Monday, January 09, 2012

Montreal With No Kids

Epu's unemployment has not in general been a good thing for our family, but a couple happy side effects have occurred. One is that the number of companies inviting him to interview and urging him to consider relocation has been a great confidence boost to him. He did not realize his skills were so much in demand!
The other side effect, we are living right now. We were offered the opportunity to travel to Montreal for a job interview/getting-to-know-you trip this weekend. Our only expense would be my flight, which I got with miles, and of course our meals while we are here. We're still in Montreal as I type this at a cafe near his possible future employer.
When you get an email on a Wednesday telling you you fly to Montreal on Friday, some scrambling ensues. We had house guests for the weekend, who willingly converted themselves from guest status to babysitter/cat sitter status. I demonstrated diaper changing for them and thanked my stars that one of them has worked as a lifeguard and therefore knows CPR. It would just be for one night, until my parents could get there to pick up the little ones and Nutmeg's best friend's parents would pick her up.
You have to appreciate friends and relatives who are so willing to step up even though they DON'T want you to move away. It kind of makes you think, would I be able to get this kind of support if I moved 1,000 miles or more away? Well, maybe, after years of cultivating new friendships.
We flew separately, because the company put Epu on a flight on a different airline than my miles. I strolled through O'Hare kid free, enjoyed a smooth flight with an empty seat next to me (wish I could have given it to Epu, who had to take a later flight with a connection and layover), and touched down in Montreal at 5:30 p.m. local time. The customs line zigzagged through a large room but moved pretty quickly. I was sad to realize that my smart phone would not get data here in Canada unless I paid for roaming or upgraded my plan to an international one. Oh well.
Once through customs, I took a bus to the city center for just $8. Canadian and US dollars are about the same right now, I guess, but you can assume I mean Canadian when I quote prices here. The bus driver was the first person I met who did not speak English, so I was able to pull out my dusty French to ask, "Is this stop No. 7?" It was, and our hotel was just a few steps away.
Downtown Montreal looks much less dense than downtown Chicago. There was a parking lot directly cross from the Hyatt hotel charging just $8 a day. Not a parking garage, just a lot. With a car wash next to it.
I soon found out that what Montreal lacks in high rise, it makes up for with low, um, sink? That is, there are several levels of corridors, stores and other stuff below the street level downtown, and you can walk for miles without going outdoors.
So after I checked into the hotel, I strolled underground, bought some poutine for dinner at an underground mall food court, and then wandered through the Place des Arts -- a museum/theater complex -- until I ended up at the subway entrance. There was a drunk man with a very bushy black beard singing The Doors' Riders on the Storm, keeping perfect time by stomping with his big winter boots. His deep voice sounded just awesome in the underground chamber, and yet, with him booming out, "Killer on the road ..." I was not about to go close enough to give him any change.
I went back to the room and watched the local news in French, pleased to discover that I could follow most of it. What I didn't pick up the first time, I caught the second time they played it, and by the time Epu showed up around midnight, I was able to fill him in on local events (unarmed man shot by police in the subway, that afternoon before we arrived) and the weather report (cold, snow).


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