Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shakira and us in Montreal

We are in Montreal on a 4-5 day vacation. Staying in a hotel on Rue St. Denis, I am typing this as Ileana, Ioan and Maria are playing a cards game. We left home yesterday morning and made it here 10 hours later after a pleasant drive, a couple of stops and one hour in traffic for the last 20 km. We wanted to come here for some time but never had the chance. Several things happened. Shakira announced her first concert of the new world tour. Ileana and the kids only cared about their two-week camp, initially they didn't see a need for another vacation. Then they had the camp and came back exhausted and begging for a trip. I used their time away to work more and I needed a break. We didn't buy tickets for the concert at the beginning, even thought of not buying at all, or just trying to get one at the door at the last moment. Anyhow, they had a good deal online and we got cheap tickets.

So here we are in Montreal, the concert last night was fantastic. We stayed up on the 6th floor but we saw the scene from the side, we could guess her form on the scene and we could see two of the giant screens. We all had a good time. She is the best. A good mixture of new and old songs, the same fascinating artist and entertainer. Using our previous experience we planned to arrive at 9 or 9.30 pm for the concert scheduled to begin at 8. We started walking the streets looking for some food and ended up paying $50 at the show stands were a beer was $8 and a small slice of pizza was $5. We got in our seats a few minutes after 9, the concert started and ended up shortly thereafter. By the clock it was maybe 100 minutes but it seemed so short.

Today we walked the old city, visiting an eskimo store and a small coffee shop that had a maple syrup museum in the basement. Walking somewhere by the river and ending in the Chinese village, we bought tickets for a light show in the Notre Dame Cathedral, ate lunch at a chinese buffet and spent the last 3 hours in the hotel room. It turns out that somehow I lost 60 dollars, no idea how. A tough one to accept. But as always -it could be worse. Getting ready for church, outside is raining cats...

We went to the Notre Dame light show. It was easy to get there by car, we found a parking spot next to the entrance and got there with plenty of time to spare. A very good show, not much more expensive then the regular church visit and allowing a brief 15 minutes to visit at the end. Next we ate chicken in the pizza place downstairs and went to bed after another couple hours of reading. 

Friday was a wonderful day. Perfect weather, we spent the morning in the Olympic park, first in the Montreal observation tower, the biggest leaning tower in the world and then in the Botanical garden. It was late in the afternoon when we got back in the middle of the town and after looking for a few minutes for a restaurant we found the new Montreal market place. A bright new shining building but desolate and disappointing in some way. We bought baguettes and cheese (Morbiér!), pâté and ham and focaccias and had a picnic in front of the market. We spent $50, but we still have some food left. Then we went on the Mont-Royal mountain for a few minutes and some pictures and the kids saw somebody feeding raccoons. This was a first, amazing how they stood up and took their bread with their front paws, they took turns and left after a while.

We returned to the hotel at 6 pm and I left with Ileana to get a stamp. In the first 5 minutes we saw ten people lying on the side walk, part of a dance performance, a couple young ladies dressed with underwear over their clothes, a guy climbing a tree on his bicycle. We ended up back home after a couple of hours and after spending $250 on RTW boots. We entered a sporting goods store, looked at coats for a while then Ileana went to the guy in the shoe department and explained that she needs some shoes to live in. "Sorry?" said the guy with a thick French accent. Ileana explained that she plans to go round the world and she needs some shoes. The first pair she tried she liked, the guy probably knew his job. He understood what we wanted, something soft but firm plus water repellant but breathable and of course nice looking for the city and sporty for the mountains in the same time. There is no such thing you might say and I would totally agree. The company that makes them seems to be well known and present throughout the world. Looking on their website I didn't see anything that I would ever buy and we couldn't find our shoes. Our shoes, of course, because we ended up getting identical models paying several times more then the most expensive pair of shoes I ever bought. Why? For a couple of reasons. We have a year until we leave but we only have so much time and spending it on finding shoes and gear is not necessarily the best use for it, we live in a small village and it takes time to get to a big specialized store. And we go to Galapagos soon so we can try them there. Funny - people come to WG from all over the world to buy shoes and coats, but we never found anything decent. 

This was the last night in Canada. We gave up the initial plan of going to Quebec, too long drive for too little time. Saturday we woke up early and left by 8 toward the border. We crossed the big bridge twice to admire the empty city, got lost on the way out but finally made it. I was expecting the gas to last until back in US but it was getting a really close call. After we decided to refuel we got on a stretch of highway were they were repairing and no gas station was working. We made it to the first gas pump in US with the last drops of fuel. Before leaving Canada we finished the French cheese and all the other food, but nobody asked about food at the border.

We went to Alexandria Bay to visit the Thousand Islands region, an amazing display of water and land on the mighty St. Lawrence river. We took a good 2 1/2 hour cruise on a big 3 level boat. We stayed on the top level in the front row, by the guide and the boat captain. Our daughter Ileana was the only one of the 200 people that got soaked at some point. She got everybody's attention a few minutes later when she went to get some pink lemonade and the wind blew off the dollars in her hand. Her sister was there to help and support her. Ioan was the first child to try his hand at maneuvering the boat and getting a captain certificate. We ended the trip with the supposedly top attraction: Boldt Castle. A disappointment not because it was a ruin that they are trying to restore, but mostly because it lacked any taste and any originality. Apparently Mr. Boldt was a very rich man and he wanted the best, but he started as a dish washing boy in America and his taste was influenced by his education. Or maybe because we saw other things build in the same time like the Romanian Pelisor Castle? Anyhow, not worth even a first visit, we'll never go there again. It wasn't bad enough to spoil another beautiful day. 

We got home in the early evening, it's a nice 3 hour ride to the Thousand Islands, exactly as to the Niagara Falls but in the opposite direction. After 4 days of fun and travel we feel refreshed and enlightened... And as it became usual for the two of us and for our kids, it's all done with the thought of our round the world trip somewhere on our mind. Navigating a new subway system, trying to find a parking spot or figuring out breakfast. Making the schedule or deciding where to have lunch. We're getting closer to the target and we are getting better. The kids participate full time and we learn to take and use their opinions. More to come...

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