Saskatchewan Stopover

Approaching Regina’s airport, I got my first glimpse of my beloved coulees.

I’m home at Haven, “living off the land with Charles and Caroline” (that’s what they told me to tell you).

The first part of April has been about racking up as many billable hours as possible. I haven’t had much leisure time and haven’t been in the mood to blog. I’ll pick it up again as I head south and I do have a bunch of drafts in the pipeline, but there just haven’t been enough brain cells left at the end of the day to string together two sentences.

So my parents came back from their holiday on Friday (the 14th) and on Tuesday (the 18th) I headed to Haven. I had an absolutely uneventful and pleasant flights with Westjet, with a short layover in Winnipeg. It was a week where Air Canada and United Airlines were in the news a lot for being despicable to their customers so I want to publicly thank Westjet for reliably being the airline that gets me around without any drama and with smiling personnel who seem to love their job.

Charles and Caroline were waiting for me in Regina when I landed on time at 5:23PM. We were at our hamlet just past 8PM. I’m staying with them since Haven has no water, power, or internet, plus it’ll be easier to pack if I’m not trying to live and cook in my space.

Wednesday morning, Charles and I went to Haven to see if we could start my truck. He reconnected the battery and it took only two tries for my Moya to roar to life, no boost needed! Haven itself was in fine shape, just more mouse poop and spider webs than I expected. The only thing of note is that I now have a proper street address rather than just a land description!

It wound up being a pretty lazy day. I spent a few hours at home figuring out a plan of attack for packing, including reaching the conclusion that I’m better off using cardboard boxes rather than Rubbermaid totes. I plan to unpack quite a bit even while housesitting because I’ll be staying in the guest casita for six month and so it’s not like all my things will spend the summer in cardboard boxes getting mouldy. This way, I don’t have to buy new storage containers for Haven and I won’t have a bunch of useless Rubbermaid totes to store in Mexico.

I also made a call to schedule some service for Moya since she needed two new tires, an oil change, and a minor repair. They couldn’t fit me in till Monday, which didn’t work for me since I wanted to go to Moose Jaw to stretch Moya’s legs. Plus, I had to drive a certain distance and then have the wheels retorqued (the fact that Moose Jaw has a great all you can eat sushi restaurant is purely coincidental). The garage managed to fit me in today, Thursday, for the new tires and we put the rest to Monday.

It was an early morning since I had a largish job to do before heading out in the afternoon to run errands with Caroline in Assiniboia and get the tires put on Moya. I got it done in the nick of time, but, of course, Google is not compatible with the crap internet here. I remembered at the last minute that Bing works well here and was able to do the research I needed to do to get the job sent off. I then headed out with Caroline, dropping her off for her appointment before going to the SGI office (DMV).

There, I picked up the registration I’d paid for by phone on Wednesday. Moya will be duly registered and insured for the next 28 days. After that, she will have a valid plate, but not be street legal in the US and Canada since the Mexico insurance will take over. I also had a new driver’s license done since my current one expires next spring and I don’t want to have to fly back here to renew it! I want to keep it active so that I don’t have a gap in my Canadian driving history even if I end up getting a Mexican license as well. Slight hiccup, the new license won’t come for two weeks and I’m hoping to leave on Tuesday. So added to the list is trying to figure out how to DHL my license to Mérida. There’s always something!

I tested my new real address and their system took it, so it’s legit! It’ll be great to have a proper address on my driver’s license now. It also means that people who wouldn’t ship to me for lack of a street address would now. Actual unexpected progress. Getting an address was going to be my next fight…

The SGI stuff was quick so I went to the bank to drain my USD account to cover my meals on the way down. It’s not much, but whatever I don’t have to convert from CAD will be appreciated.

I then picked Caroline up and we went for a nice lunch at the Greek restaurant where my immediate neighbour works as a server. It was lovely to catch up with her. After, I left Caroline at the library to do the updates on her new Mac. I headed to the gas station to fill up and went next door to the home store to get house numbers for my property. 🙂

It was then time to drop off the truck and I kicked myself for forgetting the laptop so I could do a post, but they wound up being too fast for me to do that anyway! I was able to start the post on my phone and upload a photo, though, so that’s why you get a picture. 🙂

The tires weren’t cheap, but now Moya has shoes I can trust to get me to Mérida. She’s had enough service there for the mechanic to say that my road warrior might not be pretty, but he’d bet that she’ll get me there without incident, which was good news! I found she handled a lot better after the tire service.

I picked up Caroline, we ran a few more errands for her, and then we headed home. She made us a lovely dinner (coquilles St. Jacques!) while I was on standby to run to the basement to pick up pantry items as needed. 🙂

So tomorrow will be a Moose Jaw run for a 300KM run to work out any of Moya’s kinks in case I need the garage to look for anything else on Monday. I’m also going to Bulk Barn to pick up spices.

Saturday, I’ll do a thrift store run to drop some stuff off and start packing. Sunday will be another packing day. Monday will be an Assiniboia day and then I should be able to leave on Tuesday. We shall see if that comes to pass since I still have a bunch of paperwork to sort out, including my bilingual inventory. But I prefer to aim for Tuesday as that’s going to light a fire under my butt.

But let me tell you, I wish I could stay home for a spell.

Lunch at Café Stash and a Play at the Centaur Theatre

Thank you to everyone who checked in to ask if I’m still alive. Work has been a tad… busy. But I decided to take today off so as to accept my cousin Lee’s invitation to join her for a play this afternoon. She’s the cousin who visited me in Maz my first winter there. She has a season’s pass to the Centaur Theatre and with that, she gets one complimentary guest pass for any show. Aren’t I lucky that she invited me?! The Centaur Theatre is an icon on English Montreal and the premiere English theatre in the province. I hadn’t been in about 20 years, but used to go often when I lived in the area.

To my surprise, there are hourly buses to Montreal from Chambly on Sundays. I was  meeting Lee and a friend at noon for lunch and had a choice to leave at 10:05 and arrive around 10:40 or leave at 11:05 and arrive around 11:40. I picked the first option so I’d have a leisurely stroll from the bus station to the restaurant (about 20 minutes) and then be able to walk around the neighbourhood.

On the way, I saw that construction is underway for the replacement to the Champlain Bridge. I cannot believe that the bridge is already obsolete when we were paying tolls until 1990 to use it.

Approaching the terminal at 1000 de la Gauchetière, the building I think looks like a carpenter’s pencil.

Doesn’t it?

From there, I headed down Mansfield towards Old Montreal, parts of which look a lot like Europe. There are buildings dating back to the late 1600s!

I found my lunch destination, Café Stash, without any difficulty. I was a full hour early, so I made a note of the location and then continued down rue St. Paul Ouest to a café.

I settled myself with a cup of coffee and one of the trashiest newspapers in the city, Le journal de Montréal. There was an interesting article about Cuba courting Quebecers for medical tourism. Healthcare here is so bad, with terrible wait times and many people not having a family doctor (I was something like 157,000th in line for a family doctor in Quebec the last time I tried to get one, circa 2004). I’ve been looking at basic (emergency) health coverage in Mexico and while most Canadians find it inadequate, Quebecers generally praise it.

A bit of good news is the the drought crisis in California is officially over.

I lingered at the café a full 30 minutes and then went out to enjoy the first sunshine I’ve seen in about a week.

This is the Pointe-à-Callière archeology museum. Last time I visited was way back in 2010.

A very European-looking alleyway.

I loved the contrast of new and old here.

Isn’t this a pretty building?

I finally met up with Lee and her friend at Café Stash. She and I were famished and went with the “table d’hôte,” which is a set menu for a fixed price. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, Vicki, but here’s what I had:

-barszcz (beet consommé, which was unbelievably deliciously. Nothing at all like the thick Russian borscht I was expecting);

-two kielbasa sausages (served with Dijon mustard) with boiled potatoes (that I doctored with sour cream) and sauerkraut;

-coffee

-apple crumble.

Lee had their sampler meal with a bunch of different things and graciously passed over one of her precious pierogis for me to try. She went with the peach crumble for dessert. By the way, she considers Stash her favourite restaurant!

Her friend had two cabbage rolls with beet salad (cold) and boiled potatoes and said his food was excellent.

My menu was priced at $25, but, of course, you have to add 30-35% to prices when eating out in Quebec (15% for taxes and a 15% to 20% tip) so my total was $33, which I found to be really good value!

We then had a very short walk to the Centaur Theatre. It really hadn’t changed since the last time I was there.

The play we saw was “Clybourne Park,” which is both a prequel and sequel to “A Raisin in the Sun.” It is a tale of race relations, gentrification, and how the more time progresses, the less things change. It was funny, shocking, and sad. I’m actually surprised by how much I loved it, considering I knew nothing about the source material. Most surprising, I came out of it even more certain of the kind of expat I do not want to be when I settle in Mexico.

The play finished around 4:15, so I didn’t have time to make the 4:35 bus home. With the next one being at 5:35, I decided to accompany Lee and her friend to a nearby Tim Horton’s by a métro.

There, I picked up a wonderful Earl Grey tea to go since Lee and her friend decided to walk with me to Place Bonaventure since her friend was catching a bus from there as well and Lee could take the métro. By the time we arrived and said our goodbyes, I only had about 20 minutes left to wait for the bus and there was free wifi.

I took the above photos with the camera on my new-to-me iPhone 6, which I was able to get since I got a free flight home to SK with my travel reward points and therefore had some space in my budget. I cannot believe how much of an upgrade this already obsolete phone is! I was out all day with it and didn’t even lose 50% of my battery capacity. It is very responsive and has some nice features like iTouch (signing in with just a fingerprint), a bigger screen than my 5C, and Apple Pay. I’m super happy with it and glad that I’ll have a reliable phone for my upcoming insane journey across two of the biggest countries in the world.

So it was a great day in downtown Montreal. My time here is winding down, but I have a full week left. The way things have been going, it’s going to be pretty much nose to the grindstone the rest of my time here!

The Visa in My Passport Makes It Officially Official

It’s a bit of a complicated story, but I ended up getting a chauffeur for most of my day, which made going downtown to the Mexican consulate to pickup my passport very easy rather than something to have nightmares over. I settled my driver at Starbucks with a coffee while I walked up Peel to the consulate. I arrived around 9:15, gave them my receipt, and was told to have a seat. Less than five minutes later, the visa lady called me over and handed me my passport with this beautiful thing stuck to one of its pages (redacted, of course!):

She then wanted to give me a spiel on how things work from here on out, but when she started off by telling me that I had 180 days upon arriving in Mexico to do the “canje” (exchange to the residency card), which is incorrect, I knew I was better off just saying thank you, I can handle it from here. So I was in and out in less than ten minutes!

We then headed up to Laval for several hours so I could meet my uncle, for whom I do non-transcription work, as he had a big job he wants me to do and it was easier to show me everything in person, plus I got to see the company’s new offices. I also got treated to lunch, where I rediscovered insane North American portion sizes (glad I declined any sides with my burger that ended up having pulled pork and coleslaw on it!).

Coming home from where I’d dropped the car was “fun.” Traffic was already starting and even though I followed all the signs from the 20 to take the 30 ouest to do this route:

I somehow stayed on the 20 and ended up in Brossard having to take this route:

I’m not an idiot. That’s just typical terrible Quebec construction detour signage for you. Surprisingly, I only went 9KM out of my way and I wasn’t lost! Traffic was heavy in parts, but reasonably fluid, and people here are civilised enough to let you merge.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day of driving for me, but I feel confident now that I’ve got some mileage under me again. Busy, busy!

Back Behind the Wheel

One of the perks of housesitting for my parents is that I have access to their car. That’s great in theory, but I have driven all of a week in the last ten months and the greater Montreal area is one of the most harrowing places I’ve ever driven. I went out for a very short run on Saturday to run errands within Chambly, but tonight was the big test: driving my parents to the airport in Dorval and then getting back home!

Despite traffic, the drive to the airport was quite easy since I had navigators. Like when I drove on Saturday, I found that the biggest stress was driving their new car with all its gadgets. I could have used one of those gadgets on Miranda, though, rearview mirrors that flash if there is someone in your blind spot and beep at you if you put your flashers on when someone is in your blind spot. That’s a feature I’d love on my next car!

When we got to the airport, they explained to me where the “cellparc” is. That’s a great feature at PE Trudeau Airport where you can park for up to an hour for free to wait for an arrival. There has to be someone in the car who has a cellphone. So when I go pick up my parents in three weeks, I will just go there and they will call me once they’ve cleared customs and have their luggage, then I will swing around and pick them up. That will save a hefty parking fee.

Then, I had to go home. They’d showed me the route when I arrived last week, but I wasn’t in a mindset then to remember much, although some landmarks stuck in my head. I was pretty sure I was headed in generally the right direction and that I’d hit a bridge to the South Shore, even if it wasn’t the one I meant to take, but I could get home easily from any of them even if I went out of my way. So I was very happy when I saw the first sign telling me I was indeed on the way to the Honoré-Mercier Bridge that I wanted to take. There was no traffic at that point, so the drive was very easy. I was exhausted when I came in, though!

I’ve got a big day of work tomorrow, but Friday should be focused on getting together my documents for my residente temporal visa application so I can go to the consulate on Saturday morning. If my request fails in Montreal (I hear that service here is abysmal), I’ll make a second attempt at the embassy in Ottawa. But I’m optimistic that I will be fine here as long as I have all my paperwork and proceed in Spanish. I’m having fun reading all the Spanish legalese to make sure I have everything and have no idea how people who don’t speak Spanish get through this process.

My host in Mexico keeps sending me teaser photos of where I’m headed and it looks so much like Isla that I’m really getting homesick! Who knows, I may change my mind about moving to downtown Mérida. 🙂