes and just generally see what’s what.  I am told that the French is not French French as taught in schools and spoken in France, though I don’t suppose I shall notice as I don’t know much French.

For now, time to check the route from bus station to hotel and prepare for what will hopefully be an on time arrival.

Roadtrip seeking waterfalls

Tuesday arrived.  Me and my friend from Manchester decided to book a car and go out for the day.  We were hoping to go to Kingston Penitentiary for a tour, but unfortunately, they were sold out.  Plan B.  We headed for Hamilton: The city of waterfalls.  We began the day with the breakfast of Kings, McDonalds, and headed out of Toronto. By the time we got to Hamilton, the heat and humidity were stiffling.  The first stop was Devils Punch Bowl.  Obviously, we picked a waterfall that ended up having no water!  It was still great to see and we trekked down to the bottom.  Our navigational skills turned the 10 minute walk into one that lasted around an hour and involved crossing train tracks, touring through a graffitied tunnel, climbing up steep banks, over rocks and eventually running accross someone’s garden to find our way back on the right path.There was a shop near the top of the waterfall without water where we got ice poles, cold drinks and baked goods.  The feeling of joy at those cold lemonades is something that will stay with me forever.


Next stop.  Albion Falls.  Loved this waterfall – it even had water in it.  We climbed down to the bottom again, took our shoes off and paddled in the water.  It was so refreshing in the heat, we could have stayed there for hours.   This one is right by the road and well worth a visit.


By this point conversation had turned to our next stop and we decided to head to Niagara Falls as Steph hadn’t seen the falls at night and we both fancied pancakes at IHOP for dinner.  But first, the outlet mall.  The Quicksilver shop blows my mind when I go there with goods less than a quarter of the price they would be in the UK stores.  It is insane. I got a bit delirious.  Kate Spade had a sale on on top of the outlet discount and I decided to spend some of my birthday money on a handbag and some earrings.

Unfortunately, as we left the outlet mall, we checked the IHOP opening times and they all closed except the one just over the border in America.  Unfortunately, without passports , the pancake dream left us and we went to Wendy’s – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Who doesn’t love a square burger?!

We saw the falls with the projected on to them at night and had a walk around the shops and arcades.  We had a selfie with a giant plastic moose, and oh how we giggled when we looked in the midget maker mirror!  Dairy Queen all round and time to head back to Toronto.  After a brief brush with the law on the way home where it was apparently deemed necessary to ask if I actually had a driving licence following a slight issue in the headlighting department, we made it home safely.  The walk home was humid and raccoon filled.  Sleep came quickly.

Monday

After a crazy couple of weeks with far too much work, I have a few days where my only work is my 2 hours cleaning in the mornings.  

Obviously my plans to sunbathe all day were scuppered by the absence of enough sun.  My ex work colleague and friend from when I was working over the winter came to the beaches and we had a lovely stroll and monumental catch up.

Every time I walk through Glen Manor Ravine, I want to walk accross the fallen tree. When Dad visited we contemplated it and decided that we would probably fall.   Monday was the day.  Erin and I sang songs from Dirty Dancing and tackled the tree.  Such fun.

We went to Kew Gardens and saw the Fairy Tree with a new door.  I prefer the old one.  We fed the squirrels and saw one my favourite squirrels, Mr Two Nut.  Recognisable by the white splodge on his tail and his ability to carry two nuts.

A cider on the patio overlooking the beach was a lovely end to a good walk.  I headed home for a nap with Tony and then met a friend at the cute little local theatre to see Now You See Me 2.  

Being a Server

When I first came to Canada, I printed up resumes aimed at getting a job as a Server (Waitress/ Bartender) and enthusiastically handed them out with no luck.  More recently, I have been offered some shifts in my local bar.  I had a couple of training shifts and then worked the summer party that the bar threw with a friend of mine.  One more day shift on my own and last night I was on my first evening and closing shift on my own.  I got a cab back to the beaches from my other job, a quick chocolate bar, some deodorant and I was ready to go.  Much to my nervous horror, the place was packed as I walked in due to a football game.  I feared I was in well over my head.  Luckily by the time my shift actually started, the game had finished and it was resembling something a little less like a madhouse so I was eased in at a normal pace.

Food orders, drinks orders, learning to make my first Caesars, remembering to check the dumb waiter, keeping the ice stocked, putting a slice on the drinks, being friendly, clearing glasses, greeting newcomers, learning where to find things on the till and being able to maintain some banter with the customers.  My experience as a Waitress 15 years ago has been of little use, but I did it!  My friend cane down to help with the actual close, putting up chairs etc and I counted up my till and everything balanced properly.  I keep looking for 50cent coins.  It is so silly that they don’t have them! 

I am proud of myself for only having one till error that my friend sorted out for me and for surviving the evening successfully.  People seemed happy, watered, fed and fed.  I have one swollen ankle where I hit it with a fridge corner, one blister and keep giggling wandering if my boss saw on the cameras when I was crouched putting glasses back on the bottom shelf and fell backwards lying on the floor, legs flailing in the air like a bug trying to right itself! I enjoyed the whole experience immensely and feel good that I worked hard and deserved my tips and wages.  My pints are not always consistent yet, but I am pouring mostly okay ones and the perfect pints are getting more and more frequent.