|The underground city, goes on and on...|
Having yesterday had such a long day and a comparatively late night we had a slow start this morning and did not make it out of the hotel until around midday. We had switched rooms to get a cheaper rate - not a bad deal because our second room, although not as newly furnished, was actually better.
Our first task today was to take our backpacks to be fixed. The shop was outside of the centre and $15 in a cab - no hint from American Airlines that they would cover our costs and expenses as well as the repair costs! The shop do repairs for all airlines. American Airlines have a reputation for wanting repairs rather than replacement. Whilst not happy that it was needed, if replacement was required we would want like for like, tricky as Macpac do not have retail outlets in Canada. The man in the shop was quite empathetic and not particularly warm to American Airlines, or any of the others for that matter!
We then headed into the centre of Montreal and made our way to the main Tourist Information office. At the metro we bought a three day tube/bus ticket. Stef asked them man at the counter if they sold them and was told "yes". It was pretty obvious that we wanted to buy them but we had to separately ask them for the tickets!! It was incredibly hot (the hottest summer for fifty years), not as humid as when we arrived yesterday but still sticky. At tourist info we wanted to check the best options for traveling around and seeing New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Here though they only have information on Quebec. There is no central tourist office covering the whole country. They referred us to the Canadian AA who were very apologetic and a bit cross with Tourist Information as they only provide support for their own members. It seems that Tourist Information send a fair number of people in the direction of the CAA.
When we left Tourist Info we were laden down with lots of booklets for each of the different provinces within Quebec. It was definitely a case of information overload but we had not really got answers to the main questions we had. We stopped off at a cafe to cool down and refresh before heading into the world of the underground city
In practice this is not as exotic as it sounds. Winters here get pretty cold so the shopping centres, offices etc in the main downtown area are all connected by underground passages. For local Montreal people this is nothing special. For us it was quite good fun to see. We started in the Eaton Centre where a camera shop sold Stef bits to keep his lens caps attached to the lenses of his camera - not more hunting around many pockets to see which one he put the lens cap in (never the same one!!). He also bought a tripod - pretty light and versatile but its yet more stuff to cart around.
We both them went for a much needed haircut. It is a long time since we had a hair cut at the same time and place. Must be Crowns on Western Road in Brighton, just around the corner from our flat in Brunswick Place. I had an Algerian who only spoke French. Stef had a Mexican fluent in French and English as well as Spanish. I still do not understand why they did not swap so that the language barriers were eased. With a bit of gesticulating and the odd interpretation from the Mexican lady I ended up with a better cut than I get at home. I was surprised as the lad cutting my hair kept making really interesting faces as she was concentrating and seemed to keep going to back to the same bit of my head to cut more off. I had fully expected a disaster. I did miss the orgasmatron (head massager - see www.boysstuff.co.uk) that they use at Sean Hanna's in Croydon.
After the coiffure we worked our way back underground to our hotel. We had been told it would take about two hours to walk back, and after an hour we finally believed it. The underground is quite amazing. There are huge food halls with delicatessens, smart galleries with posh shops and everywhere links to get you back above ground. Its a real rabbit warren and despite having a map e still have to ask for directions.
By the time we got back to our hotel it was past 7:00pm and we were both very ot and tired. We chilled out for a while before heading to the old town for dinner. It was still really hot and sticky at 9:00pm. At night the old town is lit up and it was beautiful to see. The buildings are very European and the whole area had a relaxed air of people out enjoying themselves. All the bars and restaurants had outside terraces, there were street performers, pavement portrait artists and horse carriage rides all laid on. It was like being in a mix of London and Paris but with one main difference - no big groups of drunken people shouting and screaming everywhere.
We had a tasty meal but not cheap by the South American standards we are now used to. The hotels here are also a bit pricey and Stef has now spent the best part of twenty four hours complaining about how expensive it is. It did not stop him for ordering the most expensive meal on the menu though!
It is strange walking around the north American continent and hearing French. It is a shame that over the generations the Canadians have not managed to lose the arrogance and rudeness of their French ancestors. Pretty much everyone we have spoken to has started off with a haughty air. It takes them a long time, sometimes never, to let a friendly side show through.
There are a lot of familiar brand names here, again something we have not been used to. Most have been left in their origin al state but some, most notably Kentucky Fried Chicken, are translated into French. Poulet frit de Kentucky just does not quite sound the same.