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Oh Canada

DSC 3068On driving in Canada, all I can say is I love love love my GPS. First, at least in Quebec all the road signs are in French, which wouldn’t be that bad if I had a good map and had looked at ahead of time to plan my route, which I hadn’t. Second, the freeway (Autoroute)interchange I was supposed to take was shut down sticking me out on surface streets which would have left me horribly lost if I didn’t have my GPS to recalculate my route every 5 seconds as I drove around the construction and kept making progress towards my destination. Third, on the surface streets the street name signs are very hard to see, it’s not like home where they are hung over the street with big illuminated letters, so it’s far easier to read the names on the GPS screen then see the unlit sign nailed to the side of a building across the intersection. Fourth, there are lots of one way streets and if I hadn’t listened to my GPS I probably would have gone the wrong way up several of them…

I suppose for background I should say that I met Sylvie and her dog Laika at the dog park about two years ago. She was originally from Quebec and was working as a veterinary pathologist in southern California. About a year ago she decided it was time to move back to Quebec. She was again someone that had made the decision to move out of so cal, and then done it, in far far less time than it was taking me. I guess however I don’t need to be as sensitive to that fact as I once was since since I’ve now covered over 8000 miles… In fact as I write this, a few days late, I’m sitting in Gaspie, Quebec which is just about the furthest point possible away from so cal, well on not the furthest point possible since I could have driving up towards Labrador or Goosebay, but I am well north and east of Maine). Anyway, back to the point, when she left so cal she also offered to host anyone from the dog park who wanted to come visit, and of course I said I would. Haha… I’m sure a lot of people said they would, but what are the odds of that actually happening. I know she was surprised, hopefully pleasantly, but I wonder what kind of odds she’d have actually put on it.

I got to Sylvie’s in Lachine (a Montreal Suburb) right at 11:45pm. Only 15 minutes later than originally expected, thanks to the wonderful GPS. It was awesome to see Sylvie and Laika again. Even a touch surreal. Laika seemed to remember me and Tucker and was very excited to see us. Tucker took his usual minute or two chill out and be friends with Laika. Sylvie and I caught up a little but then called it a night, it was already pretty late.

Sylvie has an enviable and wonderful morning routine. Every morning she gets up and walks the lovely Laika. She walks her down along the St. Lawrence River past her local farmers market (open daily!). Then just past the market she stops off at her local French bakery to pick up a fresh croissant before heading home to enjoy breakfast. Tucker and I joined her every morning for this wonderful start of the day… even the morning it was raining, 5 degrees above freezing and with 40 mph winds. Several morning however, we had beautiful albeit still cold weather and frankly the dogs loved it either way.

DSC 3012DSC 2952On Friday we took the dogs to Laika’s Country Club (the name Sylvie has given it). It is a private park area just west of town for hiking and trail running in the summer and snow shoeing and cross country skiing in the winter. The dogs had a fabulous time running, swimming and chasing squirrels through the mud and water and leaves…. The pictures say more than I ever could with words

Friday evening we walked around he Old Port area of Montreal before having Indian food for dinner in Montreal. It’s a bit odd when the non-indian asian waiter is speaking French to you… Montreal is an amazingly multi-cultural city and it quickly squashes any stereotypes one might have.

Saturday Sylvie humored me by taking me into the city by subway to see the giant underground mall. As an engineer I admit I it was out of a bit of geekiness that I wanted to see it. It amazed me that in this harsh climate they’ve built a huge subterranean complex to keep everything moving in spite of the weather outside. It also amazes me that anyone was brave, or foolish, enough to found a city here hundreds of years ago. Anyway, it was a good day to be inside and underground since it was cold, wet and windy outside. I can report that the underground mall, is isolated from the elements, but it’s really just a massively huge mall. You wouldn’t know you were underground. We also took the afternoon to catch a movie, one that is hard although probably not impossible to see in the US, “Death of a President”. The movie was way more noteworthy than the underground mall. It was eerily real. It’s clear it’s fictional, but at the same time I didn’t expect to suspend disbelief that way I did. I was honestly sadden as the faux documentary played out and actors and actresses played their roles. In the end it does what it’s intended, make one really question where the country is at and where it’s going. Personally I have no doubt that war in Iraq will be looked back on in a similar vein as Vietnam and that the violations of basic civil rights (wiretaps and suspension of habeas corpus for terror suspects) will be viewed in a similar vein as Japanese internment was. There is never, has never, and will never be a justification for such actions in a free society.

DSC 3088DSC 3114Saturday night was Sylive’s birthday dinner. Like me, all Sylvie wants for her birthday is to be surrounded by her friends so every year that’s what she tries to make happen. Quite successful this year ๐Ÿ™‚ Her friends were all wonderful, kindly speaking English when I was involved in the conversation, and all really friendly nice people. I can’t think of ever meeting such a large group of a friend’s friends and thinking so highly of all of them.

DSC 3173On Sunday we got a bit of a late start to the day, but started the day with a late lunch at the Museum d’art in Montreal followed by a few hours of wandering the museums art collection.

On Monday we took the dogs for a walk in a public park in the center of Montreal, with fabulous views of the city.

On Tuesday I packed up and headed for Quebec City as it was time for Sylvie to get back to work.

Did I mention she works three days a week? How cool is that, she has through some effort convinced a lab in New York to send her lab samples so she can work remotely, and to work just three days a week. Sylvie definitely leads the “deliberately simply” life style… I’m learning lessons as I travel…

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