Saturday, 6 April, 2013
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
We decided early on that a plate of poutine was at the top of our agenda while in Montreal. Quebec is the province where the famed dish originated and we wanted a piece of world-renowned Canada. There was just too much snow kicking about for the moose to come out and play.
In fact, we were so keen on the idea of poutine that we jotted down the street name of the first place we saw serving it and vowed to return at lunchtime. Unfortunately, we ventured too far and got lost in the snow.
With hours to pass and an appetite to build, we wandered aimlessly before stumbling into a huge woodland area. Men quickly become boys again once they are paired with nature. Thus, we suddenly wanted to climb or jump everything in sight.
After climbing a few trees, Elliot told me that I couldn’t jump over a small lake – and that was it, that’s all it took. It was freezing cold, I had no spare clothes and I was going to jump over a lake, for no other reason than to show that I can. What a plonker!
I stuttered twice. I made my run up a bit long, got to the edge and panicked – the distance suddenly seemed monstrous seconds before takeoff. That said, the double delay did very little to gain the respect I desired. At that point, I had no choice but to jump and land magnificently on attempt three.
My heart was beating as I took my position. Four giant steps and then I flew. I soared through the sky like an eagle. I began closing in on the other side of the river, and to my surprise, I was actually going to bloody make it! With a grin from ear to ear, I planted my landing on the riverside – for a millisecond I was the king of the forest.
Sadly, the snow that I touched down on was incredibly deceiving. The riverside had developed a pretty big, but very soft, snowy extension, which did not support my weight! I believe the rest of the story goes without saying.
In a children’s book the next page would have simply read, ‘SPLASH!!’
My toes were ice cubes and my balls were raisins. My jeans were soaking, and the forest’s calming silence had turned into howling laughter coming from my left. I quickly grabbed beyond that traitorous snow and clawed my way out, but holy crap! This had to be the coldest I had ever been in my life – probably a key reason no other dummy was jumping into it.
After catching his breath again, Elliot plus cheeky smile, suggested that we wander back and find the poutine we craved. It was time to prioritise, and according to my good friend, lunch took a higher precedence than, I don’t know, say, a jeans shop?
I was both hungry and highly embarrassed about my failure though, so acted as if the water wasn’t even cold and that I was fine. My clothes would surely just dry soon anyway. After all, it was only -1°C.
We headed towards the poutine place, and I was getting a lot of strange looks from those we past in the street – apparently it’s not every day they get to see a man soaking wet from the midriff down in Montreal.
I asked a guy, ‘why he didn’t just take a picture?’ Unfortunately, his English wasn’t great and this resulted in him taking a picture of Elliot and I, jotting down our e-mails and vowing to forward the photo our way. As it goes, other than the staring, he was actually a really good guy.
After endless walking, we realised that we couldn’t find the street that we originally noted, and instead, asked some gawkers to help us complete the mission – the pleasant gawkers helpfully ushered us in the right direction, and within ten minutes, we were in a restaurant ready to order some poutine.
We found our place, took our seats and waited. The service was nice and quick too, so it didn’t take long until the taste of Canada was being carried over to our table. My delight at seeing the waiter bring over our dish even momentarily made me forget that my soaking wet arse was making water drip to the floor from all angles.
While the waiter’s presence pleased me, I imagine he detested my arrival.
I accept his annoyance, he was probably going to be the one that wiped the floor after I left – I’ve worked in similar jobs before, I know the drill. That said, had he ever jumped in a lake when the outside temperature was at -1°C? I’m going to assume not, thus, he cannot relate to my pain – which I can confirm is far greater!
As the plate hit my table though, I noticed something odd. I was looking down at some gravy and chips. Sure, it had some weird cheese lump things here and there, but it was essentially just gravy and chips – the same scran that I would eat walking back home after college when I was a kid.
I enjoyed it because I like gravy and chips. However, I’ve never killed time by jumping in freezing cold rivers before in order to build up an appetite to eat gravy and chips. Canada, your most famous dish, while delicious, is pure trickery.
Our evening was spent at a place called The House of Jazz. After a shower and a lot of hot soup, I decided that a glass of red wine and a little bit of Miles Davis would do me wonders.
We pulled up a pair of stools at the bar, and listened joyfully to a live band. One thing that I appreciate about live jazz performers is that they tend to be lovely but subtle – creating a pleasant background noise. Thus, not disrupting the flow of conversation in the way many other pub bands do. God, I’m old these days!
Two stools down sat an old man; alone and staring into his whiskey on the rocks – it was so cliché. He turned to us and asked us our opinion on Montreal. His daughter was considering university here and the pair had come down to check out the city for a few days – no idea where she was though.
I told him that the gravy and chips are decent but the rivers are freezing. He looked confused, but didn’t ask for further comment. I think he was just a bit bored and looking for a set of ears to listen to his tales of the past.
He went on to tell us that we should give up on our friendship now, as his best friend ran off with his wife – sharing the gruelling and heart-breaking details of that affair – it sounded like it was probably an even tougher time for him than my river day was for me. While a bit of a Debbie Downer, he did buy us two sets of shots, so I liked him.
Next week, we head to America.