Out and about...

Yesterday, we finally had a chance to go explore a bit of Montreal. Other than the obvious frustrations of traveling in a group of 60 people (of teachers, no less...good Lord!!!), it was a nice afternoon once we got underway. Our first order of business was a stroll through the Vieux-Montréal neighborhood...which means the old part of Montreal. Ironically, even though this was one of the oldest parts of the city, we initially saw some pretty cool contemporary architecture.

As we walked around, we also started to see some older buildings that looked like they had been around for awhile. Due to fire, which I think struck most major cities way back when, a lot of Montreal has been built and rebuilt. In fact a huge part of Vieux-Montréal is a giant archeological site. The city planners just kept tearing down buildings and adding new structures on top of the old foundations. Or, like in this picture, they just added to structures that were already there. How many previous structures can you see here?
We also visited the Musée d'archéologie et d'histoire de Montréal, which I'll leave you to translate :) It was fascinating! We had a really good guide who took us down into an archeological excavation they've turned into a museum. She told us about the First Nations (Native Americans in "Canadian") presence here at the time the French and British colonizers arrived, showed us the remains of the first European cemetary in Quebec, and the site of the first city market. And all of this was UNDERGROUND. How cool is that?!?

Here's a picture of us in the first city sewers (ewww....but not smelly)...

And here's what was above us at the street level...c'est pas beautiful ça? Progress is pretty amazing.
Especially in North America where we seem to have this urge to completely reinvent ourselves every so often. While it's great to appreciate and conserve history, it's also something else to keep trying to top yourselves. Comments welcome :)

 I discovered something else amazing today too. Maple Syrup Gelato...holy smokes. Good stuff. Good thing I ordered a mini cone, which was indeed the smallest cone I've ever had. However, with the sweetness and the richness of the maple flavor, it was just right...



So, I'm here in Montreal and it has been quite an adjustment to go back to the life of a student! We have about 5-6 hours of class per day and...homework! Up until this point, the homework has mostly consisted of reading, but yesterday we were assigned our first project! I already have a few ideas, so I think I'll be okay.

I'm living in a dorm room as well, which has also been a bit of a readjustment. I had kind of thought that showers and toilets down the hall were things of the past, but they're back! Overall, though, it's very comfortable and it's nice to have my own room.

There are about 60 teachers here and it is truly a global and diverse group. There are people from just about every continent and tons of interesting countries, including Ecaudor, Saudi Arabia, China, Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Iraq, among others.  Since there are so many languages, we all speak French together, which is pretty cool...people (including me, I'll admit) have a tendency to think that French is only useful in Europe, but this experience is proof positive that that is not the case. I could have run into any of these people during my travels and been able to communicate with them in French.
Welcome dinner, aka. mini-UN.

As far as the city itself goes, I feel like I haven't really had much of a chance to truly explore. What I've seen, though, I really like. Montreal seems to be an extremely vibrant, energetic place with people that are incredibly friendly, entertaining, and open. The accent is a bit difficult to decipher (some people have a stronger accent than others), which leaves me scratching my head sometimes, but it's good practice for my listening comprehension.

Today, we visited a market...yes, I know...I'm obsessed with markets. But isn't admitting your addiction the first step towards recovery? The market was really pretty...tons of flowers and yummy things to eat, such as Lime-Coconut-Ginger Sorbet. Délicieux!

You probably won't be able to read the tags on the sausages here, but they had every flavor imaginable...wild boar, bison and blueberry, duck, honey and apricot, bacon and cheese, lamb and mint...wow!

We also wandered around Little Italy and got a chance to see some houses in the traditional Montrealais style...apparently around the turn of the century, the style was to put the stairs on outside of the building. Not sure why, but I suspect maybe it has something to do with the amount of snow that they get here in the winter...maybe so they can leave the house via the second story if need be? The rest of La Petite Italie was somewhat underwhelming, but it was fun to walk around a different neighborhood. 
Last night, on the other hand, we visited Le Quartier Latin to see one of the most animated neighborhoods we've seen so far. There were restaurants everywhere and tons of outdoor tables with people milling around and chatting between tables. We struck up a conversation with the people at the table next to us and learned some great Québécois expressions, such as "mon chum/ma blonde" (my boyfriend/my girlfriend), "des pièces" (slangy way to say dollars), "c'est correcte" (cool, that's good). I'll have to keep working on perfecting my accent, though....
Dans le Quartier Latin avec des nouveaux amis


T'aimes ça...manger des patates???

Okay, for those of you who haven't ever had me as a teacher, the title of this post may not make much sense. For those of you who have been in one of my classes, need I say more?? (If you're curious...check it out: http://www.tetesaclaques.tv/video.php?vid=30)

It seemed the perfect quote to introduce the topic of eating on PEI...potatoes are one of their main agricultural fortés. In fact, while driving through western PEI, I had to swerve to avoid potatoes in the road thinking they were large, tire-destroying rocks.

Chocolate-covered potato chips

The potatoes were, in a word, exceptional. I had them fried, mashed and baked...and the best, chocolate covered. They sound slightly scary, but they were delicious. We even got to see them being made, which always makes things taste better...well, most of the time.

Making the choco-chips

Also delicious and not scary at all was Cows Ice Cream. Apparently, this was voted the best ice cream in Canada and made a top ten list of best ice cream in the world. Although I haven't sampled all of the other top ten finalists, I can vouch for Cows. In order to be as scientific as possible, we sampled several flavors...my favorite was PEI Blueberry.


Multiple plates from the 60-foot salad bar
Celebrating Canada Day in style
The mussels were amazing and there are lobster dinners everywhere you turn. How can you go wrong in a place that serves lobster at church socials?? In fact, the photo of me with maple leaf tats was taken at the home of the 60-foot salad bar, which made up just a small part of the official lobster dinner on the menu. It was a great way to celebrate Canada Day in style...now if only I could get my pants to fit again...


The five senses on PEI

The beaches of Prince Edward Island were a bit shocking...bright red sand (for the most part), bright blue sea and sky, and bright green vegetation. The colors of nature were a visual feast in PEI and I can see how someone like L.M. Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame, could fall in love with it. I enjoyed my time there, but my heart was promised long ago to Muskoka in Northern Ontario and the south of France. In any case, feast your eyes on these images...feel the wind in your hair, the sand in your toes, the sun on your back, the jolt of freezing water on your feet; smell the depths of the sea being washed onto the gritty shore, the fresh catch just off the boats; see the panorama of color stretching as far as the eye can see; hear the hush and fade of waves meeting the sand, the wind in the sea grass; taste...well, lots of good things to taste on PEI, but that's for another post. À bientôt :)