Notes from Montreal

Thanks to the good graces of my host Steve, and an invitation from my symbiotic dance company, I have been in Montreal since Saturday morning. Here are some observations.

While our mobility overlords at Aliant now charge 35 cents to automatically connect a 411 call, here the call is connected for free and, to boot, the number is sent to you, automatically, as an SMS message. This is an excellent, and creative, use of text messaging. Bravo Bell Canada.

If you need to buy shoes in Montreal, go to Ste. Catherine in and around Peel: there’s a good variety of shoe stores there. Do not walk down St. Laurent or Ste. Denis, as there are no shoe stores there. I will come home with a new pair of shoes that, upon reflection, will act as an unintended walking advertisement for my colleagues upstairs.

It was hot in Montreal this weekend. Walking around the streets downtown makes me feel that I live in some sort of Amish enclave: fashion in Montreal is almost universally bold, colourful and often over the top.

Steve and I ate at an excellent restaurant, Délices de l’île Maurice, serving the cuisine of Mauritius. The atmosphere was crazy insane — the chef engaged in a 10 minute tirade at a customer who entered and sat, alone, at a table for four — but the food was excellent, cheap ($23 for a four-course meal for two) and the experience was thrilling.

Sunday was occupied by a fast flurry of last-minute computer support, fixing a corrupted Word file containing the French and English translations of a speech in Russian to be delivered that night. I got the file to give up the goods (thanks to TextEdit), and after a wild goose chase through the bowels of UQAM, found a photocopier that would let me run off 400 copies.

We spent Sunday night at Convoy PQ 17, which was thrilling in its own right, followed by a receiption for Russian and Canadian Merchant Navy veterans. As you might imagine, if you know Prince Edward Island, the two veterans that Steve struck up a conversation with both had Island connections: one had a lady friend whose parents were born in Egmont, and the other was the former owner of the Cymbria Campground in South Rustico. They both had many stories to tell of WW II and their role in it — some sad, some funny, some horrific. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the 60th anniversary of D-day.

I’m off to Charlotteotown in 20 minutes to resume regular activities. See you on the flip side.