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!

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. 🙂

English Sun Is Particularly Lovely

Today was so lovely! It felt like a proper late spring day. Landing in snow and freezing weather on Wednesday afternoon is going to be shocking!

Since the weather was so suitable for exterior line drying, my wonderful host suggested I throw some of my laundry in with hers today. How thoughtful! This way, I won’t land in Montreal desperate to put a load on. Let me tell you, I’m more than a little tired of wearing the same clothes every day…

I had so much work to do ahead of my time off, but I couldn’t spend all of today indoors. I powered through a a large file due at 3PM and was able to head out just before 2PM for lunch and a walk around Hove before going back to work. Tomorrow, my last day (!), is going to be a proper exploration one, but I am going to  fit in a couple final hours of work.

But at any rate, a two-hour lunch break today was definitely in order. I was quite famished since I was well past my lunch hour. So when the second restaurant I passed after the train station had a £5 burger special for takeaway, I was set. I figured based on their menu that this would be a high quality, healthyish, burger and I was right. It was very plain, but was a nice juicy piece of 100% beef and it had lots of veggies on it. I wish I’d thought to ask for some sauce on it, but it was pretty good on its own and wasn’t too heavy of a lunch.

I then decided to wander down a main thoroughfare and then head down to the water to come back the way I came by a different route.

I passed a really pretty church made of flint, just like the Lewes castle.

That’s a florist set up in front of it.

This pub had a striking façade. The sign at the top says “The Wick Inn — rebuilt in 1873.”

Just as I was thinking of turning back, I discovered a gelato shop! I sure wasn’t going to turn down a chance to eat an ice cream by the beach on such a warm and sunny day! They had so many flavours, but the hard to find chocolate-orange was an obvious choice.

I headed towards the water in front of the rows of beautiful houses. Turns out they all have ground floor flats, most of which have beautifully tiled courtyards. The flats must be rather dark on an average day, though.

There are so many beautiful churches in Hove. Here’s another one I passed very near to home.

And here’s a map of my walk. I didn’t realise I’d covered so much ground. 3.9mi is just over 6KM!

I came in and got right back to work, stopping around 6:30 to heat up the other curry I bought yesterday. It was another fantastic one. Oh, Tesco, I will really miss you. I then put in another 1.5 hours of work before having a shower and watching on the ITV website the last episode of Broadchurch I’ll have easy access to.

Now, it’s time to do a little research about what I’ve bought tickets to see tomorrow! 🙂

Comfy

I am so happy with my accommodation in Brighton! So I got that upgrade last night to the larger room at the back of the house with a better bed and that in combination with two glasses of wine meant that I slept eight hours straight! I was so surprised when I looked at the clock this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept the night through.

My host makes me feel so comfortable in her home that mornings are a relaxed thing here, just as if I was on my own. I get up when I’m ready and then go to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. This morning, I got ambushed by the ancient, senile, and deaf cat who greeted me in the near darkness with a scream that made me jump high enough to hit the very high ceiling.

Meet Charlie. This is from four years ago, “before he was senile.”

Now, imagine being startled by that meowing, but about ten times louder. That got the adrenaline pumping this morning!

I had a stupidly full day of work to do today and hadn’t factored in the North American time change that made me lose an hour on my deadlines! What didn’t help matters is that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do when I came in from Lewes yesterday. I’d left it since the jobs for that client are normally super easy and take an hour. What awaited me was a rare difficult file that would take almost two hours! I was just bushed, so I contacted the client and requested an extension, which was no problem. Not very professional of me, but she’s really lax and I know that weekend deadlines are pretty soft. So that meant extra work today.

My host and I had sort of thought to go to a nearby Indian restaurant for their buffet for lunch, but she wasn’t in the mood by the time lunch rolled around. England has been bad for my waistline, so I decided a buffet wasn’t a good idea, plus I didn’t have much time for lunch anyway. So I ran down to the Tesco Extra to grab a quick something for lunch and figured that since I now had curry on the brain, I could get one of their prepared meals for dinner. My host didn’t have a microwave when I arrived, but she asked me if that’s something that would be good if she has Airbnb guests and when I said yes, she ordered one. The machine was due to arrive this afternoon, so I took a chance on Tesco’s 2 for £4 curries that are meant to be nuked, figuring that, worst case, I could heat them gently on the stove.

I came out of there like a bandit since I got two of their pizza-type puff pastries for just £0.62 for my lunch, plus the two curries for £5. So that was three meals sorted for half of what I would have paid for the buffet. Getting ready meals is definitely not as cheap as cooking from scratch, but it’s a good compromise between that and eating out, especially since prepared foods in Europe tend to be fresh and made with real ingredients, just like you’d make at home. Not having a pantry full of spices and other staples, it’s also a great way to get some variety and try new things.

When I came in, I helped my host take apart the bed in the room I was in originally, which she’s been letting me use as an office since the new room doesn’t have a desk. Talk about a double upgrade! That done, I went back to work.

A couple of hours later, she came to ask if I wanted to go with her to Asda, kind of like their Walmart (even carries the George brand products), to go pick up the microwave. I must have been a dog in a previous life because all I could think was, “Ooh, I get to go on a car ride!” It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realised I’ve never ridden in a car in this country, just a bus, and let me tell you, it’s scarier close to the ground to be on the wrong side of the road! 😀 Unfortunately, I never did manage to get to drive here on this trip since all the driving schools I contacted for lessons were booked solid. 🙁

The collection process at Asda was very sophisticated. There’s a touch screen flat panel by the entrance where you can put in your order info and then someone brings it out to you on a cart. He checks your ID and you’re good to go.

I didn’t feel like having a poke around Asda since it’s so like Walmart, so I declined the chance to do that, but I did accept the invitation to pop into a Marks and Spencer a little ways away since I’d heard so much about them. They sure carry some nice things! I was tempted by the sushi, but resisted! We did both stock up on heavily discounted pastries so I have a nice pain aux raisins waiting for me tomorrow and the almond croissant will go to the airport with me on Wednesday (it’s in the freezer, so it will stay fresh).

We also popped into another Tesco Express that she said is a good source of discounted stuff at the end of the day and that I should seriously consider checking out on Tuesday to possibly get food for the plane trip. It’s nice having a local guide!

The outing was a lovely break, but I really had to get back to work when we got in and I finished with a half hour to spare before the deadline! I still had another hour to do for the client who had given me an extension on yesterday’s work, but that would be an easy file. So I took another break to have dinner, breaking in the new microwave to heat up a ridiculously good coconut chicken korma curry with rice. I am going to really miss Tesco. Hope my tikka masala tomorrow is as good!

After dinner, I finished my work and then was finally able to take a hot shower to work out the kinks and slip into my jammies before joining my host in her lounge to watch some crap telly. I made sure to confirm that she wasn’t just being polite, but she said that it’s nice to have the company, one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. She got up at one point to grill me a small hot cross bun that she’d bought at M&S a few days ago that I simply had to try as it had caramel and chocolate and was divine. She wasn’t kidding. What a yummy treat!

With the weather being miserable today, I was very happy to stay in and make some money. The next two days are supposed to be sunny… I have quite a bit of work left ahead of being off for a while, so I think I’ll focus on that tomorrow and then go out all of Tuesday to properly explore Brighton. But I might be able to do another wander around Hove for a break tomorrow afternoon depending on how late I get started.

Now, here’s hoping I sleep well again tonight!