Monday, June 26, 2006

The weekend that almost was...

What a weird weekend. A good time was had by all (OK, by me) in Montreal, but it was a string of almosts and not-quites.

Saturday morning I took the train up to Montreal. Directly behind me was seated an insufferable bore. And he was British, to boot. It was like being in a bad movie. I wanted to spend my train trip staring out the window listening to the moody atmospheric tones of Sigur Ros, but quickly found out that the only thing that would drown out the droning voice behind me was a mix CD (I need a new mp3 player) with the likes of David Bowie, Blink 182 and Pink. At a very loud volume. Seriously, the guy behind me stopped talking for about 20 minutes of the 2-hour train ride.

Once arrived chez ma grandmaman, I met up with my parents, who were in town for the day, and my uncle. The five of us headed out to the Jardin Botanique, where my grandmother, who is a Friend of the Garden, wanted to see the photography exhibition currently showing onsite, "Family Memories at the Botanical Garden" at the Tree House ("Maison de l'arbre"). This is the 75th anniversary of the Garden. My grandmother worked there for a number of years in the 1940s, and was (I believe) the first directrice of the children's gardens.

When we got to the Garden, we were just in time to climb aboard the little train that takes you on a tour of the complete Garden. We were advised that since it was the last train of the day (at 3:30! - obviously this should have tipped us off), we would have to take it down to the south end then switch to a different train to make it back up to the Maison de l'arbre. No problem. We rode the train halfway down through the grounds, then were advised everyone had to get off since the trains weren't continuing all the way to the other end because of construction. You can't really feel jipped when a FREE train offers less than expected, but we were slightly disappointed. So while my family waited in line for the northbound train, I ran off in search of the nearby Japanese gardens (because lord knows I won't be getting enough of those in 32 days from now), but had barely glimpsed the outer pond of the gardens when I heard the train coming back.

We took the train back up north, grumbling about the aborted trip around the Garden, and got off at the Maison de l'arbre at 4:10, only to find that while normally it closes at 6:00 (which was the sign I had checked before jumping on the train the first time around), it had closed at 4:00 that day because it was St-Jean Baptiste Day! Feeling slightly dejected by this point, we took some goofy family photos (which I might post if my mother ever sends them to me*), then my dad and I took a quick tour of the pond behind the Maison de l'arbre.

We were just debating how to spend a bit more time at the Garden (we had dinner reservations at 5:30 but it was barely 4:30 at this point), when a security guard came up to us and said the Garden was closing early, rather than at sunset like usual, because of - you guessed it, St-Jean Baptiste!

So we left, went to my uncle's house to discuss the trees in his backyard (he wanted to cut one or two down and wanted my mother's opinion), then went to dinner. And dinner was, I am pleased to announce, GREAT! As good as I had been hoping. We went to Le Flambard, a little French bistro on Rachel Street just past the Parc Lafontaine. Sooooo good. I had the rarest, bestest filet mignon steak I have ever had, plus a cream of broccoli soup, a salad with lyonnais sausage, and pear and mango sorbet to top it all off. Expensive, but worth every penny.

Sunday morning, I met my friend Anne-Marie for dim sum in Chinatown. She was late getting to our arranged meeting point, and I had just enough time to start worrying that it was going to turn into another "almost" moment, when she got off a bus at the corner. Turns out she'd had her own share of "almost" moments - she'd barely missed her first bus, started to walk in the direction, and managed to be caught between two bus stops and therefore missed the second bus when it went by, etc. But it was great to see her - the dim sum (which I haven't had in at least ten years) was quite tasty, and we hung out in Chinatown for a while. There was a festival of some sort going on and I took some pictures - however, since I don't (yet) have a digital camera, you're going to have to wait another year for me to finish the roll of film before I can post my pics online. (LOL)

Shopping in Montreal. Aahhhhh, but I do love shopping there. I almost didn't have enough time at Simons, but I managed to spend almost $150 just there alone anyway, so it's probably a good thing I didn't have time to try as much on as I would have liked.** I finished the day with a black suit (my second purchased black suit in as many weeks - now I have to decide which one to keep!), a funky white blouse, brown semi-dressy pants, a grey zip-up sweater, a green T-shirt, and three V-neck sleeveless sweater vests - one grey, one black, one burgundy. All in all, successful shopping.

Then it was time for my other main reason to come to Montreal (other than seeing my grandmaman and Anne-Marie): I called my good friend Mark, as planned from the day before, at about 6:30 since we were going to go out for dinner. I of course am leaving for Japan in a month; Mark, however, is beating me out of the country as he and his wife Amynah are moving to France, where Amynah has a post-doctorate fellowship in something relating to pharmaceutical sciences, on Wednesday! Mark and I have known each other for almost 10 years (we even dated for a torrential 9 or 10 months of those...let's just say we make much better friends!), so this was going to be our last hurrah together. Unfortunately, there had been a death in Mark's family and he was leaving that evening with his parents (who had driven in from Halifax) to drive to Guelph to be with the rest of his family. So while I was, understandably, sorry to hear about his family's misfortune, I was (and am) also sorry we wouldn't be getting to see each other. In fact, in true Julie-and-Mark fashion (we often seem to have trouble coordinating our schedules), he is taking the bus back to Montreal from Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, while I am taking the bus TO Toronto on Tuesday night (overnight, actually). So I guess all I can say more on that point is, Bon voyage, Mark & Amynah, and I hope you guys settle in well in Strasbourg!

Well, I think that's enough excitement for one weekend. I passed a nice impromptu evening with my grandmaman last night - she made pain cuit dans le sirop for dessert (literally, bread cooked in maple syrup) and it reminds me that I really ought to see my dentist before leaving for Japan. (Japan is a first-world country but apparently their dentists are something else.)

Train back this morning was fine. Such a short ride. Though I seem to constantly have the bad luck of being stuck in the 4-seater section (where you face your fellow travellers, so everyone's knees are in your way; well, at least for those of us who have any height at all).

Nap this afternoon was nice. Then a walk up to the Japanese embassy, where Randal and I dropped off our visa applications (today was the deadline and our coordinator actually called at 2:00 to make sure we hadn't forgotten! teehee). Early dinner (it was 4:00) at Marché at Rideau Centre, then some laptop (for R) / mp3 (for me) / digital camera (for me) shopping. No purchases (I'm broke now!).

Tomorrow's goals:
DMV to get international driver's license.
Pack for Toronto.
Japanese class 6:30-9:30.
Overnight bus to Toronto - whee!

* Hint hint.
** The grand total for the day was much more than $150 - I love shopping in Montreal, but never said it was cheap.


Kaki said...

Hi Julie. I happened onto your blog when I was looking for that of my friend's. I live in Gifu, Japan so I might be able to give you some info...I've been living here for a year so I know a thing or two. I'm also a Montrealer, so that's another thing we have in common.
Anyway, I'm posting this comment to let you know that it might be a better idea to get your International Driver's License closer to the day that you depart. If you intend on buying a car here (which is a good idea in Gifu), and intend to stay for another year, the process to get a Japanese license is mendokusai, annoying! Given the time consuming nature of the whole business, and the high probability that you'll have to take paid leave (nenkyu), it's better to do this business as late in July as possible (after the school year breaks for summer). Does this make any sense? Ahh, though you don't know me, trust me! Good luck, ne.
You can visit my blog to see my adventures in Japan.

julie said...

point well taken and I'll be hitting the DMV later this month instead! I'm not really a Montrealer, unfortunately; I just wish I was ... :)