Sunday, July 13, 2014

A fairly typical week

Hurricane Arthur's embrace reached far enough inland to keep me off my Vespa on Monday.

On Tuesday everything seemed to be returning to normal, but when I emerged from the underground garage for my homeward-bound commute, I was facing some menacing clouds and stiff winds.  I got no further than the Turcotte Yards on Autoroute 20 when the rain started pelting down.  I made a bee-line for the Angrignon - Notre Dame exit because there's a seldom-used U-turn lane that doubles back under the Angrignon overpass that provides perfect shelter.

I really don't enjoy getting rain gear on over my riding attire.  In fact, if I never had to do it again, it would still be too soon.  A particular joy is fighting to get my motorcycle boots in and through the rain pants.  I had to resort to plopping my butt down on a dusty curb, because the one-foot-hopping-dance was clearly not doing the trick.  Once I struggle into the rain suit, riding is fine and, I should add, unfailingly dry.  That bit always amazes me.

When I got home, stripping out of the rain gear was relatively easy, mainly because I slid my boots off, and then the rain pants followed suit without such a fuss.

On Tuesday evening things got quite ugly and we had to do without power for an hour or so.  Silence and candle light on a dark night.  Not so bad.

On Wednesday morning, the skies were very angry and there were huge winds blowing.  I must have checked the weather on my phone three times.  Nope.  There was definitely no rain in the forecast, in spite of the menacing look of things.  So off I went, my rain gear stashed away under the seat.

The weather finally aligned with the forecast by mid-morning, and there was bright sunshine at noon.

I emptied the pet carrier bin into one of the fold-away shopping bags I carry in the topcase and lugged the contents up to my office.  That left room to store my riding jacket on the bike.

And that's how I set out for a business lunch in the old city, at Graziella, down at 116 McGill avenue.

I parked about a block north on McGill, in the company of PTWs, mainly Vespas.

Five Vespas at one intersection.  What a sight. It's eloquent testimony to this town's love affair with Vespas.  No wonder Vespa Montreal is selling more Vespas than any other Canadian dealership, the demand in Montreal continues to grow.  Way to go Paul!

Notice the gaps between those bikes.  What luxury.  Italian riders would have squeezed at least thirty percent more bikes into that space, without even trying.

I stowed my helmet and jacket, then strolled off to the restaurant.  Graziella offered us a  truly delicious lunch (a warm seafood salad for me, featuring marinated grilled shrimp, tender calamari, succulent sautéed octopus, and other assorted bits and bites, and for my host a gorgeous and generous osso bucco milanese).  The food was really top-notch and there was a wonderful white wine to match.  Nothing like a nice meal and three or four glasses of wine perfectly complementing the food, to help expedite fruitful plans for the fall conference season.

On Thursday morning I changed things up for the commute.  I swung northeast and then headed south through the tree-lined streets of Outremont.  Once I was in the neighborhood, I took an extra few minutes to pop into St-Viateur bagel bakery to pick up bagels for our team.

They were still nice and hot from the oven when I handed them out to the folks at the office.  Being able to just toss your shopping onto the bag hook without a care in the world is just one of the wonderful pluses of owning a Vespa.
 What a contrbution to the dolce vita.

Thursday evening's commute was pure bliss.  I took the scenic route home and rode slow and easy.  I had my helmet open and paid the price by getting fairly whacked by a couple of insects on suicide missions.

On Notre Dame street that runs parallel to the Lachine Canal on the north bank, as I coasted along with the heavy-ish and indolent summer evening traffic. I soon found the cause for the slow-down.  A movie set sat astride the street in the trendy restaurant and antique store stretch.  For once they were actually shooting and things were hopping (to the extent anything hops on a movie set, it's usually at a dead stop).

All along the canal people were jogging, biking and kayaking.  On the lakeshore road, the restaurant patios were full of people sipping wine, chatting and relaxing.  More kayakers were enjoying the lake, competing with the squadrons of ducks.  In the distance a flotilla of sailboats sat seemingly still on the broad expanse of Lac St-Louis, decorating the water like so many white, bright, shark fins.

I had Emilie-Claire Barlow charming my ears with one delightful rendition after another.  Her album Seule ce soir is a delight.  Her performance of Petit matin is a loving portrait of Montreal that rings as true as true can be.  As that song started up, my luxurious commute likely climaxed.  Imagine me feasting, taking a simultaneous bite of every one of my favorite comfort foods at once, in a kaleidoscope of bursting flavours and nostalgia. It was that good.

I really wanted to share the sights and sounds, but that would have meant interrupting the reverie to take a picture, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I was an addict.  Hooked on the beauty of what a Vespa commute can be, and as high as a kite.

Friday.  TGIF.

Another blissful commute to work.

Brilliant sun, not a single cloud in sight, a cool breeze, and a promise of twenty-seven degrees for the afternoon commute.

For the morning route, I chose to split the difference.  I headed east on the expressway again, but this time got off due north of Mount Royal and headed south through the sleepy streets of Town of Mount Royal lined with the spacious elegant homes of the well-heeled elite, and then on to Cote des neiges road and over the pass between the twin summits of Montreal's mountain playground.  The traffic up the north face of the mountain pass moved languorously, and seemed to be slinking along in lazy fits and starts, as if it were succumbing to Halie Loren's Tango as I listened to I've got to see you again playing over the Sena.

When I crested the pass in front of the armory at Remembrance Road, I found myself traveling behind a couple riding two-up on a brand new Vespa Primavera in Azzurro Marechiaro.  Doesn't that sound nicer than greenish-blue?  Another stunning example of fine body work by a design team that manages to do something strikingly different, and truly beautiful, within the confines of the same simple elegant framework, time after time.  Art on two wheels.

What a sensuous way to start the day.

Then SNAP! The week was done.

I put my briefcase on the bag hook, fired up the bike and took the shortest, fastest route straight home. Well that's mostly true. I couldn't resist exiting at Cartier and taking it slow and easy through the Pointe Claire village. The weekend was already in full swing there. People on the terrasses, already into cocktails and friendly earnest chatter.

And so it goes.


Canajun said...

Ah, summer in Montreal. I still miss it even after all these years.

SonjaM said...

What Canajun said... you captured the summer atmosphere in Montreal perfectly. I felt like I was there, too (maybe somewhere close to that orange scooter in the background).
Our region had been pummelled by storms lately and we haven't been traveling much on the Vespas. But there is still the commute... enjoy your summer, David.

VStar Lady said...

Summer in the city ... almost a nice as summer by the sea. Many parts of New Brunswick still without power a week after the storm.

RichardM said...

Your ordeal with rain gear is one of the reasons I switched to the Roadcrafter. I had to take my boots off to get the gear on. That's just poor design.

What stood out to me was 3 to 4 glasses of wine at lunch! Must've been a long lunch…

An interesting commute week.

David Masse said...

Dave, Montreal does have a lot to offer and that makes it a great place to visit.

Living here has its challenges and there are times, particularly in the last year, when I've just really wanted to live somewhere where there is less drama.

We really seem to have turned the corner. If so, the future could be bright. Right now priority one is the economy.

David Masse said...

Thanks Sonja. With a little luck your weather will change for the better and you and Roland will be able to share more of your stunningly beautiful essays on life in central Europe.

David Masse said...

Karen, I'm following your summer explorations vicariously. What a gift it is to travel that way.

David Masse said...

Richard, it was a long lunch. It was a bottle of wine shared by two. With food, and given enough time, there was no buzz.

Summer is wonderful.

I have to find a way to get as much enjoyment out of winter.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.