Bon après-midi, à Montréal

Joyeux NoelNervous about getting to the train station, we left extra early. It really is a good thing we did, as Toronto is not luggage friendly. There are short escalators in part of the metro stations, but these lead to long staircases. Fortunately, at the Union Station stop, we did find an elevator that took us most of the way, and then supplemented with ramps for the rest.

As early as we were, they announced our train moments after we arrived. Getting to our gate, we were number six in line. Little did we know that having senior tickets, we could have preferential seating in the waiting area with preferential boarding. There were no signs or useful information.

Like the train to Niagara Falls, the seats were extra wide, reclined nicely, and had more than adequate leg room. By 9:20 am, we were pulling out of the station. Almost immediately, a man came down the aisles selling drinks/food items. He repeated this three more times during our journey.

The scenery was nothing to stay awake for and having sleep deprivation, I was out like a light for the first hour. With intermittent reading and napping, the journey seemed effortless.

We arrived at 2:40 pm to be met at the station by Colette, our next home exchange. Colette is an older woman, French being her mother tongue; she immediately apologized saying she is better at writing in English than speaking it. I took one year of French in high school along with Mary Beth Alterio and a group of forgettable others, but it was a disaster. Colette’s English was better than my French ever was.

Due to the cold and our dragging luggage around, Colette thought it best to navigate the underground of the city to reach the metro as opposed to using the streets above. It was a longer distance, but definitely warmer.

Colette is charming and generous. She is staying with a friend while we live in her apartment. We will be here until November 30. Her place sits about a 20-minute walk from downtown in one direction and a small commercial area with a grocery store, pharmacy, and restaurants in the opposite direction. Buses stop almost in front of her building. She is located on the fourth floor with the smallest elevator I have ever seen. The apartment is charming and homey with artifacts from all regions of the world. Colette loves to travel as well. As it turns out, she is a writer of French language books, having retired from teaching French.

By 5 pm, her friend Joanne came to pick her up and we were on our own. We walked to the commercial area to buy transport passes and stayed there for dinner. The first option was ultra-pricey, so we opted for St. Hubert’s which at first glance looked to be like an upscale Denny’s. Once seated with menus in hand, we realized how wrong we were. Still, it was not over the top.

I had ribs with chicken breast accompanied by sweet potato fries and coleslaw. The chicken must have been the Dolly Parton of the breed; the breast was massive. Ribs that fall off the bone are the best. These were the best.

Returning to the apartment required a long walk almost entirely uphill. We took the bus. What a glorious introduction to Montreal.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.