Monday, September 7, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour: Safe travels

Sonja and Roland returned this past Thursday from their Ontario trip with Sonja under the weather.  Apparently traveling makes Sonja sick. Her love of travel is so deep, that she considers a predictable head cold to be a small price to pay for adventure.

On Friday I resumed my tour guide duties and took the traveling dynamic duo to see the remaining must-see sights of Montreal.

We had seen the southern and eastern sides of the city from the three drive-to lookouts on Mount Royal.


To see the city to the west and north requires a little more effort. The perfect lookout is just below the doors to St-Joseph's Oratory, another of Montreal's must-see sights.
None of us felt the pilgrim's zeal, so we drove as far up as we could, then walked up the long, long stairways, if not to heaven, at least to a decent view of God's green earth.
Roland could not believe that pilgrims to the shrine would climb the countless steps on their knees. And yet we did witness a few hardy souls doing just that. I hope they received the blessings and indulgences that they sought.

Next on the tour was the legendary underground city.

I know the underground very, very well. I have made it my business to explore every new ramification of the underground city pretty much since its inception in the 1960's. In my professional opinion, we covered more than 75% of the accessible underground (like the dark web, Montreal's underground city extends in a few places, though only for those with special access).
The underground is cavernous, so the tour took time.

We emerged to travel on the surface on a couple of occasions so that Roland could hunt for a Montreal Jazz Festival T-shirt, and again to stroll through the heart of Chinatown.
Regrettably, the Jazz Festival boutique was down to slim pickins this late in the season, and Roland had no choice but to leave empty-handed. Ironically, the guy manning the festival's boutique, suggested with much ennui (of almost Parisian proportions) that Roland might have better luck on the festival's web store. Thank heavens Roland hadn't traveled here from the Black Forest with only that quest in mind.

I made sure to take my German guests to the large section of der Mauer, a gift from the City of Berlin to the City of Montreal, now enshrined in the atrium of Montreal's World Trade Centre.
I value this monument because it speaks eloquently to the value we rightly ought to place on the human spirit and freedom. Sonja and Roland actually brought me a chunk of the Wall with its own certificate of authenticity. Talk about the perfect gift.

The afternoon was coming to its inevitable end. Like the mad tour guide I can be, I had one more must-see location in my sights: a view of the metropolis from Ste-Helen's Island in the middle of the mighty St-Lawrence. Getting there from downtown stretched my city driving skills to the limit, as we faced one traffic snarl after another on a myriad of back streets in Griffintown. I flailed around, dodging one tie-up artfully, only to come to a crawl in another. The cause was the Friday afternoon rush hour with hundreds and hundreds of commuters in cars trying to find an alternate side-street route to the Victoria bridge, combined with hundreds and hundreds of bloody orange construction cones closing and narrowing streets as a result of burgeoning construction.

Roland's patience was wearing ever so slightly thin. He felt, no doubt, that he might become so ensnared in the web of traffic chaos that missing his flight might be a real possibility. My assurances that everything was well under control had less and less effect each time we turned a corner after breaking free, only to hit another Gordian knot of bumper-to-bumper madness.

Never giving up, I finally managed to weave our way east and away from the Victoria bridge debacle, hopping over the Lachine Canal in the old port, then threading around more construction mayhem near the grain elevators and under the Bonaventure expressway, until we made it onto the Bickerdyke pier and the Cité du Havre, and on to the Concordia bridge leading to Ste-Helen's Island. We looped around the Island as I pointed out landmarks among the remnants of the Expo 67 World's Fair pavilions, and related dusty, grainy anecdotes from the days of my youth.

At length, after twisting past a last barricade that did its best to block our progress, with Sonja egging on my scofflaw alter ego to ignore the prominent "do not enter" signs by briefly driving on the wrong side of the road, and entering via the exit (an inspiration no doubt rooted in her travels down-under), we made it to within strolling distance from the rather hard-to-find unique view of downtown Montreal seen from the river.
From there we made a bee-line to meet Susan for dinner on the West Island, arriving within five minutes of our ETA.

After dinner, during which Roland periodically stole casual glances at his wristwatch, Sonja and Roland said their goodbyes. Sonja drove off home with Susan, while Roland and I headed to the airport. By then Roland was stealing calm-ish gazes at his wristwatch, more frequently now, so I took the back road to the airport in order to avoid the last of the rush hour traffic at the Dorval traffic circle.

Yes folks, we were forced to take a maddening, meandering, impromptu sight-seeing detour through the nether regions of the city of Dorval because Cardinal avenue that goes straight along the railroad tracks to the airport was... wait for it... closed to traffic in the direction of Pierre Trudeau International. While it did not add more than five minutes to the ten or fifteen minute ride to the airport from our dinner venue, Roland could surely hear his watch ticking and felt that the city's tentacles and vicious web of inefficiency and indirection were making one last-ditch attempt to prevent him from escaping.

Sonja woke bright and early on Sunday morning to the news that Roland was once more safe and sound in Frankfurt.

Reassured that Roland was well and safely on his way home, Sonja lost no time rigging the shiny Honda for the solo leg of her Canadian tour.
In no time Sonja was geared up and ready to ride.
I rode with Sonja to on-ramp to Autoroute 40 where she sailed off towards Quebec City with a farewell honk of my horn.
Safe travels Sonja. The blogosphere awaits news of your adventures.

12 comments:

  1. The Shadow is so much more sparkly than the Vespa. You must really spend a lot of time with the chrome polish. ;-)

    And after all that ATGATT talk on your video....

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    1. ... but I didn't want to keep Ms. M waiting (he says sheepishly).

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    2. Hey, don't push me in front of this... I asked you to go ATGATT ;-)

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  2. Montreal construction did everything in their power to bring 'you can't get there from here' to the next level. Thanks again, David. So far the Shadow does well, and I have somewhat recovered from my cold. Greetings from Roberval.

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  3. Ah yes, the anxiety associated with air travel...how well I know it and loathe it. Glad that you got Roland to the airport on time!

    I echo Richard in the tsk tsk re ATGATT :)

    Echoing again about the chrome sparkliness of that Shadow!

    That sure was a terrible traffic cone travail to go through to get those pictures of the skyline....pity about the backlighting, but you managed.

    As to the pilgrims climbing those steps on their knees....

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    1. Meanwhile the sparkliness is gone... now road grime is the preferred design.

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    2. Dom, my knees can barely stand me climbing stairs standing up. As for the ATGATT, I was on TV, and Dar made me say it.

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    3. Sonja, best wrap up the trip a day early. I'll tell you where to find the hose and some old toothbrushes so you can bring back the sparkle. (Just kidding, bring her back filthy and happy)

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  4. A whirlwind adventure. Good thing Roland doesn't bite his nails or he might have been as he was looking at his watch.

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    1. Sonja rolls her eyes when Roland looks at his watch.

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