To be sure, this all happened Saturday, May 26 th , 2007 . But it's taken me that long to catch up at work, decompress and unravel everything that happened during last weekend's outing in the Canadian city of lights. Surprisingly enough, the world back home did not in fact stop while we were gone.
I bolted out of bed around 8:30a. Oddly enough, K did the same. We were after all in Montreal - our home away from home. Le maison away de le maison. Or something like that.
Were the Delta Montreal a reputable five-star hotel like say, Howard Johnson's, they would provide complimentary wifi. Alas, their guaranteed affluent clientèle with guaranteed expense accounts guaranteed us that if we wanted net access, we would indeed be coughing up the $19.99 daily fee. My response to that was "no" which I'm pretty sure is the same in French as in English. Thus, I was reduced to committing all my memories to an offline Word file two to three days after they actually happened. The horror, the humanity!
We dined on a ridiculously over-priced breakfast at Le Fripon in the Old Port of Montreal. Oddly enough (or not), the tri-lingual menu offered quite a snore-inducing list of breakfast options. Odd because the three languages were French, English and . German? Either they see a sizable number of German tourists here or the chef is strangely proud of his heritage - proud enough to brag about it in print on a breakfast menu to foreign tourists. And even odder because the food selection was like something from a prison menu. You want ham? You pay by the slice. Toast? Extra. A plate and a fork? I'm sorry, there's a ten dollar convenience fee for that. Orange juice? See the personal loan officer over there. It was vaguely reminiscent of buying tickets at Ticketmaster. Their one saving grace was an extensive bottled beer selection, which encompassed the entire back side of the rather large menu in small ten point type. It was, however, still quite early. And I don't start imbibing until at least, at least 9:30 . Even on vacation, a man's gotta have standards, no?
The entire week leading up to our trip, the weathermen (a word Lewis Black assures us translates to "liar") were shouting rain, rain, nothing but rain the entire weekend. Rain in French must mean eight-five degrees with nary a cloud in the sky. Either way, it didn't matter: we were taking a white water jet boat ride down the Lachine Rapids - part of the St. Lawrence River - courtesy of Saute Mouton .
A few quick facts about the experience:
- White water rapids are ranked on a scale of 0 (imagine your nana grandma's pool) to 6 (think Niagara Falls ). The Lachine Rapids are class 4 and 5. Not exactly somewhere you'd wanna take a quick swim. Even with your Water Wings .
- The jet boat can reach speeds of 90 km/h (about 55 MPH)
- The boat is designed to ride in as little as eighteen inches of water. That's shallower than some baths you've probably taken.
- The massive and almost comically large whirlpools created by the rapids will suck a grown man underwater, even with a life vest on.
- " Lachine " translates to " China " in French.
How to best describe Jet Boating Montreal? It's like being locked inside a giant, industrial washing machine, then having it strapped to the deck of a crab fishing boat from the Deadliest Catch for an hour. It's the wettest I've ever been in my life. I had water injected into orifices I didn't even know I had. Some new ones may have even been created, I can't be sure.
The trip kicks off with a bi-lingual intro from the kind proprietor, Jack, who's been working the same gig for almost twenty-five years and it's clear that he loves what he does. He and the incredibly friendly and professional staff provide a thirty minute crash course in what to expect, what gear we'll need, and how not to fall in.
We were provided with about three layers of clothing on top of what we were already wearing, including military surplus sweaters (snazzy padded shoulders free of charge!), a full body vinyl jump suit, and a giant yellow poncho. Immediately after donning these quasi-moon suits, the crew quickly notes that none of this will make a lick of difference in keeping us dry. It's sole purpose is to keep us warm.
Shortly after two in the afternoon, we head out. At the end of the pier, the boat makes a quick turn to face the unmistakable Old Port clock tower where a photographer is standing to snap our pictures. With a quick wave and a camera flash, we're off. After a ten minute ride up river, it's immediately clear that the crew knows what they're talking about. It's balmy and eighty-five degrees back at the port. Out on the open water, the temp drops about twenty to thirty degrees. And the water will prove to be even colder.
Twenty minutes into the trip, we reach the rapids. I've never seen water flow up- and downstream at the same time . In the same place. Now, I've also never been white water rafting, so perhaps this is par for the course. But the whole section of the river that the rapids encompass is like a massive, stewing cauldron. Sure, I've seen it on TV before, but this? Actually seeing it up close? It's a whole different game.
Our guide (who is standing on the front of the boat by the way) relays a variety of waves that we'll encounter out here: the Hawaii Five-O, the Roller Coaster, a few others I think he said in French but I can't be sure. I was too busy draining multiple gallons of water from my ear canal. When the waves hit, it's like a superhero-powered hydro-punch in the face. I mean some of them border on painful, but in an awesome "Holy crap, did you see that?!?" kind of way.
For the entire half-hour or so that we spent actually in the rapids, the eight year old girl behind us didn't stop screaming; the ecstatic teenage French boy in the bench seat in front of us didn't stop emphatically shouting what I think was "Poisson!" ("Fish!"); and K and I didn't stop laughing. It was incredible - the best time we'd both had in a long while. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Montreal . It's something we've added to our must-do list every time we go.
After drying off, snapping up a couple of photos that Saute Mouton was kind enough to put up for sale, and each grabbing a cup of complimentary hot chocolate, we headed back to the port for some afternoon grub.
Les Trois Brasseurs - a great Canadian brewpub chain we'd visited on our last trip to the city - was our eatery of choice. The beer there is fantastic and they even offer a variety of beer cocktails for those not really into alcoholic beverages of the hop and barley persuasion. These basically consists of lesser amounts of beer (less than a pint) mixed with more non-beer-drinker-friendly flavors, such as soda, grenadine, and a few others. LTB also offers a great wood-grilled pizza selection, of which we chose to partake.
At some point, we made the switch to drinking mojitos and I'm fairly certain (through hazy memory and even hazier photos) that that was the tipping point when the night fell into mindless debauchery and giggling.
After a bit of bar hopping to fill up the remainder of the night, we settled upon Boris Bistro to close out the evening. Don't let the lame website or the restaurant's unassuming, "under construction/condemned building" facade fool you. Their open-air, outdoor garden terrace makes for a perfect romantic date atmosphere. I, of course, did my best to completely erase any semblance of romance from said atmosphere (as indicated in the photo above), but that's what multiple mojitos do to me. And I blame K for that.