Wednesday, September 27, 2006

FWG's clearly more excellent all-week adventure - Wednesday

Day 5

I hit the lobby to check out and get some breakfast. Mm-mmmm! Coffee and buscuits! I stupidly hope that 'buscuits' might refer to croissants. Ha! Dreamer. They're in fact cookies. Acme chocolate chip cookies or some damn thing. I have one. Just one. That'll do fine, thank you. Don't open another economy box on my account. Thanks anyway.

There's a black urn and a white one. I touch them and the black one is hotter. I pour coffee from it into a styrofoam cup and hit the road to Ottawa. I very nearly cause an accident upon taking the first sip. It's disgusting. Horrific even. Worst coffee experience ever - barring, of course, the time as a teenager I ate a spoonful of instant coffee powder right from the jar.

It's a lovely day. Clear and warm. I power on the digital camera and as I cross the great bridge again I hold it out the window and raise it, pointing it back over the roof of the truck and I snap away at the Ottawa landmarks. And the camera fails every time of course.

I do however get a decent shot of the giant spider just before it eats the National Art Gallery. I'm sure you heard all about that on the news.

I spy a nice looking park of sorts on the Hull shoreline and figure that to be an excellent vantage point. So I cross another bridge back over to la belle province and easily locate the park. The vantage point - as you can see (or can't - depending whether Blogspot has got their image-uploading problems fixed or not) obviously did not live up to expectations:

The park at least offers a nice bench so I sit and do some writing in the sun. Here's a candid pic of yours truly at said bench:

Alright - so it's not exactly candid. I took it myself while pretending to write. I'm not even left-handed.

Hunger rears its ugly head. Back to the market district for a pint of suds on the patio of a happening Irish pub and a raw tuna dish just caked in a spicy-sweet rub and swimming in a puddle of tasty sauce and with a yummy creamed wasabi on the side. Absolutely delicious. Superb.

But enough farting around. It's time for the meat of the vacation.

To Montreal!

Welcome to
The giddy-up town! Home of Wilma and the Pony Girls

St. Albert
Peanut butter capital of the greater St. Albert region

The trees around here are only just beginning to shift colour but the ochre and burnt-orange fields are a delight to the eye. At least that's how they look through my sunglasses.

Home of three Henriks and a great many Daves

Welcome to
Vankleek Hill
Smell our Petunias

Okay - is everyone sick to death of the town slogan project? If you are - let it be known and I shall can it! But if not - start helping out! There's a lot of towns still neglected. They need your slogans. Throw us a bone!

Many warning signs are posted on this highway alerting to deer crossings and moose crossings. In some places there are both signs standing side by side - which I find very peculiar. I struggle to decipher the reasoning behind this. Is the act of looking out for deer very different then that of looking out for a moose? And by extension - different again than the looking out for both simultaneously? I'm suddenly concerned that I may be an incompetent driver - being unlearned in these matters. I wonder should I pull over until proper coaching can be sought?

Perhaps my consternation is unfounded. Perhaps there is merely a point system at play here and the double-sign is intended only to inform contestants of this high-yield bonus area.

The trek into downtown Montreal becomes the chore I expected it to be. I get lost immediately - thinking I'm going the wrong direction when in fact I'm not and thus exiting the highway without need. This is the second of five detours on the day after an extreme low-fuel episode had me off the highway roaming god's country with the gas needle hanging off the wrong side of the red bar.

It was a brick-pooping moment or two I assure. I wound up in a delightful cow town of a place called Regault where a kid - maybe twelve years old pumped my gas. I was keen to ask why he wasn't in school but he clearly knew little English other than 'fill'.

'Oh? Fill? Yes. Yes please. S'il vous plait. Oui, merci," I stuttered. I disembarked to stretch my legs, standing on the sidewalk while a big tanker truck came to a stop on the road beside me. The driver leaned toward the passenger window and rattled off some request to me in French that surely had something to do with directions to somewhere. Besides my ignorance of the language I didn't know the directions to anywhere from there but along came a woman pushing a baby stroller right then so I tried to indicate to her that this driver needed help. She didn't understand me and scurried away. Too bad really. They would have been perfect for each other but I couldn't negotiate the introduction.

There's a Montreal traffic jam of course which I survive. I get lost again, recover quickly and escape l'autoroute and claw my way through the local streets to find the Hotel Montreal Enspace Confort after just two more hiccups including a strange perpetual-motion one-way dead-end street loop that sucked me in for a couple revolutions. I probably broke a couple laws - of physics and/or the moving violation type - in escaping.

The hotel room is nice. It's clean and modern and everything looks new although the furniture all looks a little Swedish-for-common-sense if you know what I mean.

I discover that their particular breed of internet is not compatible with my antiquish lap-top so these posts will be late in hitting the internet. (I know - what else is new?)

The walk to Old Montreal is a long one but I complete the journey because I'm a champ. Well - that and because the hundred and fifty restaurants I pass along the way all fail to sufficiently capture my interest. But upon hitting the cobblestones of wonderful narrow rue St. Paul I know some holy grail will be near.

Indeed it is a dozen strides away - on the opposite corner of the intersection. It is called Modavie (Way of Life?) and it is dark and features floor-to-ceiling wine racks. Oh... yeah...!

I sit at one side of the U-shaped bar. Two women sit at the section to my right and a little man sits across from me. He looks like the dark-curly-haired actor from Kids in the Hall but shorter. And his behavior measures up. He's halfway through his bottle of Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon and he's already tipsy. He smiles for fifty seconds of every minute and does his best to chat up the girls who are clearly tourists. He wears a sport jacket over a casual shirt and is clearly not a tourist. He listens intently to the girls' conversation before interupting with vaguely relevant input. Then he apologizes for eavesdropping and the girls graciously assure they're not offended. He apologizes a second time and the girls repeat themselves. He apologizes a third time and the girls awkwardly resume their conversation. This is the formula that repeats itself endlessly. They talk while he watches them and smiles. He interupts and apologizes three times. They talk again while he watches them and smiles. He interupts then apologizes three times. I take all this in, fascinated. An excellent performance for people-watchers like me.

The baked brie seems a tad bland but then so does the fifty dollar bottle of Wynn's Coonawara Shiraz so obviously this insipid little touch of a cold I've got is mucking with my tastebuds.

The gorganzola/sausage/black olive pasta is delightful though - putting Windmills' gorganzola carbonara to shame.

I time the wine drinking wrong and dinner is done with a glass and a half to go. Such a full-bodied selection is too bold to sip post-meal so I order the cheese plate to compensate. But that dish runs long and now I need a glass of Chianti to compensate for that - which proves utterly tasteless by comparison. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

One particular bite from the cheese plate contains morsels of pear, walnut and goat cheese simultaneously. The flavor marriage is a thrill and I make notes in my omnipresent breast-pocket notebook. I shall have to craft a salad recipe around this combo for my next dinner party.

Finally the girls actually ask Mr Kidinthehall a direct question.

"What is there to do around here for fun?"

He immediately launches into a long list of restaurants with critiques of each.

"Besides restaurants though - What else is there to do around here - you know - for fun?"

He nods, still beaming as they speak. And then rhymes off another list of restaurants.

The bartender is Katie (not Matt) and helps me with the highway crossing sign dilema suggesting they are erected not for motorists but for the beasts' benefit so they'll know where to cross. This works for me. Case closed.

She whispers to me that Mr. Kidinthehall had come in earlier all smiley and he proudly announced that he would be having dinner and a bottle of wine - maybe two - and would perhaps even get drunk. I glance over her shoulder and nod.

"He's doing a good job of it so far," I say. She rolls her eyes.

It grows late. The crowd thins. Katie is a clever conversationalist and we have a nice chat. She won't let me buy her a drink but buys her own. She even helps us out with the town slogan project!

Welcome to
Try our horseshoes and Monopoly

I drop a small fortune and cab it back to the hotel. I realize I forgot my jacket at Modavie. Oh well. I'll certainly be back in the neighborhood tomorrow or the next day. Old Montreal is the bomb!

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