a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: In Montréal

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Montréal

SUMMARY: Je suis arrivé! (Arrivée? Arriver? Crud... I am here!)

The dogs were sure that we were going to do agility, else why would I wake to an alarm at a ludicrously dark hour of the morning? Even though I gave them their Guard The House Goodies(tm) and told them to "Guard the house, be good!", they really thought they were going out the door with me. Poor babies.

The whole trip was generally uneventful. Renter dropped me off at San Jose airport; I flew to Chicago O'Hare, caught my connecting flight to Montréal, got to the hotel... And here I am. With my brand new garishly purple luggage.

Flew to Chicago next to a cute, sweet little white dog in a sherpa bag named Mary Lou. (OK, all you other grammarians out there, go to town.) But no photos because I saw her head only once, briefly. She was a very good, quiet, settled girl for her first airline flight ever.

Ack! My desk light just went out! Now I'm typing in the dark! (I always think I'm a touch typist until this happens...)

Here's my crowded airplane from San Jose to Chicago.

I actually had space between my knees and the seat in front of me, and if I arranged my computer carefully, I could stretch my legs out under that self-same seat. Catnapped briefly.

All the luxuries of home! On your very own tray table! Plus the latest on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton!

On the first flight, I didn't have a window seat. On the second flight, it was a teeny jet and my camera was negligently in the overhead compartment while we were flying over the Chicago skyline, so all I could get was this sort of Great Lake shoreline on the opposite site. Just picture standing there looking out to the west towards Chicago--which you can't see because that's one bloody huge lake.

I am surrounded by French French French. Dredging up 4 years of classes from 3 decades ago--I avidly read every sign between the airport and hotel, trying to get my brain around the vocabulary again. Lots of basic stuff I can still read--"toujours frais" (always fresh) on a restaurant; but then "hamburgers hot dogs poitrines" or maybe I misremember the word--soemthing that sounded familiar but I couldn't place at all. Like that.

Our French heritage (remember 1066 and the Normans and all that?) has ensured that there's a tremendous amount of vocabulary that's essentially the same-- "banque nationale", for example, or that well-known old Norman "hamburger"--so I'm not as far out of my depth as I would be with Spanish or German, say.

But an octagonal red sign, outlined in white, that says ARRETE, just LOOKS wrong!

Fortunately everyone speaks English, and far far better than I speak French.

But here's the other tricky part: They've turned the compass sideways here! Everything labeled nord/sud (north south) is really west/east, and est/ouest is really north/south. That's because the St. Lawrence, which mostly flows east to west, right next to Montréal makes a little jog and flows north. Even the maps are printed with North to the right side because it makes everything in the city start to make sense. Just don't think too hard about where the sun is rising and setting, because it will only confuse you.

I'm not completely unfamiliar with this--in Silicon Valley, 101 North goes due west, as does I-280 North. So people are always telling other people to take Lawrence Expressway east or west--because it's perpendicular to those freeways--but it in fact runs due north/south. *I* know which ways things flow, but then I tend to orient myself around maps, not around freeway signs.

Anyway--having lots of fun for having been here only a little while and being tired tired tired.


  1. I always name my Sherpa Bags Mary Lou.

    Have a great time.

  2. Umm... I'm pretty sure that fast food sign you saw was selling "poutines" rather than "poitrines" which means chests.

    Although just to be sure I looked it up in my french-english dictionary and indeed "poitrine" can mean breast in the culinary sense, so maybe it did in fact say "poitrines" if it was a fast food joint trying to class it up a bit.

    In case anyone is wondering, poutine (regrettably pronounced "poo-TEEN", a bit like the Russian guy only with the stress on the second syllable instead of the first) is a well-known and well-loved dish over here (here being central Canada, not sure if east and west Canada are as fond of it) consisting of french fries covered with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. Even our "New York Fries" fast food outlets in malls sell poutine.

  3. Yeah, I pretty much made up "poitrines" from my fatigued memory. What you say sounds much more plausible. And more edible, too.