Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Moaning in Montreal and Quitting in Quebec.

As the title suggests, Montreal did not do much to lift my spirit. Well, that's not strictly true, it was a pleasant enough city, but my shear determination to remain solitary prevailed. I spent much of Montreal dodging the rain as the thunder storm that followed me around the east coast of the US had also followed me here.

Montreal is a French Canadian city, but it is incredibly Anglicised so any attempts I made to speak in my bastardised school girl French were quickly thwarted by the person I was speaking to replying to my feeble attempts in word perfect English. So I gave up and much like in Holland, just spoke in English without attempting any further embarrassing dialogue.

Now, what did I do? Right, well I went to see their world famous Notre Dame (oh what an imaginative name for a church) and had to pay to see it which immediately put my back up. It's main claim to fame though was that Celine Dion got married there a few years ago so that really should have put me off. I was underwhelmed. After all my exploits, its got to be a great big church with bells on to impress me. However, Montreal had a trick up its sleeve in terms of fabulous churches go. One morning as I dragged myself from bed thinking what to do that day (my enthusiasm is so refreshing, is it not?) two of the girls in the room were discussing this giant church dedicated to Saint Joseph. Now for those of you not familiar with the Catholic faith, Saint Joseph was Jesus' step-father (essentially) and he is the patron Saint of Canada. After hearing that it was very large and shiney, my interest was piqued and later that day I went for a look see.

Well, this is how its done. The church itself was a massive , huge, enormous affair right on top of a hill. There were so many steps leading up to the main entrance there was actually a free shuttle bus to the door. In the middle of the stone steps there was a section of metal staircase roped off. This was so the dedicated , faithful few could ascend the staircase on their knees- ouch. If that wasn't fabulous enough, the church was actually split into two levels. The lower level had a statue of Saint Joseph surrounded by what can only have been about a thousand candles and round the back of him was the tomb of a priest they are trying desperately to get cannonized (it never said what he did anywhere so I can't tell you if I reckon he was worthy, because I am of course the leading expert on such matters). People were all over this priest's tomb, praying and crying. It was all very dramatic. Then came the inners of the main Cathedral. Now in my experience 'new' Cathedrals i.e. not the ones built in Italy in the 17th Century, tend to try and emulate their superior European sisters, but fail (much like the Notre Dame). However, this cathedral had said 'to hell with that' or perhaps something more Christian, and instead had a very modern concrete type design. Instead of marble or bronze statues, it had these bizarre elongated wooden pillar like effigies all around the walls. It was curious and I absolutely loved it. If I lived in Montreal and a Catholic I would definitely go this church on a Sunday. It rocked. You know, as far as churches go.

Sorry, that's a bit of rant, but it really was nice. Another unique thing about Montreal is it has an underground shopping centre. It is so big you can get a map to help you round. I did not get a map and got hopelessly lost. It is multi-layered and goes on forever. So much so that the damn shops get repeated after a while and that was my down fall. I kept ending up at the bottom of a going down escalator when I wanted to go up. It took me about 45 minutes to eventually make my escape. It was very traumatic. And I didn't buy anything.

Nothing particularly dramartic (like being accosted at breakfast by overly keen Germans) occurred in Montreal and I'm struggling to remember what I actually did there. The answer to that is not very much, just my usual reading, seeing stuff, chatting to folk type affairs. It was a nice city, but not as nice as I had anticipated. In my brain, I assumed Canada would be a better, shiney, cleaner, safer cousin of the USA. This idea was mainly brought about by the fact that they don't allow guns here so for some reason I thought by crossing the border all the 'bad people' would suddenly cease to exist. But of course, like any major city, there are poor areas and homeless people. They don't magically disappear just because you can't buy a gun in a supermarket (although there were fewer homeless people). Not to say Montreal was a dirty, sewage strewn brothel, it just wasn't the Disney fairyland I was expecting.

Anyway, after that I caught the train. Now this is when I really should have learned to read my guide book before I go somewhere. You'd think after all this time, I would know better, but there is no fool like an old fool. Quebec City was my next stop. I thought "ah old, French CITY' That'll be a nice, sizable place to go visit for 4 days. The name lies. If Quebec is a city then so is Dingwall. It is so small. There is nothing to do. Okay, there are a couple of museums, a large old battlefield and a wall. So that was day one. Days 2 and 3 have been a struggle. Tomorrow, mercifully is my final day here and fingers crossed there might actually be some sun. I'm very good at wasting time, but wasting time in a place where it is pouring with rain and there are no English book shops, theatres or cinemas is a real struggle as unlike Montreal, Quebec is majorly French. In addition to that, everyone in the hostel appears to be either a teenager from a school trip or a small child on a family holiday. I've never been in such a 'family' orientated hostel. I got booted off the TV by two small French children who wanted to watch a French cartoon, the content of which appeared to be a bunch of robots in Ancient Egypt raiding a pyramid. And when I said 'J'appelle Morag' in my bestest French, the little f**ker corrected my pronunciation.

So, not feeling Quebec City love. But then I didn't feel Montreal love or Boston love, so perhaps rather than the places, it is my mind. I am longing for the mother country now, these final few weeks are beginning to take their toll. I feel especially antisocial, taking my book everywhere in the vain hope people won't speak to me, not taking part in hostel activities in case, horror of horrors, someone might like me and ask me to do something with them. So how am I remedying this unhealthy pattern of behaviour? Am I forcing myself to smile and make polite conversation in the kitchen? Hell no, when I go to Ottawa at the weekend I've treated myself to a bargain hotel (thanks so I can wallow in complete solitude before heading on to Toronto to meet my mother. Ah, I predict a Law and Order marathon in my future and eating crisps in bed! I know what living is!

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