We’re at the end of the universe, at the edge of knowledge itself, and you’re busy… blogging!
– Doctor Who
This will be an omnibus entry. I’ve been up to a lot of things lately, and haven’t taken the proper time to write them all down, so as I recall, this is what has happened lately.
I took the train to and from Montreal on this trip, hoping it would be as good as my experiences with trains in Europe. Let me just say this now: we have a lot of catching up to do. My experience with Via Rail can only be described as mediocre. First of all, booking was a bit complex. The website doesn’t show a breakdown of fares, and it’s difficult fo compare classes and prices. You have to choose your fare class, then go through the booking procedure. At the end, it shows you the total amount. To compare a different class, you have to go back and choose it, and make your way through the booking procedure again. A chart like airlines use would make much more sense. Even the ticketing agent I talked to at the train station admitted that it requires a Ph.D to understand the Via Rail fare structure. There was also a $10 service charge on each direction. I don’t get that. I bought the ticket directly from Via Rail. Why should there be a service fee? It should be built into the fare. That being said, the ride wasn’t expensive. I paid about $200 including taxes and service fees for my return trip from Aldershot (Burlington) to Montreal.
The ride was reasonably comfortable. Although things seemed a bit worn out and dated, the seats were big and reclined quite a lot, so you could stretch out and have a nap. The train tended to rock and sway quite a bit while it was moving. At times it felt like it might tip over. That was slightly disconcerting.
The Internet on-board the train was completely useless. Via Rail has a day rate of $8.95 for Internet on board, which would be quite reasonable if it actually worked. However, it seemed to be slower than a dial-up modem, and more often than not I got time-outs when trying to view web pages. I tried to connect to MSN Messenger and Google Talk, but it would often fail to connect, or only stay connected for about 5 minutes at a time. I was going to let it go and just chalk it up to experience, but I got two billing notifications from Via about the Internet service. They actually charged me double for non-functional Internet. When I called customer service to complain, they said I had to understand the way Internet works on a moving train, and gave me a lecture about cell towers and satellites. Personally, I don’t care how it works. I just want it to work. If they’re going to charge money for it, it should be useable. Period.
My train was late in both directions. It arrived in Montreal 30 minutes behind schedule. Apparently because it was a hot day, the tracks were hot and the train couldn’t go full speed. Ok. Weird, but whatever. On the way home, the tracks were not hot, but the train was still 45 minutes late. I am still confused about the train system. The schedules are all worked out months in advance. There’s no traffic to worry about. Barring native protestors blocking the tracks, trains should be on time, no? No. Compared to my experiences on trains in France, England and Finland, Canadian trains are a bit of a letdown.
Moving on… Canada Day weekend in Montreal was fantastic. I had a bunch of friends visit from home, and we partied like rock stars for the whole weekend. The purpose of the trip was to see the Jazz Festival, but we ended up spending most of our time eating and drinking, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Friday night, we had dinner at Apres le Jour (forgive my lack of accents – I’m lazy). It’s a trendy-looking bring-your-own-wine place in the Plateau. I had a cold asparagus soup and rack of lamb, among other things, all accompanied by copious quantities of delicious red wine. Yum.
On Saturday night, we headed to Globe Supper Club, another trendy place on St. Laurent. I had another memorable meal, this time wild salmon, blackened Cajun-style on a bed of spiced corn niblets. The party really got rolling that night, with inumerable bottles of wine. We treated ourselves to bottle service too, with Grey Goose vodka.
The picture of Tan was provided by Amy. He likes bottle service.
We stayed until they kicked us out at 3am, and then went back to Tan’s place for more drinks and food.
Sunday night involved more eating. This time, we went to Mythos, also in the plateau, for Greek food. They had fantastic appetizers: cheeses, dips, salads, giant shrimp, and fried bread. The fixed price menu that included more food than we could possibly eat. We ate it all anyway, and drank some very interesting privately imported bottles of Greek wine. The Greeks have come a long way with their wines since the horrendous bottle of Domestika that I had about 10 years ago.
After dinner we went to a giant street party on Crescent. Every bar (and that’s all there are on that street) had a beer tent and DJ. The atmosphere was wild. We partied there until about 3am and I stumbled home again.
Monday morning we met at El Dorado on Laurier for breakfast. I had a deliciously fresh Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. It was $14, and worth every penny.ï¿½ Some of the group headed back to Toronto after breakfast, but the rest of us went back to the Jazz Festival for some more music and hanging out. That night, we walked down to Old Montreal for dinner. We found a restaurant called Modavie there, which had a live jazz singer performing on the stage beside our table. I had Duo d’Agneau, which was a lamb shank served with two lamb medallions. Perfect. For the rest of the evening, we watched some more jazz, then went and picked up beer and wine at the grocery store to enjoy on Tan’s terrasse.
It wasn’t easy getting up to go to work the next day. But, I met the last few Toronto stragglers for Thai food at lunch. That made a nice break in the day. I saw this guy before we went into the restaurant.
Thursday night I saw Transformers. Oh. My. God. It was good. This is the dumb American blow-em-up movie done to perfection. There was no thinking required, yet it was well-written and reasonably well-acted. There were some funny moments. But, more than that, giant robots rolling around and fighting like dogs, demolishing the streets of a large city. Now that’s entertainment!
Anyway, I’m back in Hamilton now. I had a pretty busy weekend. Improv rehearsals on Saturday, then dinner with Dad. Sunday I went to see a play in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Essentially, the message was that love complicates things and makes people unhappy. The play was originally Russian. Does that explain it? Maybe 😛
This morning when I returned home, I saw a burned out car in the neighbour’s driveway. It smelled like an environmental disaster area. There was exploded glass everywhere, and water was dripping from the car’s carcass. I supposed the fire department had just left the scene. Does my neighbourhood really need more help looking like a war zone?
And finally, here’s me if I was in the Simpsons, from simpsonsmovie.com.