Written by CarolinaPanthers1983 on 18 Jul, 2012
The traffic, the pedestrians, the weird speed limits that are in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour, and the numerous amount of bikers on the roads make any American driver frustrated while in Montréal. Save your gas and sanity; take the métro.My…Read More
The traffic, the pedestrians, the weird speed limits that are in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour, and the numerous amount of bikers on the roads make any American driver frustrated while in Montréal. Save your gas and sanity; take the métro.My wife and I were very happy to know that Montréal had an métro station. We were happy because it would allow someone else to drive us to places that we wanted to go. It meant that we did not have to deal with the frustrating traffic. Also, it meant that when we went to any attraction; we would save money that we would have paid for parking. After receiving directions to the nearest métro station entrance from our hotel receptionist, my family decided to go after eating breakfast. We arrive to the the entrance. The price to use a day price for us was $24 Canadian. For people over two, the prices was $8 per person for a day pass whereas a person under two were free. I wouldn't realize the value of paying for these tickets until after I realize how many places we could see and visit. My family and I entered the station and waited for our train.Montréal has the cleanest subway station that I have ever seen. Not only was it clean but also I felt safe. Also, maps were everywhere to allow people to find where they needed to go. The maps are very easy to read and understand. If you have any problem knowing, the maps will help know where to get off.One pleasant experience of taking the métro is the kindness of Montréalais. When my family and I got on the train. I was holding one of my daughters while standing. A kind gentleman motioned us to sit on his sit that he was sitting on, and he moved to allow me and my daughter to sit. I continued to experience this every time someone saw me with my daughter. Someone would move to allow me and my daughters to sit together. This experience made me happy because this experience added to my enjoyment of knowing that many Montréalais are polite and kind people.My family and I would use the subway take us to many fun places in Montréal such the Biôdome and Notre Dame church. The subway saved us plenty of time and money. Also, we received plenty of exercise because the walking, which is great because we would eat a lot during this trip.If you visit Montréal, you must experience the métro. Save you car the trouble for when you decide to leave Montréal and take the métro. Chances are you will not regret it. Close
Written by CarolinaPanthers1983 on 15 Jul, 2012
I dreamed of visiting Montréal ever since I started learning French when I was in high school. When I was deployed to Afghanistan last year, I promised myself that I would visit Canada before I turned 30 (I am 29 when I wrote this).…Read More
I dreamed of visiting Montréal ever since I started learning French when I was in high school. When I was deployed to Afghanistan last year, I promised myself that I would visit Canada before I turned 30 (I am 29 when I wrote this). With everything in place, I finally would gain that opportunity to make the trip.My family and I were visiting family in the New England area. Her father is in Connecticut, so we visited him before we went to Montréal. My wife and I decided to travel by car from Norwich, CT. I did MOST of the driving from eastern Connecticut to Montréal. The trip would take around eight hours. We would go through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Fortunately, my family had the EZ Pass to go through the different turnpikes in Massachusetts and New York. Even though we had the EZ pass, the drive to Montréal would be long. Just getting to Montréal from New York felt like an eternity.My family and I finally made it to the US-Canada border. A Canadian border agent at customs. He was a Québecois. He was very polite and spoke French to me and my family. I enjoyed this because I FINALLY got to put use to my years of studying to French to good use. For the most part, I understood much of what he was saying in French. After he checked us in, the gates of my dreams opened when I entered Canada. Now, I could experience Montréal life. Finally, I could put use my French.After my family and I came into Montréal, I have never felt lost driving in Canada. Driving is different. Instead of speed limits for miles per hour, the spend limits were in meters. Instead of lights that I would look up at, I would have to be careful to look on the side of the roads. In fact, I ran a red light because I did not pay attention to the lights on the sidewalk. One main feature of Montréal that struck me was how bike-friendly this city is. The city has tons of bikes lanes that I thought the bikes lanes were main highways. I understood that I had to change my mentality of driving in Montréal. Vive à Montréal. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 31 Mar, 2011
Montreal, pretty much as expected, appears more European than Toronto. It's not just the fact that it's very French spoken, but also the old town – Vieux Montreal – with some buildings dating as far back as 17th century, and quite a few from the…Read More
Montreal, pretty much as expected, appears more European than Toronto. It's not just the fact that it's very French spoken, but also the old town – Vieux Montreal – with some buildings dating as far back as 17th century, and quite a few from the 18th century. It's also the lively and cosmopolitan area of Plateau Mont Royal, with the varied mixture of ethnic – mostly European – delis, restaurants and other stores, on the background of pretty convincingly French patisserie, boulangerie and charcuterie, and that is despite the fact that the best-known Quebecois contribution to cuisine is poutine, a quintessentially fast-foody combination of chips, squeaky cheese and gravy, about which the Canadians are as snobby as the Brits about pork scratchings. The coffee might be the standard North American dishwater, but the pastries, sausages and bread are all very Parisian.But there is also shabbiness about Montreal, with a noticeably higher number of the visibly homeless and down-and-out people, including some sleeping rough, around the centre and in the metro. Toronto was big-city-lights-slick, with relentlessly smiley, friendly people who pretty much all looked prosperous: from heavily painted, hijabed, dripping with gold Asian mothers to preppy, blond, be-suited, chiselled-jawed Anglo-Saxons. Montreal appears less American, less slick, more European, more humane, perhaps. More grumpy, too. People on the Metro (more crowded than Toronto's subway system) are similar to those on the London tube. Girls wear skirts (and are noticeably prettier). Architecturally, though, the distinct Francophone, cosmopolitan, old-world core is surrounded by a very New-world sprawl. We stay with a lovely family in Laval – apparently the second largest city in Quebec, but unknown to most visitors – on a suburban estate that has no pavements, tenuous public transport connections and shopping areas in which you need to drive from one big-box store to another. Close
Written by tvordj on 12 Nov, 2009
Friday was another nice day. Cold but not raining. We were waiting for a friend of Graham's to arrive after noon. She was driving over from Quebec City as well! We had some time to kill in the morning so we walked into Old Montreal,…Read More
Friday was another nice day. Cold but not raining. We were waiting for a friend of Graham's to arrive after noon. She was driving over from Quebec City as well! We had some time to kill in the morning so we walked into Old Montreal, admiring some of the lovely old buildings along the way to a small museum just across from City Hall called Chateau Ramezay. It was an old chateau that has been used for many things over the years and is now a little museum that shows artifacts from the history of the city of Montreal. It's not a large museum and you can see it all in an hour or so. We enjoyed looking at all the things they had on display and probably could have spent more time but needed to get back to the hotel. It turned out Karine was a bit later getting downtown because of the traffic but she arrived eventually. We consulted the concierge who pointed us in a direction of a very nice restaurant on Rue St. Paul. We found it but discovered that there were two afternoons a week where it was only open for lunch and closing at 2. Today was one of them and it was about 2:15 by then! Aggh! We did find a pub almost right across the street and up one floor called Pub St. Paul which, in retrospect, was more what we wanted anyway. Pub food, beer, and the ability to sit there all afternoon if we wanted because nobody was waiting for the table. It was a very enjoyable few hours, too! About 6 o'clock we all wandered back to the hotel and broke into the bottle of wine, having asked room service to bring up a corkscrew for us! Another couple of hours cheerfully chatting until Karine finally had to leave. She promised not to drive and caught a cab to her father's house. That's a new friend made this year for me (she was an internet buddy of Graham's)! Always a good year if you've made a new friend. I honestly can't remember now if we ordered room service that night or didn't eat at all. I am pretty sure we didn't go out to eat, though.Saturday is our last day in Montreal. We checked out of the hotel late morning and my cousin Brian came to pick us up just after noon. We went to his end of the city and met up with his wife and baby (along with his 3 year old that had come with him to get us) and went to lunch at an old neighbourhood pub called, i think, the Old Oak or Orchard on Avenue de Monkland in the Monkland Village part of Montreal. It's really quite nice there and they have a lovely home in a quiet neighbourhood. We spent the afternoon at their house, chatting and catching up. Brian later took us to the airport where we checked in and waited for our flight home. Another trip under our collective belts! Until next time!.... Close
Thursday and Friday were spent mainly hanging out with friends. Thursday, a couple i knew were driving over from Quebec City. We had our breakfast and returned to the room to wait. They had hoped to get there by noon but were a bit later…Read More
Thursday and Friday were spent mainly hanging out with friends. Thursday, a couple i knew were driving over from Quebec City. We had our breakfast and returned to the room to wait. They had hoped to get there by noon but were a bit later than that.We were to meet them at Steve's music shop on Rue San Antoine which is just across from the hotel and up a block east. Steve's is probably the epitome of music shops if you're looking for an instrument in Montreal. They have pretty much everything and it's all spread through several little shops all connected along the street. Some are connected inside but some you have to go out into the street and go in the next doorway. We met our friends there and then we headed out to drive up around the McGill university area and then parked up and went to Dunn's Famous deli on Metcalfe Street. Way better than Schwartz's apparently. I've been to Schwartz's and remember that it was very good but according to my friend, they are rude there and it's always very crowded and thronged with tourists. That's certainly true enough. We went to Dunn's which has been around since 1927 and we did have a really good meal there. The staff was indeed very nice and the Montreal Smoked Meat was excellent!We all went up to Chapters on St. Catherine's and browsed there and along the famous shopping street. We finally got a chance to do a bit of souvenir shopping, too. My friends still had to drive back and wanted to get back on the road so we headed back to the hotel for coffees and a last visit before they had to leave. On their recommendation, we thought we'd go back to St. Cath. to have our evening meal later on at Nickel's which is a 1950s style restaurant. We got the bus but seemed to get off at the wrong stop so found ourselves walking further than we expected. We found it eventually, though. It's bright inside and is another franchise style restaurant with a varied menu. I liked the food but it wasn't rave-able i think. You do get good portions and the prices are reasonable. After we ate, we walked along looking at some of the stores with the Christmas lights on. The Bay was flooded in red and very nice and a cathedral was lit up with stars in the trees outside it. Although we aren't all that far from the hotel, we ended up taking the bus back anyway. Overall, though, we never felt unsafe walking at night in the downtown area of Montreal. Close
Wednesday seemed like it would be sunny overall so we thought this would be the day to take a bus tour of the city to see a bit more. We booked through Grayline via the concierge at the hotel. They offer hotel pickup but the…Read More
Wednesday seemed like it would be sunny overall so we thought this would be the day to take a bus tour of the city to see a bit more. We booked through Grayline via the concierge at the hotel. They offer hotel pickup but the pickup shuttle was very late. I think the traffic was bad and there was certainly a lot of construction snarling things up. Anyway we got to the tourist info centre and paid for the tour and on the bus. Away we went. Passing the lovely Marie du Monde Cathedral, we headed for Notre Dame where we had a half hour to go into the cathedral to explore and take pictures. What an absolutely beautiful cathedral! One of my favourites for sure. I think it's the blue and gold glow that makes it so special! The bus drove along the top end of Old Montreal, and we heard about the founding of the city in the 1600s by the missionaries. The Monastery beside Notre Dame is the oldest building in Old Montreal. There's also a church beside the Marche Bonsecours called Notre Dame de Bonsecours which is dedicated to sailors. We drove past and along the river where there are warehouses and container piers and a big bridge crossing the river. We headed east to Olympic Stadium with it's 45 degree tower looming above it. That was just a photo stop but you can go there and tour the facility and go up the tower. Next to it is the Biodome, housed in what was the velodrome. These facilities were built for the 1976 Olympics and the Olympic Village dormitories are nearby, looking like stacked pizza boxes! Also in this large park is an insectarium and a botanic garden. The biodome would probably be very interesting to visit but we didn't have time today and didn't get there at all this week. (In summer, Grayline also does hop on hop off tours but we are now in off season so could only get the full guided tour). From here we traveled a long way down Sherbrooke Street East and then West through the Plateau area with lovely side streets of houses with winding iron outside staircases, so typical of Montreal but of which i didn't get the chance to photograph. There are two universities in the city as well, some of which we traversed. Blvd. St. Laurent and Rue. St. Denis are the big streets for restaurants and cafes and there's good shopping along here as well. Over by McGill university on the side of the hill of Mont. Royale, we started climbing up the narrow streets to the St. Joseph Oratory for another photo stop. This was built by a fellow that worked in the nearby college as a shrine to St. Joseph and is maintained by donations from people who crawl up to the oratory via the long stairs in front, stopping to pray for a miracle on every step. You think the miracle might be that they make it up to the top! Apparently it's enormous inside and very beautiful. The bus then made it's way to a lookoff spot where you can see for miles over the city. the Olympic Stadium is immediately evident as is the Jacques Cartier bridge over the river. Windy and chilly but excellent views!Back into the bus and down the hill we go. We finally arrive back at the info center for the end of the tour. Very good and very informative. We headed down towards St. CAtherine street again, taking note of all the beautiful buildings. Montreal has a lot of great architecture, both new and old. The older buildings all seem to have lovely little details on the corners or around the doors and windows. Saw the building for the English Newspaper, the Montreal Gazette and it's really lovely! We got back to the hotel and again needed a bit of a rest but our evening meal was planned. We walked down into Old Montreal, stopping to take photos of Notre Dame lit up at night with the blue lights at the windows. We headed for The Keg which is a national franchise restaurant specializing in steaks. They were really busy tonight but luckily we did get seated fairly quickly. We also got our starters in a good time but our main courses were delayed quite a bit because of two very large groups ahead of us. No matter, we sat and chatted and enjoyed the excellent beer. When it came, the meal was fantastic! It isn't cheap at the Keg but it's a great place for a special night out!We wandered back through the quiet streets, looking at the buildings that were lit up and looking in shop windows. Close
Tuesday morning was overcast and a bit rainy so we thought it would be the best time to visit the Beaux Arts museum on Sherbrooke street West. We went for the included breakfast first, in the hotel lobby restaurant and filled up on omelets and…Read More
Tuesday morning was overcast and a bit rainy so we thought it would be the best time to visit the Beaux Arts museum on Sherbrooke street West. We went for the included breakfast first, in the hotel lobby restaurant and filled up on omelets and headed out. We went and found the metro station in the Palais du Congres across the street and bought 6 transit tickets each for the week. They do have a "smart" type card now that you can buy and load up with prepaid transport but we didn't know how much we would be using it so the tickets were better for us. Turned out the best thing as we ended up not using 2 of the 6 each. We took the metro to the Peel stop. The metro is pretty easy to navigate. There's only a few lines and a few transfer points. From the Peel station we walked through some of the underground network to Sherbrooke Street. Meandered down Sherbrooke towards where the museum is. It's a busy street and there are quite a few banks along this stretch so we took advantage of the bank machine to top up our funds. The museum itself is free for the permanent collections and we didn't fancy the temporary ones. We decided to start at the top floor with the European paintings and work our way down, with a stop at the cafeteria (which is behind the bistro) for a coffee. We enjoyed the paintings and sculpture, and really enjoyed the Napoleon exhibit (see the review for the museum in this journal). There was another building worth of exhibits that we didn't go to see this time, trying to save our feet a bit as we would be doing some more walking from there. The shop, too, was really good and there were some Christmas things in as well. I took the chance and bought a lovely glass geisha ornament and hope it will get home in one piece. The sun is trying to come out so we walked down to St. Catherine Street and went for a break in Starbucks. I fired up my ipod Touch to check emails and we discovered that the concert we were going to next week has been canceled! Oh dear! Graham was also trying to get in touch with one of his mates who was supposed to be meeting up with us on Friday. No luck but we may use the business centre at the hotel to do some surfing that's a bit easier to navigate than a little touch screen. We browsed our way down one of the best shopping streets i've been on, into shops and malls. I lost my camera last week and needed to replace it. We found a store in the shopping centre next to the Eaton Centre and found the perfect replacement on sale! Bonus! We eventually walked all the way back to the hotel. Montreal in the centre is fairly compact. Things aren't really as far away as they seem but can feel like it if you have sore feet! Which we did. We have tickets for the hockey game at the Bell centre tonight and i decided to save my feet and order room service for our meal before the game. It was actually very good, and reasonably priced for hotel room service. We got a taxi to the Bell Centre and found our way to our seats. It's Graham's first ever hockey game but as he doesn't really enjoy sports, i don't think he's probably going to really appreciate it. He's only going because i want to go! Even though i haven't followed hockey for years, i still reserve a spot for "my" team, the Montreal Canadiens and it was pretty exciting to hear the National Anthem sung in French like we always saw on telly and see the game and the players in the familiar colours play. Unfortuantely, they lost. But it was an experience i'm so glad i didn't miss! The team (also called Les Habitants or The Habs) played in the old Montreal Forum when i used to watch. The Bell Centre is fairly new but it didn't matter to me. After, we got a little turned around but the centre is on the same street as our hotel and after being pointed in the right direction, we ended up walking (trudging) all the way back rather than try to find the metro for just two stops. It turned into about a 20 minute hike but it wasn't too cold. Close
I've spent very little time in the great city of Montreal in the past so wanted to get to know it a bit better. We booked a week at the Embassy Suites by Hilton which is on the doorstep of Old Montreal and were all…Read More
I've spent very little time in the great city of Montreal in the past so wanted to get to know it a bit better. We booked a week at the Embassy Suites by Hilton which is on the doorstep of Old Montreal and were all set. Flew in on Aeroplan points and took a taxi to the hotel downtown and were ready to go. First order of business was to head out and down into the old historic part of the city. We walked around the corner of the hotel and up Rue. St. Urbain into Place d'Armes by the Notre Dame Basilica. We headed east past the old Bank of Montreal and the next thing i know, i'm flat on my face on the sidewalk!!!! My poor partner nearly had a fit, and helped me up. I test the bones and joints. No twisted ankles, no sharp pains. There's a bit of blood but upon inspection, that's from grazed knuckles. The camera i had in my had is unharmed and my face didn't hit the ground (I think i bounced off my padded tummy!) Ok, then, no crisis. Onward we walked.I knew i'd be sore the next day (and i was) but walking would be good. We were looking for a place to have lunch so that really was the first order of business. We peeked at quite a few menus but most of the ones we saw were for fancier restaurants and bistros and we were only looking for a cafe or something low key. Along the way we walked along the main "spine" through the old area, Rue St. Paul which is lined with shops and restaurants. It leads to the larger Marche Bonsecours (Market) and we went in there thinking there might be some cafes. There were, but they were a bit too posh for us as well. There are some nice boutiques in there, though, so we may get back for a browse, who knows?Across the road from that, we saw a likely cafe finally, called Serafim. It advertised all organic food including a burger on it's menu so that seemed to be what we wanted. The waiter/owner was quite nice, really friendly and we ordered. My partner had the burger which, unfortunately, turned out to be dry as paper and about as tasteless. My spinach pie was nice, though. There are no fries here, you would have to have salads with your meal. It filled the hunger gap, that's about all. A bit disappointing but if you are looking for organic (and it had lots of vegetarian fare) then you probably would find this quite good. Just avoid the burger. We walked back through the narrow cobbled streets, poking into a few of the shops. We walked along the waterfront where the "Old Port" is. the Old Port doesn't look very old, though. It's all been renovated and it has cruise ship docks, a big park, the Imax, a science centre and some industrial areas. The docks are built out so far that you can't really even see the river from the road! There are horse and buggies for hire as well and the drivers are cheeky trying to drum up business. The street has older warehouse style buildings on it and had we gone far enough, i think there was a heritage museum as well. We walked back up by Place Jacques Cartier, the main square of the old city which is also lined with restaurants and has a little cobbled street featuring artists who paint out on the side of the road and sell their artwork. Rue des Artistes, oddly enough ;) This square is usually heaving with tourists in season but was pretty empty in early November. City Hall and the old and new Palais de Justices were at the top of the inclined square. Getting tired and sore now, so we went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. Where to go for our evening meal? We looked through the guide books and realized we are only a block or so from a small Chinatown so that sounded about right. Later on we walked across and around the corner from the convention centre across from the hotel and up into Chinatown. One small pedestrianized street is lined with restaurants and crowded little Chinese shops. We almost went into one place but it was a bit crowded so we walked on towards Rue. St. Laurent where there were more Chinese, Viet and Thai restaurants and we chose one that seemed to look popular. It was cozy and warm and the food was plentiful and absolutely delicious and not very expensive at all! We couldn't eat it all and took leftovers back. Nice thing about a suite hotel with a kitchen is you can do this! We walked up along the road a bit further to have a look at the Chinese arch. We also noticed a bunch of red spotlights outside a building. Turns out that's a common sign for a club in Montreal.To end the first long day, i soaked my aching body in a jacuzzi bath. My knuckles and fingers on the one hand were bruised and sore and my back and leg muscles were feeling that fall. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 03 Nov, 2008
MontréalI always felt like I missed an opportunity to visit Montréal with my good friends Kim and Myra. They had made the trip to Montréal for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games and I didn’t join them. When they returned to Pittsburgh, I enviously listened…Read More
MontréalI always felt like I missed an opportunity to visit Montréal with my good friends Kim and Myra. They had made the trip to Montréal for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games and I didn’t join them. When they returned to Pittsburgh, I enviously listened to their stories about meeting handsome Olympic athletes and descriptions of Olympic Park. Now, more than 30-years later, I could see Montréal’s Olympic Park. On the horizon jutted the impressive Olympic Stadium with its large inclined tower – the largest in the world. At last, I made it to Montréal!Unlike me, Montréal stirred no special emotion or excitement in Ed. He had lived in the city from 1975 to 1978. He felt content to stay with the coach in Longueuil while the experts at Trans Arctik rebuilt the Espar Heaters. Not content to stay with the coach, I hired a cab. I pointed to a picture in Montréal’s Official Tourist Guide for my French speaking* driver to understand my destination. He navigated the morning rush hour traffic taking me to Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal.The Guide describes the Basilica as "a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture with a magnificent interior of sculpted wood, paint and gold leaf." When I entered the Basilica, I reverently walked its perimeter noticing these features but stopping to linger at each statue behind rows of votive candles in clear or red glass sleeves. I could feel the candles’ warmth on my face and I wondered about the prayerful petitions each flame carried to heaven. Could it be a wish for safe return of a soldier, a prayer for recovery from illness, maybe a petition for money, or a wish for a baby sister as I had often prayed for as a child in the Cathedral of my own Catholic parish?I sat in the front pew of the Basilica for a long time admiring the sculptures of the altar. After taking a guided tour I learned significance of the four sculptures surrounding the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice. In one sculpture, Moses leaves a jar of manna in the Ark of the Covenant; a second, Melchisedech holds out bread and wine. In a third sculpture, Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac. The last one shows Mary being crowned by her Son. Photos cannot do justice to this magnificent sculptured altar. You must visit and savor each part as I did.I had planned to attend a Rotary Club meeting at noon, but then I decided to stay at the Basilica for the 12:15PM French Mass in the Chapel. As a child, I had attended weekly Latin Mass and then the English Mass after the Vatican II ruling permitted deviation from the Latin tradition. To hear the Mass in French was like attending a melodic symphony of words, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. I further explored Old Montréal by walking past the courthouse known as Hôtel de Ville, along the sidewalk cafés and Jacques Cartier Pier. Later, I ventured to Chinatown.In Chinatown, I wandered the narrow streets peeking into shops selling traditional paper lanterns and Buddha figurines. I dared to buy an ornate tin of Jasmine tea in the herds and natural medicine shop shunning the other strange roots and mushrooms overflowing in barrels. And, I marveled at the red and golden arches granting entrance to the district. When I aimed to photograph one, an ancient Chinese woman sternly tugged my elbow to the vantage point that according to her "all the tourists like." I didn’t resist. I moved to where she led me and changed the angle of my camera to take the shot.So at last, I had become the tourist in Montréal. And, though it was just one day, I savored each moment and wondered why I waited so long to visit.*Montréal is the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris. Close
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 27 Jul, 2005
Our host on board was an older Indian gentleman whom we affectionately referred to as "Mr. Gomes". Whether this was his name or not, I had no idea, but I heard Tom call him that once, and it caught on. He was a thin, wiry…Read More
Our host on board was an older Indian gentleman whom we affectionately referred to as "Mr. Gomes". Whether this was his name or not, I had no idea, but I heard Tom call him that once, and it caught on. He was a thin, wiry man with a thick Indian accent whose serious expression was easily broken by his infectious and genuine cackling laughter. He woke us up in the mornings, cleaned our rooms, and served us our meals. It was at meal times that the four of us—Thom, Tom, Karl, and I—were together as a group.
Whether it was Gomes' accent, Tom's accent, a combination of the two, or some amusing quirk resulting from something entirely unknown, I don't know, but conversations between the two of them were thoroughly entertaining. They had an unprecedented ability to talk to each other without ever connecting, and Tom would frequently leave such interactions with a look of perplexity far greater than the one he wore when he started to make an inquiry.
On the first day, at breakfast, Tom joined us a little later, and Gomes offered him some cereal. A man who knew his priorities, Tom made a request for coffee.
"Ah, no, sir."
"Oh, okay," Tom said, clearly taken aback by the fact that a boat catering to only a few dozen people for a week had no coffee available on its first day. "No coffee?" he asked, confused. He'd forked over $1,500 dollars for a boat trip that included a gymnasium, TV room, and decent three-course meals, and apparently they didn't stock coffee. "What drinks do you have?"
"Okay, can I get a cup of tea then, please."
"Yes sir, tea or coffee?"
"Tea or coffee??" came Tom's reply, with a look of excruciating confusion.
"Er, okay... can I get a coffee?"
This was the way things went onboard the Canmar Pride. Tom would get one answer—usually the one he didn't want—and then, after a drawn out and largely pointless verbal goose chase, he would receive the actual answer (usually the one he wanted).
Seeing Thom and I tucking into cereal before our fried eggs arrived, Karl's eyes widened as he said, "You guys eat cereal as well as eggs!?" He was like an overexcited kid. After helping himself to some 'Mueslix', he made his usual scan of the room, put his arms onto the table, and brought himself in closer to us. "Okay, now I tell you vhat I couldn't say yesterday." Customs had apparently been and gone during our sleep, and it was now safe to talk. He had apparently outstayed his Canadian visa by three months—"I used a few tricks."
"If they vant to fight terrorism, zey need to get their act together," he continued, "Ze different departments, zey don't talk to each other, you see. If zey did, I wouldn't be here! Ze first thing I would do is get rid of those robes zey vear," he says, gesturing to a Muslim headscarf. "You can't tell if it's a man or a voman!"
Outside the window, the LCD screen showed -16.4C. The bodies were warming.
In the stairwell on the way back to our room, Karl emerged through the fourth deck door, shouting enthusiastically, "Thom! Tim! Come look!" He opened a series of doors for us, and we found ourselves on deck. Karl took the sister ship over to Montreal, so he was a relative veteran and frequently acted as our guide. He informed us that we would be passing Quebec City at 10am, and sure enough, there it was, in the distance.
Standing outside as we sailed along the river, passing by all the waterfront houses, the forests, boats, people, and the castles of Quebec, was quite a powerful experience. I still didn't really have a picture of exactly what the boat looked like, as I only saw it briefly when we boarded, and it was hard to get any idea from inside it, but what I did know was that it was big. Standing by the railings, with the breeze blustering around me, I began to have an appreciation for how Leonardo DiCaprio could deliver such a cheesy line with a straight face—I did feel like the king of the world.