Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Waking Up in Montreal was Bliss

By Cal Orey
My fear of flying didn't exist with big aircraft, first class
It's been more than one long week since I've returned from my trip to Quebec.  While I anticipated challenges, including "rough air" to staying in a hotel room on a high floor and riding a train to a French-speaking city and dining alone in a restaurant--I passed each fear factor, one after the other. It was like I got in a time machine and went back in time to when I was 21--a wanderlust without worries. It was bliss. I had no anxieties, no phobias. I was ready for adventure--any kind.
Montreal's Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde--
the green building--is Quebec's third largest church 

Waking up in Montreal:  After the sobering grilling in the Canada Customs room; and grabbing a cab to downtown with a cabbie who drove 100 mph, I was exhausted from getting up at 1:30 AM, PST and arriving in the province at 2:00 AM EST. Once in my hotel room on the 28th floor at the Marriott, I felt that part of my trip was accomplished. After all, I made it: One cab, a shuttle bus to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and to my destination--Canada. So we're talking 3000 miles in a day. Yes, in many ways it was easier than hitchhiking across the country with a dog. My canines were safe in a kennel with pampering. Missing my fur boys--two dogs and a cat--whom I sleep with every night, I plopped onto the cold bed and fell asleep.

The city streets differ from rural roads in
the sierras
Jet Lag to French Greetings. At home my dogs awake me at 5:00 AM to be fed and do their business. On Wednesday morning I slept in until 11:45 A.M. Instead of staggering out into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, I grabbed the phone and called room service. It was my fantasy to order blueberry waffles but I decided on a grilled cheese on whole wheat bread with tomatoes (the first time they were AWOL on my fave comfort food wherever I am) French fries, and coffee. It was lunch time. I never had experienced "jet lag" so I discovered it is real. But it wasn't too bad even though I was all alone in a big, strange city.

In the late afternoon I left my room and took a walk to a large drugstore to purchase things I didn't have on hand. (i.e., My reading glasses broke on the Utah flight. The passenger next to me--an attorney from Georgia--taped them for me, a nice gesture but his gift for gab was more welcome. In Atlanta at one of the largest airports in the nation I purchased a new pricey pair--not the correct strength. Note to self: Always bring two pair of glasses.)  
Living in a mountain town for 15 years, I forgot about fashion. Women in Montreal much like San Francisco (where I went to school) are fashionable and quickly I pondered a French manicure, playing up my smoky eye make-up, learning how to really wear a scarf, and happy that my skinny jeans, over-sized sweater, and combat boots didn't look out of place. Being called "madam" was refreshing and flirty Frenchmen and cold Frenchwomen were amid my new environment. It wasn't too long before I learned the game and gained a harder shell. The younger females were warm and friendly; it is mostly the older women with a masculine edge that seemed to sport attitude. No wonder the men (all ages) had wandering eyes.

The Pool:  I missed the resort swimming pool I swim at and sauntered into the pool room at the hotel. The hot tub was down but the pool was up. I was too tired to think laps but I engaged in a conversation with a young Italian lifeguard. She was fun, intelligent, and made me feel at home. 
I should have swam but the vibe was off, not like
my hometown resort pool at 7:30 am

After chatting the jet lag was overwhelming (coffee lattes became my best friends) so I returned to my room with a promise to be normal on Thursday. When I turned on the TV (I broke the promise of going off the grid), it was surreal. The picture of the Northern California King Fire just 100 miles from my home at Lake Tahoe greeted me. Here, I was looking for adventure but it was happening on the West Coast. And folks in Quebec seemed out of touch like my burning Golden State was a foreign planet.

Chocolate befriended me at the mall
From Underground to Up in My Room: Watching the news, cuddling up on the bed and missing my home I felt homesick but happy--craving to be on the West Coast in California, sort of, yet excited to be on the East Coast in Canada. Thursday my mind and body would be back on track...It would be the day I'd visit the train station to get my ticket for Quebec City on Friday; the perfect time to do mingle with the people at Montreal's Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French) including shopping malls. 
When I came to Montreal decades ago, the underground city frightened me. This time around it was elating. It felt good to be alone, away from day-to-day pesky worries and woes. I had gone back in time. I was the carefree hippie chick on my own in a faraway place--and it made me feel free and disconnected. Happiness.

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