Saturday, February 25, 2006

Je me souviens

You can see the photos I took over on my photo site (link opens in a new window).

Err... it's been a while, hasn't it? I apologise for letting this blog stagnate for so long. Duly chastised, etc. Anyway, I'll bring you up to date with what I got up to for the week after my last post - optimistically called "Reading Week". I didn't go home for the week (though it might have been nice), but I had the opportunity to go away. Kate, Natalie and Jay - three other exchange students - had arranged a trip to Québec, Montréal and Ottowa for the week, and I hoped to do something similar so we went together.

We travelled to Québec on Saturday using the sweet Canadian trains - it might be -20º outside but inside the train it's toasty and comfortable. Due to a communications breakdown, I booked myself into a different hostel to the other three - the Hostelling International outpost which was pretty decent, especially for $20 a night! While we were in town, the Winter Carnival was just wrapping up, but there were still lots of funky things around like ice statues and a general air of festivity.

Québec highlight: the old town perched on top of cliffs with old buildings (gasp). It could almost have been in France!

Québec lowlight: walking down to the port using some steps along the cliff, and then going for a walk and wasting an hour going along the highway looking for some steps back up.

On Tuesday, I hopped back on the train to head west to Montréal, which up until about 50 years ago was the dominant city in Canada. I've never returned with a backpack to somewhere I've been before sous sac, and staying in the same hostel as before was certainly an interesting experience! The neighbourhood remained mostly the same, apart from the addition of another Starbucks. C'est la vie...! That night (the 14th February, if you're not keeping track) the four of us went out for dinner in a steak restaurant. "Good choice" I said to Natalie - especially as she's a vegetarian! Regretfully, none of our budgets extended to actually ordering a steak.

Montréal highlight: perhaps the gloriously pointless Biosphere - a metal globe built for Expo '67 and that has some kind of museum inside; or maybe eating at Schwartz's smoked meat café: awesome sandwiches.

Montréal lowlight: blizzard conditions! Kate and I climbed the "mountain" on Wednesday, and it took about three times as long as when I did it in 2004, because all the paths were covered in ice. Getting down was obviously easier ;-) I also wondered where everyone was in the city centre, until I discovered that they've built passages underground! I could walk almost from my hostel right into the Eaton Centre or the train station without going outside. Ingenious...

The third and final part of the trip was stopping in Ottowa for two nights. Kate, Natalie and Jay had been invited to stay with their friend Calli, but I hardly know her, so thought it would be better to stay in a hostel. By this time I was a day ahead of the other three (I'd been to Montréal before so didn't need to stay as long) and it turned out that I didn't see them for the time I was in the city.

Ottowa highlight: the hostel is a converted prison! Quite a unique experience to sleep in a jail cell, and not one I'm planning to repeat... Also, the Musuem of Civilisation which was pretty interesting and worth $6 to get out of the cold!

Ottowa lowlight: hmm, how can I say this? The train station is two miles outside of the city, so you have to take an (expensive) bus each way. The city centre itself is very dull - in fact, it makes Canberra look exciting! The Parliament building is a poor pastiche of Westminster, and the rest seemed to be 1970s office blocks. The weather was another negative: a board in the hostel declared "feels like -33", which made me think: just what does -33 feel like? Once we're below the temperature of my freezer I'm pretty much lost.

So, I got back to Toronto on Saturday evening, and was whisked straight-away by my friend and social consultant Josh to Andrew Mackenzie's house for an end-of-reading-week party. Good to get back into my (Christian) friendship bubble, and good also to play Risk which I nearly won (ie. I was the last to be obliterated).

C'était une semaine excellente, mais j'ai trouvé l'accent des Québecois un peu difficile, parce que ce n'est pas la même qu'en France! OK, French knowledge exhausted. Blog on the last week upcoming, but I have an essay to crack on with first. Posted by Picasa

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