Road Entry#14 (Frederic's Apartment - Montreal, Quebec - 10:59am - July 22, 2010)


I'm feeling poetic....

The mountains, immanent foreground
the path, background.
Make space for space
but pace to infinity.
Synchronization, coincidence
never collide - creating more paths.
Resilient efforts are rewarded
when appreciated.
Precautionary fables,
Work the mountain
seize it's freedom.
Change, irrelevant
necessary and everlasting.
Embrace qi
on top of mountains.
Surrendering never.

CANADA! The Maple is sweet!

There is a reason Canada was just recently rated as one of the happiest countries once again! They are truly happy! I love it here!

Before I dive into Canada and it's glory, I have to tell you about Burlington, Vermont (a.k.a. the Eugene of the East). I got picked up by Jade, my couch-host Sunday afternoon at the Greyhound bus station. I brought her some Cinnamon Raisin bread from this little bakery in the middle of Chester, Vermont that Alex took me to while down there. Jade was thankful for the bread and then drove me through the UVM campus to her place by downtown Burlington. She lives within walking distance to Church St and Lake Champlain's waterfront. We walked for an hour or so with her dog Charlie. Jade also has a cat she recently adopted named Skywalker. Charlie, Jade, and I got to experience the life and energy of Church street on a Sunday afternoon first. It is a closed off street with dozens of storefronts, shops, restaurants, and bars -basically the place to hang out in Burlington for fun. We walked from the southern point of Church street to the north and then west to Lake Champlain. There are a couple parks, stores, and homes that dissect the Lake from Church St. which gives a great balance of activities and people between the two. Trekking around Burlington was very appealing and interesting - not to mention all the information Jade was throwing my way about the northeast, Vermont, Burlington, Montreal, her life, etc. We struck up a great friendship as we walked around.

We got back to her place before heading out for dinner. We went to the Vermont Brew Pub which is famous for their beer and cheap food. Vermont has a lot of micro-breweries and this was one of them. I tried a local Irish Red Ale and had a Buffalo Chicken wrap for dinner. Jade also took me to the local outdoor sports store so I could buy a replacement canteen, but they weren't open. After dinner, we went down to the waterfront to grab a soft serve and share more stories. She also wanted me to see a spectacular Lake Champlain sunset, but it wasn't the right night for one. We walked back to her apartment to wait for her friend Amanda to get off work. We waited because we all were going out to Nectar's for 'Reggae Night'. Nectar's is a popular young-person nightlife spot and the venue where the band Phish got it's big break. Jade was also raving about another local music talent named Grace Potter. I have been writing all the music, book, and people information down in my iPod touch so I won't forget what to look up and research. I love learning about my guests and other's interests because it is sincerely interesting. Opening up the mind and body to new information and art is always a good practice.

Reggae night was fun to say the least. The three of us sat down in a booth and chatted for an hour or so before hitting the dance floor. The DJ was extremely animated and grooving to the earthy tunes throughout the night. We all danced to the rhythm and were in the moment. I totally lost myself in the music and closed my eyes plenty of times. I could tell that I was a focal point out there because I was one of the tallest guys in the building, along with the fact I could really move (yes - i am not bashful about my dancing skills). As not to be rude to Jade and Amanda, I politely ignored the ladies that gave me compelling looks or dance moves in my vicinity. The night concluded with Amanda getting a quick slice of za before walking back to Jade's apartment. We retired the night on a positive note and Skywalker slept at my feet. Jade said that he is usually afraid of men and starts to warm up to them after many encounters - I guess not in my case.

Jade and I woke up to the penetrating sound of her dehydrated smoke detector at 7am. The battery was dying and I had to replace it because I am much taller than Jade. We were going to wake up early anyway because Jade had to get to work by 9am - via bus - and I had to get out of her apartment in respect for Charlie not freaking out. I am glad she trusted me and allowed me to stay as the rain pissed down from the thunderclouds above. Charlie didn't really even act up as she said he would and I got an extra hour and a half of sleep before Sam picked me up for the ride up to Montreal. I found Sam on 'Craigslist - Rideshare'.

Sam is a student at Concordia University in Montreal. He commutes every Monday morning from Burlington to Canada (only a 2 hour drive). Sam didn't make that big of an impression on me - there was no sincere interest because we didn't e-mail each other much before. He was a simple Vermontonian and trying to graduate in some field I forgot already. Sam dropped me off in Montreal downtown and I could walk to my next hosts apartment. I got to Danny Grinberg's place around 1pm. Danny is an American from Brooklyn living in Montreal for the summer. He is 28 and a english teacher's assistant in France during the school year. He teaches high school aged kids the english language and lives in Lyon, France. It is a program that is very similar to the one I was interested in Spain, working 12-15 hour days and living with a host family in France. So this was his summer vacation before going back to France in September.

I dropped my stuff off in the apartment and we went to run some errands and check out the city. Danny's open schedule allows him to be an amazing host and hanging out together. He showed me around everywhere! The first thing we did was go to pick up birthday cards for our fathers. It just so happens that both our dads are jewish, 62 today, and initialed DG. Danny and I had a lot of things in common like training except the height discrepancy - we looked like Arnold and Danny from "Twins" walking around together. After getting the errands done we decided to walk up to the top of Parc Mont Royal - a large park/mountain in the middle of Montreal. We talked and got to know each other along the way and made it to the top with an oh-so-okay view of the city. The weather that day reminded me of Portland or Eugene, grey skies - minimal showers. Once we got done with the walk back down the mountain, we went over to Sainte Catherine so Danny could check on a cell phone issue before heading to the grocery store. I needed to get some items for cooking dinner later. As a thank you for hosting me, Danny and had Frito-Pie later that night. Frito Pie is a delicious taco-salad like meal with Frito chips instead of tortilla chips or tacos. We had some time to kill before dinner, so Danny and I walked over to Rue Sainte Denis to a little cafe called Java U. We took the chess set with us and played chess for almost 2 hours while sipping our espressos. We got back to the apartment around 9pm and had the dinner at 10pm. We just hung around after that and planned our next day in Montreal. It was a great introduction to such a beautiful city.

Both of us went to bed pretty late, so we slept until 11am and didn't really get moving until high noon. The first thing we did was run together. I told Danny about my marathon training and he was game for running long distance with me. I was happy to have a running buddy instead of listening to podcasts and music on my iPod. We ran up to the top of the mountain, back down, over to Sainte Denis and then split up. At that point we had gone 7 miles and Danny didn't want to be dead tired for the rest of the day - but I had to keep going. I ran 2 more miles through the downtown area to Old Montreal (Old Port) and back up the hill to his apartment. Overall it was a great run and great scenery, especially the park on a gorgeous day. The run led to extreme hunger - so we had sandwiches on the balcony and played some more chess. Danny is very good at chess and I didn't win once, getting somewhat frustrated with my strategic abilities. We enjoyed some music while playing and hung around the apartment all the way until 6:30 - our movie time. We went to see 'Inception' with a couple of Danny's friends at the theater. We chose to do this because Tuesday is discount day at certain theaters in Montreal. It was such a better movie than 'Grown Ups' and worth the money we spent ($8). I felt the same way leaving this movie as I did when leaving from seeing the Matrix. It was a thought-provoking movie and very well done. The special effects, production, writing, and cinematography were outstanding. It definitely ranks as a top movie of 2010, but not a top movie of all time. If you haven't seen it, I recommend shelling out the money to catch it now in a theater or IMAX - great experience.

We all walked from the movie theater to a local brew-pub restaurant to discuss it and other topics. Danny's two friends, Joseph and Celina were very interesting as well. Joseph is British and Celina is French. They finished their studies and have been living in Montreal for work. Being bilingual is essential in Montreal, English is the more commonly used language in Montreal - a 55/45 ratio. All the other parts of the Quebec provence have a 80/20 ratio of French to English. We all chatted for an hour and enjoyed our craft brew from the pub.

Danny and I turned the corner back to his apartment and met Barbara, one of Danny's roommates. Danny is subletting a room in this 6-bedroom apartment from some McGill University girls this summer. Barbara is one of those girls that lives in the unit full-time. It is her, Alison, Ada, and Arianna. More girls that I didn't meet because they are off on their own summer adventure somewhere. Barb is a cool surfer/sailor-like chick that was easy to talk to. Another cool person I've met while on the road.

I left the apartment after an hour to see what the nightlife was like on a Tuesday in Montreal. Very good times! I walked right outside to find 4 young souls on the stoop drinking some Pabst Blue Ribbons. I met Katie, Tohby Cameron, and 2 others I can't remember. They were all students hanging out and pregaming before going out. They invited me to the Peel Pub and more relationships were formed. Tohby introduced me to some more young people out at the bar during Karaoke night. We all had a blast, dancing and singing the night away. I didn't consume that much, but did walk back to the apartment at 1am with a slight glaze. The rest of these youngsters all had class at 8am, and the good times fizzled like a sparkler on the fourth of july.

Wednesday was just as enjoyable as Tuesday. I woke up Wednesday morning, had a quick fix, and got out the door to walk around Montreal and take pictures. I walked-up an appetite and finally sat down at a little sandwich shop / cafe at 2pm. I had my book with me and read for a bit while enjoying my chicken avocado sandwich and smoothie. I was there for a bit and introduced myself to two lovely ladies, Caitlin and Natasha. They were hanging out and enjoying their summer of freedom like I was. They both graduated from McGill University and we got to know each other more. Caitlin was going to see Inception later on in the day and my excitement for the movie kept our conversation spirited throughout the afternoon. We spent a few hours together walking around after leaving the lunch spot and finally sat down at a restaurant for a drink around 5pm. Caitlin is from Portland, Oregon and Natasha is from a smaller city in Quebec. We enjoyed each others company and chatted until both Caitlin and I had to leave. Caitlin had to meet her boyfriend before going to the movie at 7pm and I had to pack up my stuff to make my way to my new hosts apartment in southern Montreal - a town called Lachine.

I got back to Danny's, packed things up and made my way via public transport down to Frederic's apartment in Lachine. Fred is hosting me until Friday before I either find another couch in Montreal or head back south to the states. Fred is trying to convince me to go to Quebec City, and I still might - I just need to find a couch to surf there. Quebec City is the heart and soul of french-Canada, so the language barrier is even tougher than Montreal.

Fred and I got to know each other last night at the dinner table. He cooked a remarkable and delicious chicken-mushroom spaghetti in a cream sauce. Fred is an electrical engineer and is about to move to France for 3 months for work. He is kind enough to let me stay with him as he gets prepared to live out of his home country for a while. I am writing in his living room right now without internet, so I need to find a place nearby to access the web and post this blog. I also need to do hours of research and e-mails for couches and rides in Montreal and back in the states.

Au revior!