Monthly Archives: September 2005

New York New York

Arrived in NYC around 9.30pm – first thing on the agenda was find some dinner! We had massive bags with us of course but hey, needs must. We ended up going to an Italian place called pizza village or something like that, cuz it was right outside the Port Authority bus station. Was a little intimidating arriving at night because there were hundreds of people out on the streets and we didn’t have a clue where we were going, also some weird Eastern European looking people were staring at me when I went inside the restaurant and some Brazilian guy (I think) started shouting at someone else for looking at him.. I dunno. You get the picture.

After dinner caught a cab to Phil’s place as couldn’t be assed to try and navigate the 17 blocks or so to his house (although turns out it really wasn’t that far away – every 10 blocks North/South is equivalent to 1 mile). Phil had already gone out with his housemates when I arrived but left a note and I was in bad need of a shower anyway! I found the bar they’d gone to in Greenwich Village after a couple of phonecalls. I tried to get some directions from some girls who looked straight out of sex and the city but they said, “sorry darling we can’t help you”. By the time I got to the bar though everyone was getting ready to move on. I guess it was already around 12.30 at that time and we were out celebrating someone’s birthday, apparently. Of course though the queues outside the clubs were ridiculous so we sacked off 2 places before eventually getting in somewhere. Sadly we had to go somewhere outside the ‘meatpackers’ district’, which I’d been told was the place to go, but we had no choice.. Drinks prices were ridiculously expensive – 2 drinks cost me $26 on my credit card with their automatic 20% gratuity.. Bugger. Phil’s friends were cool tho (although a lot of ppl left early), but one girl thought I was from Boston and started telling me all about how nice London is. Ha.

Next day we went to the Empire State building, pretty nice views and some cool historical info about what the city used to look like (lots of historical info dotted around the place). Took lots of photos, as ever. Then we went exploring around time square and ended up getting our picture put up on the massive screens outside one of the buildings!!! Bit of a claim to fame I reckon – check out pic. Visited a few interesting looking shops and decided to go get dinner at Red Lobster. I’ve always been intrigued to see what it’s like after the mention in Happy Gilmore! (the guy Shooter gets to put off Happy suggests they go for dinner there ;) It turned out to be pretty good, although rather more expensive than we were hoping, oops. Learnt our lesson after that and spent progressively less on each meal!

Boston

The bus to Boston (Massachusets!) got in about 40 minutes ahead of schedule at 6am. Sleep turned out to be a bit difficult on this journey, especially as we all had to get off (and take all our bags off) to go through US immigration a couple of hours after we set out. As such we were duly wrecked on arrival in Boston, and spent an hour lying on benches in the station to try and get a bit of extra sleep! I was anticipating sticking our bags in lockers at the greyhound terminal, but as chance would have it there was not a single locker in the bus station, or in the train station next door. I can only assume that they’re worried about someone leaving a bomb in there… Though this didn’t dissuade the Montreal station. Anyway, to cut to the chase we managed to eventually stow our bags in the greyhound package depot thing for a nominal fee, but had to wait until 7.30am for that to open.

Once the bags were out of the way we were free to go off and explore. There was some kind of race going on around the part of town next to the water, even at that time in the morning! They must be crazy.

First mission was to find breakfast which turned out to be french toast and sausage (they weren’t kidding with the singular sausage – it was possibly the most pathetic sausage I’ve ever seen), which we had to walk miles to find as we had no map :D
wandered around what seemed to be the Little Italy kind of area and sat on some benches watching planes come in to land over the Atlantic. Very pleasant. Was also a shock to see the Atlantic ocean again and know that the body of water was connected to England after looking out on the Pacific for so long. It often surprised me to think that, looking out over the sea in Vancouver, I was staring off into the opposite side of the world. A place which for me lies totally uncharted :)

Once we’d tracked down a map navigation became a little easier and we set off on the same route that the trolley tour takes you (the actual tour costs around $30, so we thought we’d do it the cheap way by walking). Didn’t quite make it over to bunker hill to see the monument there as it looked like a trip within itself to get there, and due to our time constraints I settled for taking a picture from miles away on full zoom! Continued walking past the stadium where the Celtics and the Bruins play, but it was mostly closed up inside. Wanted to go inside the sport store there with all the jerseys, but was denied!

The part of Boston near the stadium looks like you would imagine from movies and such like – quite old buildings with leafy park and old Irish kind of looking bars! Actually a lot of the town looks quite English – a certain district where there were most of the historical buildings looks very much like a nice suburb in London. There was plenty to see around the town, and while we were cutting it pretty fine with most places we went to in terms of fitting everything in, with Boston we didn’t have a hope in hell of getting around everywhere in a day!

The town as a whole was very beautiful and I can see why my friend Phil was insistent on my visiting; originally I was going to go straight from Montreal to New York. Briefly though we went to see the bar which inspired Cheers, the park next to the canal, the church on the town square next to the library, some great big shopping mall with lots of boutiques, fashionistas and expensive hotels, chinatown, the boats from the Boston tea party (which unfortunately were closed due to renovation), one of the universities (although not one of the famous ones) and a little of the shopping district. It would help if I dug out the map to find some names, but am being lazy right now!

By 4pm though we were absolutely beat, so decided to head back and catch the bus to Newwwwwwww York City. I didn’t want to leave it to late as I had to get to Phil’s apartment after arriving, so we set off on the 4 and a half hour journey at 5pm…

Québec

Quebec is a lot like I was expecting Montreal to be. Many, many old buildings and quite a rustic feel. We arrived in town pretty early and when we started exploring there was hardly anyone in the streets! Made a nice change from the hordes in Montreal but later on in the day there were hundreds and hundreds of tourists walking around too.

There is still a castle in Quebec, and the fortifications are still intact around the town. In places you have to walk up quite a lot of stairs (or take a lift thing if you’re feeling particularly lazy) and there a cool boardwalk which runs round the side of the castle wall on the side facing out to water. Once again we spent the day marching the streets for the most part in sunshine (it was really warm in Montreal too but pretty breezy) until around 4pm. We were going to go inside the castle but the tour guides stopped me when I tried to sneak off alone :) apparently you can only go on the paid tour. Boring. There were a lot of cannons lying around too. Well, not exactly lying around, but sitting there presumably unused. Provided for a good photo opportunity :)

In a café in the morning I bumped into a girl from the roundhouse called Kristelle, who was a chef. She was working there, what are the chances. Also attempted to use French where possible but most of the waitresses wanted to speak English cuz apparently they don’t get much opportunity to practise! Hard to believe. Also spent a significant part of the afternoon shopping for souvenirs (not for myself) which got a bit wearing!

Headed back to Montreal at 5 and got back around 8.30pm. We were debating staying an extra night in Montreal but the hostel we were in was booked up so got some dinner and made our way overnight to Boston…

Montréal

So the next stop is Montreal – and it’s almost like being in a different country!!! I mean, technically it is, and the money’s the same, but on the street it’s much more common for people to be speaking French than English.

The hostel we’re staying in is lovely – it’s right by the bus station and in the heart of the Latin quarter. In fact the rooms are still so new you can smell the newness! We went for a stroll to find some dinner (as it was already quite late by the time we arrived) and ended up walking through a quite seedy area ending up in Chinatown (naturally). Took us quite a while to find the cheapest restaurant going but the food was pretty good even though all the staff were having their own dinner party in the centre of the room :)

The next day we headed up to Mont Royal park, which winds around a hilltop and looks down over the city (have to make do with that as no lookout tower here). The signposting was pretty ambiguous but we managed to find the chalet where the lookout is and then went on a circular route past this big metal cross that they light up at night on the hilltop before wandering down a steep path through the trees to the downtown area. On the way we passed by McGill university and the art museum then explored the main town. There are many churches and monuments scattered around, the cathedral was very impressive with its blue decor albeit typically gloomy inside. The old part of town retains its narrow cobbled streets and looks very European although it’s horribly touristy. Plus there are lots of people who try to encourage you to come into their restaurants, which I would be happy to do without! At one point the skies got very dark and it started to rain pretty heavily, although fortunately we could take shelter inside Notre Dame cathedral until they kicked us out, by which time it was dry again :)
Once again we searched out the cheapest restaurant for dinner before walking along the pier to take some night time shots of “vieux Montréal”.

On the way home encountered lots of students singing initiation songs in French. Many cool bars around and quite buzzing so I think it would be quite a good place to come party! Off to Québec early tomorrow though for a day trip…