Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Subways, Shadows and SNOW!

We are home again, home again, jiggedy jig! I spent the weekend relaxing ... you know it was a good vacation when you need time to rest when you get back home! The trip was better than I could have planned or hoped for, and we had so many nifty new experiences ... thanks again to everyone who made suggestions! We tried to fit in as much as we could, but were only in Montreal for 3 days and 2 nights, and spent a day each way on the train.

(the following blog post is a diary version of the trip -- very long, quite detailed, written so I will have some record of what we did. I won't be offended if you skip ahead, or just look at the pictures ;) To get past the trip stuff, look for a whole row of *********** and you'll be ok! If you do read it all, please get up now, have a bathroom break, grab a cup of tea or coffee and a snack, make sure you are in a comfy chair ... it is a long one!

Curly wanted to go with us ... while I was packing, I had to take him out of the suitcase 4 times, and ended up zipping it closed to keep him out eventually.

Starting out, not 30 minutes into the trip , we drove right by my Aunt Nig's house (which excited me to no end, and for some reason didn't do a thing for my T.). I spent at least a week there every summer of my life, from before I can remember until I was about 17 years old, and loved it. Nig's kids were all really close in age to me - I think the 3 older ones were all spaced 10 months apart, and I fell right in the middle, and their younger sister was a year older than my younger sister ... so we were quite a lively gang. Every day, we'd get up at the crack of dawn, and deliver papers on their paper route, ride bikes and run through the woods all day until their mom made us go inside for meals, then beg to go "to the river" for a swim (the river was about a 2 mile walk away), then after supper, my aunt would walk us back to the river again for our bath, as they had no plumbing in their home. She baked cookies, homemade bread and sweet bread loaves everyday ... and my sister and I loved it! And my cousins loved coming to my house, where my mom had store bought cookies, and Ben's bread - my mom worked, and theirs didn't - and we envied each other for what we each had!

Anyhow, that was a long side story, eh? Back to present day and the train, and why I was so excited to see their house ... the memories were too wonderful to just stream by on the train, without taking a picture to honour the memories ... so I took one
(lots has changed in the 20 some years since I sat on a borrowed bike, in that very spot, waiting for the train to pass so we could get to Bruce Gidney's house, or down to the pits to jump bikes off ramps we had made).

I took a picture on the way back home too ... I loved it there.

We had a sleeper on the train both ways, and so had most of our needs met right in the room - a private in room washroom, a big comfy couch set up next to large windows to see all the beautiful snowy scenery passing by (including a gorgeous sunrise somewhere near Charney, Que.),

and the couch turned into a bed and above the bed an upper berth bunk came down from the ceiling. The train had a lounge car (with unlimited free coffee!) and movies, and we had the best chocolate dessert I have ever had in my life in that dining car (and I admit, I have some experience with good chocolate desserts!).

The train arrived at 10 a.m. in Montreal, a little late, but the timing was perfect because we could check into our room at the hotel at 10. Immediately, we dropped our bags at the room, and headed out to explore the chilly city (it was -24 C when we arrived). We went to the underground saw the subway, then went back above ground and took a cab to the Eaton Centre on Rue St. Catherines. After grabbing the first (and , sadly, only poutine of the trip ... along with the best panninni {I think that's the wrong way to spell it , but I like all the "n"s} I have ever had) we decided to brave the subway system. We hopped a few trains and got to the Biodome (and left the camera in the room! CRAP!). What a phenomenal place ... 5 different Biotopes all under one roof, fish tanks like I've never seen before, penguins, tamarans, exotic birds ... it was amazing!

Now seasoned pros at the subway thing,

we hopped on the Metro, then on a bus, and found our way to Casino Montreal -- really lovely grounds with lit trees at the Metro station, all around the casino and a beautiful illuminated bridge leading to the casino, located on Ilse St. Helene, it is 5 stories, and encompasses 3 buildings ... what a pile of slot machines! We played the machines for a while, and then grabbed supper at the Italian restaurant there. And then navigated our way on public transit all the way back to the hotel.

The next morning, we awoke to snow ... and it snowed, and snowed, and snowed ... all day, and didn't stop snowing until 11 p.m.that night!

We did most of our sightseeing underground that day, except for a visit to a fish store on the outskirts of Montreal. T thought he figured out how to get there by subway, and the stop was supposed to be really close (ie, across the street ) from the store ... it wasn't. 8 blocks later,walking through thick slush and snow, it still wasn't -- just as we spotted a sign for the subway and were ready to give up and try something else, we looked up and there was the fish store! We had been just about ready to throw in the towel, and head back! Thank goodness we didn't - it was a fantastic fish store (and i wish we had a way to bring back some of the fish with us --- great prices and a wide variety, most of which aren't in our local pet stores very often).

And the beautiful display tanks! Awesome!

I got to choose what I wanted to do next, once we left the fish shop, and decided to take Carrie Ellis's advice and go to China Town. Found it on the subway map, and off we went ...
as soon as we came up from underground, it was easy to know we were in China Town (all 4 entrances have one of these decorative archways, and the Holiday Inn even has several on the roofline and other Chinese inspired decorations on it).

I love it there, and could live in China Town. The area is really tightly packed with shops and restaurants, and even in a snow storm, packed with people, but it was a really amazing place to visit!

We ate lunch at "the Noodle Factory", and the hostess was so sweet to us, told me what to order that was good (Shanghai noodles and chicken dumplings - T. got Singapore noodles - something he was familiar with, just to be safe!) It was delicious! I would rank it the high point of our trip!

We got to watch one of the cooks making noodles while we ate, and had glass after glass of steaming hot jasmine tea (perfect for a cold snowy day!).

When we left, we hit the shops -- I got all sorts of sweets and cakes at a Korean bakery (if you haven't tried green tea cake, I recommend it if you ever have the chance), and I am pretty sure T. bought all the tea in China ..... Town. We have 2 big tins of green tea with jasmine, some fancy schmancy jasmine tea in 2 smaller bags, bought at a tea and Chinese spices shop, and a huge (12 inch x 18 inch) bag of Lotus tea from Han Noi.

When we left China Town, we decided to try to find a yarn store (T's suggestion -- pretty good man I have!), and I thought it was in old Montreal ... so off we went. By then, it was nearing the supper hour, and the streets downtown were greasy from the ongoing snowstorm,and cars were sliding all over the place, sirens from police and ambulances were ringing everywhere. We got off the subway at one end of the street we were supposed to be on to see the yarn store, and it was on the total other end of the street, so we started walking ... after 30 minutes, we checked the map ... still nowhere near where we were supposed to be, so we walked another 20 minutes, and by then we were beat, but not broken ... we had set out to see a Montreal yarn shop, and we would see it! T. hailed a cab, and we set out (we were at #536 when we started, and Ariadne was #3837 ... during rush hour ... in a snow storm. High drama!). 10 minutes and 2 blocks later, our driver informed us that the next section of street was closed, did we know another way to get there? We didn't, he called his dispatch, and they rerouted us through some less busy side streets and finally $22 later, we got there (to discover that the subway stop was 2 blocks away -- arrgghh!).

Ariadne was lovely ... lots of very upscale beautiful yarns - Louet, Koigu, Lorna's Laces, Cherry Tree Hill, Frog Tree, Blue Sky and more ... but I wanted a keepsake yarn - something made or dyed in Montreal.

I am holding what I ended up buying - 200 grams of merino superwash dyed by Studio B in Montreal (hopefully destined to become another cowl, and maybe mittens too! I wore my wavy lace cowl the whole trip, and loved it! and now am wanting another one, in a different pattern, with warm mitties to match).

I also splurged on some Louet "Bonnie" wool and silk in a purple base with orange variegating to burgundy, mustard, lime and green plied with the purple (colour 09 - Sleep Hollow in the link)... very pretty, and the silk makes it soft too. Maybe it'll be mittens, or a hat and cowl (I have a new purple coat ... and nothing to wear with it, and am now obsessed!).

We returned to the subway, and back to the Casino for the evening -- the package that we got with our hotel room gave us 2 $10 vouchers each for the casino (one per day), and we went back to collect the second one and find out what you can use them for. Turns out ... they can be cashed in for real live money, so we each got a $20 bill! Instead of gambling it away, we took a sure bet, and bought pur supper at the buffet -- deer, lamb, grilled shrimp, Chinese dumplings, mussels all cooked to order in fron of you, and about 20 feet of desserts ... including a chocolate fountain that was about 3.5 feet tall. It was great!

We figured we had packed a lot into one day (a fish shop, China Town, the marathon taxi ride to a yarn shop, and big dinner at a Casino), so we went back to the hotel for the night.

Our last day dawned bright and clear, and the snow had finally ended. The train for home didn't leave until 6:30 p.m., and we had to decide what to do -- we definitely wanted to go back to China Town for lunch (yes, we are ruled by our bellies - for us every trip's success depends on the quality of the dining experiences -- it doesn't have to be fancy, but it does have to be yummy!), and wanted to get some Montreal bagels and cheese curds to take home, so had to ask directions at the hotel of how to find these two things. Now, the staff at the Delta are really nice and very helpful, but I don't think they ever travel on the Metro... they advised us to walk about 3 blocks to get to the mall that sold bagels made fresh on site, and sort of mocked me for suggesting takingth esubway because it was only 3 blocks.

So we started walking ... and we walked, and walked, and walked ... the mall was 3 blocks straight up and more than 10 blocks across ... and yet again, we discovered a a subway station on the street corner next to our destination!
Man, I love the subway ... you walk on nice flat, snow free ground in a warm environment , its is well lit and safe (I could be a mole person and live underground ... above ground you have ice, snow, hills, wind, crowds. It is so much better to go underground!).

Anyway, we found a grocery store and the mall that had the food court with the bagels made on the spot (ours were still warm when we left the mall with them - that's our dozen flying through the air in the picture!),

... so got our curds, and bagels and headed back to China Town for lunch. We went back to the Noodle Factory, and the hostess recognized us, and even remembered that she had seated us the day before at the same table). The General Tau Chicken there is amazing, and we got chicken noodles and shrimp dumplings.

A great last lunch in Montreal ... doesn't it look good? Makes me really hungry just looking at it.

After checking out of the hotel, we made our way to the Via station and wandered around there, checking out the shops and all the restaurants and cafes until it was time to leave.

The journey home wasn't as exciting as the trip there was ... it never is. On the way to a destination, we are always filled with the excitement of what could happen, what we want to do, want to see, and just the whole wonderment of the new and unknown; on the way home, there is always a little sadness, leaving behind fun experiences, regret for not getting out to do more, and of course, the tiredness that comes with packing as much fun as possible into a limited time.

It was really memorable trip ... and I gotta say, you really can get a lot of knitting done on a train trip! I can't show what I made, as the train knitting was "secret knitting" for a friend who is having a baby!

This is the last thing we saw of Montreal and we left ... all the downtown hotels on the skyline

From Subways to Shadows and snow ... yesterday was Groundhog Day, and also my birthday. Not as big a deal this year re: my level of age related stress ... last year was a big one, this year is my first year in my 40s, and I don't mind it at all (38, 39 and 40 were hard birthdays!).

The groundhog saw his shadow yesterday, and that means 6 more weeks of winter, but who knew that the 6 weeks would start with a colossal storm today? We got sent home from work today at 1 p.m. (I work for municipal government, and we don't normally. ie; EVER - have snow days. But the road conditions were so bad, that they cancelled work). I have spent my afternoon off writing this blog post and eating my lunch, drinking coffee and contemplating what to start knitting next, now that I have some projects finished.

I think I am finally done this post - if you read it all, you probably need to get up and stretch or get a drink, you have been sitting still for far too long!


lexa said...

Looks like it was a blast! We closed at one today, too. We had two yarn customers, one to send a fax, and two photocopy customers, oh, and a lady for one skein of DMC. So it wasn't a good day. Once we heard the banks, you guys, and a bunch of other places were closing then we got the OK to close, too.

Our order with the Classic Wool is at the post office, I think. It won't get picked up til tomorrow. It always arrives when I'm off so I don't get to play in it! I don't work again til Friday, so Mary will have it all out by then.

Donna M said...

Glad to hear that your trip went so well. I did read the whole thing and enjoyed all your travel tales and pictures!

Marti said...

Glad you had such a great trip. Reading all the foody bits made me hungry too.

Sarah B. said...

Happy belated birthday! Mine was Sunday. Sounds like you guys had a great trip!

Steph said...


Looks like you had a fabulous trip. I must remember to put Chinatown on my list of places to visit next time I visit Montreal.

Claire said...

Wow, an amazing trip for such a short stay! I LOVE fresh bagels and I'm very envious. I remember riding Via Rail from Guelph, Ontario to Halifax to visit my parents. Loved sleeping on the train....I always just gently rocked to sleep and slept better on the train than I ever slept in my bed at home. Go figure!

Carrie Ellis said...

Wow! Sounds and looks like a great time. I'm a big fan of subway transportation too. We used the 'tube' when we went to London - cheap, easy and convenient!
I'm glad that China Town worked out so well for you.

Looking forward to the FO!