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Saturday 17 Nov 2007
Montréal, Canada

Looooong time no wordy....

Sorry for lack of updates for past two weeks... reason being: I basically haven't had time to do anything except work!!

There had been major complications with the internet connection at the apartment, which ensured that I would spend all day trying to get the landlord to fix it (meaning that I would have to work at the weekend to make up for the lost day etc etc)

Thankfully THIS is the first weekend that I have completely free, so I can finally get a chance to head out and explore proper.

Having no internet in the apartment DID expose me to one of the cool things about downtown Montréal though: FREE HIGH-SPEED WIFI throughout the city! There's an organisation setup here called "Isle sans Fils" (Island without Wires), which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to delivering free high-speed internet throughout the city. And it's damn fast too... Many a day would I lug my two laptops down to Atwater Library and setup the "office" on one of the desks (much to the annoyance of the numerous students who want to use the desk-space... ya boo sucks to ya!).

It worked somewhat.. but I really need my 3-screen setup with the external monitor to be really productive.

One night last week, when it was too late to head to the library and the internet had crashed AGAIN, I had to make my way to one of the local gay bars where the free internet was within reach (unfortunately the free wifi doesn't reach as far as my apartment). So here I was working away while "I'm too sexy for my shirt" was playing over the loud-speaker, while the local clientèle were observing me from a distance... *cringe*
Now I know how women feel when they're getting gawked at all the time! Luckily I managed to upload whatever I had to and head on out just as one of them was coming over to buy me a drink.. yeesh! Laugh

Yep that's one thing about Montréal you notice from the off: it's probably one of the most openly gay cities I've ever been to. Notwithstanding, my apartment block is situated on the edge of "The Village" (a quarter where rainbow flags adorn every bar, and posters of hugging men hang off lampposts) so I'm probably exposed to it more than most, but still the media is full of articles about "Queer Theatre" and "Gay Cinema", etc

Pretty damn gay is all I can say.
Obligatory disclaimer: not that there's anything wrong with that of course! In fact The Village is exceedingly charming and even the bar I went to was decorated exquisitely.

Despite my feverish working habits, I have managed to venture out occasionally to explore...

I was out and about last Saturday evening (after I had finished working all day of course!) to take a wander around downtown in order to find something to eat and get a few beers. Wow this city is BUZZING at the weekends. There are probably more restaurants and bars than gay people here (and THAT'S saying something!). It's like Temple Bar, but without the rowdy British clientèle or urine on the streets. Apparently a lot of people come in from the suburbs and even the US at the weekend to party and get 10$ lap-dances in one of the hundreds of stripper clubs across the island.

Personally I prefer heading out on the town during the week when you can get a seat in any restaurant, without having to queue, and there is great live music to be had.
One of my favourite spots now is a fantastic Mexican restaurant on Rue St. Denis which has the most amazing fajitas (they give you all the ingredients and you build it up yourself), adjoining an excellent blues bar (where I saw a great band the other night. The singer/guitar player frequently would stand up on a large organ and kick it about the place AS the organ player was still playing it! Mad!)

Another night I went exploring the "Old quarter" of Montréal with it's cobble-stone streets and exquisite architecture along the harbour-front. It reminds me so much of a cross between Temple Bar's narrow cobble-stone streets, overlooked by Parisian-styled 3 story buildings, lit up by 19th century street lanterns. Rather expectantly, most of the windows are used as art-gallery displays, and there are many classy restaurants around here.

When I want to indulge myself in some quality food, but not break the bank, I have found myself in the rather excellent Food Court in the Eaton Centre. This isn't just any old food court, this place has about 60 separate eateries, each one catering to a completely separate national menu. You've got several different takes on Japanese food (Teriyaki stand, Sushi stand, Noodle stand), Greek, Lebanese, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, French, British (fish n chips), Hungarian, Russian.. you name it.

And the quality (from the ones I've been to) is damn good (I had a fully-loaded paella the other day, and a delicious Teriyaki a few days before that, plus an obligatory BUBBLE TEA for desert Cheesy) This being Montréal, of course, you can buy beers at all these places. Yeah that's right.. beer at a food court.

I said it before and I'll say it again, the French sure know how to colonise a country!

Some other interesting facts about Montreal:

They have 30km of underground streets with shops/offices/hotels/bars all adjoined! This is so you can live your entire life here without ever having to get to the surface (the idea being that you can still enjoy the shopping experience even when it's -35C outside)

The name "Montreal" is literally Mont Real or Mont Royal .. i.e. the name of the hill-sized mountain that overlooks the city. I can't believe I never thought of that Wink

The weather here is definitely getting colder these days.. I'm happy I have my snowboarding jacket with me. It's not the "fierce" cold I've been warned about, but rather an extremely exhilarating 'Freshness' that I actually love. Apparently there is a lot of humidity here which means that in the summer it gets very sticky and in the winter the humidity chills the air even more and it gets under your skin. I actually find the humidity makes the air super-fresh and the 'chill' is actually quite a welcome sensation to someone like me who tends to get quite hot while walking around in warm clothes.

Other stuff...

The apartment I'm in is pleasant enough, but it has one of the WORST selections of TV channels that I've yet experienced. Of 36 channels, 5 are in English and of those 4 are American channels like CNN and CBS etc.

I swear American TV is completely un-watchable (except for Conan O'Brien on at 12.30 am each night). You would think, by watching American TV that every American was either Ill or about to go broke, since about 3 out of 5 commercials (which are shown every 5 minutes) are either about some chronic disease medication, or health insurance, or a bank loan of some sort.

And they're completely non-humorous (in typical American style)

I would rather sit through an entire day of watching Irish TV ads, than sit for 10 minutes staring blankly at US television.

I don't even know what's happening in the news, since CNN is so unbelievable crap and seems to only show either Larry King, or some US presidential rubbish. Mad

On a positive note though, I got my insurance money back from AXA this week.. the bastids selected a very conservative exchange rate though, which meant I lost 100 euro of what I was owed in the process, but still 1,860 is nothing to be sniffed at. And I suppose they DID pay for my other fees, like the overnight in the hospital and getting the staples removed etc.

Anyhoo.. I'm off to enjoy Montreal this weekend and see what this city has to offer apart from the restaurants and bars!

======== Later....

Went to see "No Country For Old Men" at the cinema later on...

Brilliant piece of thriller film-making by the Coen bros. in the mould
of "Eastern Promises" or "A History of Violence".

It's atmosphere-lade

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