Saturday 11th October. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
When I contacted all my potential hosts in Montreal a couple of weeks ago, the only one who responded was Veronique. So she gets stuck with me. Lucky her, eh? All my life I'd never met anyone named Veronique, and now I've had two hosts by that name in the last nine days. What a wacky world. So I arranged with Veronique to meet last night; she had a classical music concert to attend first. Yesterday was the most perfect day you could imagine, and after the recent cold snap, the 'Montrealites' were making the most of it. I took a long walk along the waterfront, and the park was full of people sunbathing, cycling, rollerblading and throwing frisbee. They were sipping sangria at sidewalk cafes and kissing on park benches. This city does not feel like anything I've ever experienced in North America.
Especially in Old Montreal, the part of town where the Auberge Alternative Backpackers Hostel is located, it's impossible to convince myself that I'm not in Europe. The old stone buildings and the cobblestone streets, the classy cafes and the provincial style storefronts- the whole ambience- is as French as anything I ever felt in France. It's an exciting feeling for me, after three months in the relative familiarity of North America, to find myself suddenly in such a foreign place. It's like Paris at half the price and without the attitude...*and without the dog shit all over the sidewalk*
I guess I've been spoilt for fine weather over the last few months. While the pleasant weather was drawing locals and tourists out into the sunshine in droves, I retreated to a downtown cinema to watch the newly released Tarantino movie 'Kill Bill'. I'd been waiting for it, and I guess I got what I deserved; an overly bloodthirsty, ridiculously exaggerated parody of everything Tarantino is known for. *I quite liked it* After the movie, I caught the Metro back to the old town, picked up my backpack for the hostel and salvaged my last Belgian beer from the communal fridge. I was to meet Veronique in a cafe/bar near Parc Mont Royale in the city's north-east at ten o'clock. It wasn't much after seven, but I figured there was no harm in being early.
Veronique was also early, but I had time to sample a couple of local Quebec beers before she arrived. Her concert had been a bit disappointing, so she'd walked out early. Veronique actually plays violin in the Montreal Youth Symphony Orchestra, and gets the occasional paid gig on the side to support her studies. What does she study, you ask? Comparative Literature. Right. Okay. Comparative Literature. Hmmmm...
Veronique said that she had used Hospitality Club when she vacationed in Europe, and was happy to be able to return the favour by hosting me. She was sleepy; the result of too much partying and not enough sleep the night before, and I was tired because some fat idiot couldn't stop snoring in my room at the hostel, no matter how many times I woke him. We caught the Metro to her apartment, and after a late snack of toast and hummus, called an end to the day. Veronique has an early morning rehearsal with the orchestra, and I said I'd like to go along - not just to see all the cute young violinists, but also to take an interest in my host's life.
The seven o'clock wakeup call was a shock to the system. We walked to Veronique's friend Kim's place and Kim drove us to the rehearsal in the suburbs of Montreal. The girls were disappointed when they remembered that today's rehearsal was 'sessionals', which means that each section of the orchestra practices seperately. They said it was a bit boring, and would be nowhere near as interesting for me, as I wouldn't get to see the whole orchestra. They were right; it was a little boring, but I got to meet a few of Veronique's friends during the break. I think they all thought I was quite stupid, being unable to speak French.
I spent the rest of the day re-structuring the website so as to try to minimize the costs associated with webhosting. Veronique arrived home at around seven and found me asleep on the sofa. We took the Metro to the other side of the city to a party at her friends' house. At first, I thought I was the only English speaker there, but during the night I met a few locals who took pity on me and spoke to me in English!