Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas knitting, and Montreal

Christmas knitting update! You may remember this insane list from some time ago. We have little more than two weeks to go, people! So I've narrowed it down to this, far more sane list:
  • One pair of plain-Jane socks. Status: down to the toe decreases on the second sock.
  • One pair of Fixation socks. Status: mid-way through the leg on the second sock, but may have to re-do the toe on the first one because it's too long. It's OK, they're on US size 3.
  • One pair of Fibre Trends felted slippers. Status: Almost done. Sadly, have to redo them entirely because I changed my mind on who they were for, so I have to change the size. So, actually not done at all.
  • Mu Shu blanket. Status: awaiting blocking! Here's the most recent photo I have:
  • One pair of Pomatomus socks. Status: have to rip back to the leg ribbing on the first one. These may not get made.
  • An Icarus shawl, in DK-weight. Status: speeding along. I love the simple elegance of this pattern. (I also love the fact that using DK-weight means I can knit a shawl in time for Christmas.)
This may seem like a lot (and I feel certain I'm forgetting something), but remember I have/had 2 weeks between the end of classes and my first exam (which I should probably start studying for soon). So I've been watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica and West Wing on DVD. These shows are fantastic. It's the first time I've ever seen Battlestar - I know I'm late to the boat here - and it is very very very good. And I would just like to state for the record that I knew Jamie Bamber was cool before he was a buffed-up space pilot, back when he was just a consumptive sailor. I considered naming my fish after him!
Also, I totally want to be C.J. when I grow up (even though I am probably more like Toby).

But it wasn't all attempted presidential assassinations and . . . attempted presidential coups. No, I went to Montreal last Wednesday! I'd never been, and ever since I heard that you could do it in a day trip the idea's been niggling at me. I took the bus - it was only around $40 and 2 hrs, and they had the best times. It was a grey day.

I know the picture's blurry, but I think the colours in this landscape would make a great Fair Isle, or traditional quilt.

I got off the bus in Montreal and was promptly lost. I knew I wanted to get to rue Ste.-Catherine, but I didn't know how. So I consulted the map in Fodor's three or four times, and set off in the opposite direction of Ste.-Catherine, something I discovered two or three slushy blocks later.
(Getting lost is a constant in this story. Actually, it's not so much getting lost as having the uncanny ability to read maps backwards. Every single time - and I'm not joking here, every single time - I thought I knew where I was going, I turned the wrong way first. Luckily I got used to it after a while and would ask directions or turn around within a block. But I'm telling you, every single time!)
Fortunately, even though the sidewalk was slushy my eyes were entertained. I seemed to have stumbled upon a street of small, independent hotels.

They were painfully beautiful, almost so much so as to be cute.

I don't know anything about architecture. Actually, that's one of my main dislikes of Fodor's guide books. "Walk 18 blocks north-east, and you'll find the original Royal Bank building. It was designed by ____, in 18__" . . . Yeah, but it's just an old bank building! But I love tiny details, like all the faces on Parliament Hill, and the old-fashioned signs on these hotels.

After I turned back around, I eventually caved and went into a bookstore. All along this trip I was remembering high school French I thought I'd forgotten. But looking at this place's windows, I remembered that bandes dessinees (sorry, I don't have the accents on this keyboard) were comic books, and a librairie was a book store, not a library. So I went in and puttered for a bit, then I gathered up my courage and said my best French (of the whole day, it turned out): "Bonjour. Avez-vous une carte de Montreal?" ("Do you have a map of Montreal?") I even remembered to use the vous form and everything! Vous is the plural form of you, but it's also the more polite form. The sales girl said oui, and led me over to the rack of maps, where she (shock of shocks!) proceeded to speak French to me, none of which I understood. I sort of bowed my head and said merci a lot, and thankfully she went away. I studied the maps and bought the more expensive laminated map, which would turn out to be a good thing. (The guy who rang up my purchase also spoke French at me. Thank goodness I'd practiced my numbers on the bus.)

So I was off! I only had two real plans for the day. After scouring 3 different guidebooks (no joke) in preparation, the only thing that had really jumped out at me was the Notre-Dame Basilica. And naturally, I had prepared a short list of yarn stores. If it had been a nice day, I probably would have gone up Mont-Royal, but it was so grey there was no point to it. Some other time. Anyways, my first stop was the basilica. I walked and walked and walked, and walked and walked and walked, for maybe half an hour. I was worried I was going the wrong way, but I checked my map at just about every intersection (and managed to drop it nearly every time), and I was going the right way. I was a bit worried I was in a not-so-nice part of town, what with all the broken glass and hand-written signs offering 2-for-1 tattoos (I am very disappointed I didn't take a photo of this, but you can understand my hesitation).

I did get a photo of this place. That rocket ship actually is attached to the side of the building.

But eventually I was there, walking past the Place d'Armes Metro stop. Wait - you mean I could have taken the metro here! Blast!

On the other hand, then I wouldn't have gotten that great deal on my two new tattoos.

More hotel gorgeousity: Hotel Place d'Armes.

Notre-Dame is HUGE. I couldn't take any photos that captured how large it is, even standing at the far edge of the square in front of it. There's a photo of it at the Wikipedia site, but even that doesn't give the scale. There was a note out front, saying that only people wearing appropriate clothes would be allowed in. I was worried that my jeans wouldn't be kosher (... I actually didn't mean that joke), but the woman at the front desk assured me the sign was only because of women coming in the summer wearing bikini tops. (!)
I paid my entry fee (only tourists pay to get in. Worshippers get in free) and went in very slowly. I could see the place was big, but I wanted to take my time. I walked over to this statue, which is right behind the ticket booth.

I believe this is a statue of Ste. Marguerite Bourgeoys. (Apologies for flash.)

I was taking my time, going around very slowly. (I'd never been in a Catholic church before. There was a lot to soak up.) Then I turned around and saw the front of the basilica.

This is a photo from the official Notre-Dame website; none of mine really turned out. Even this doesn't prepare you for the real thing. It's pretty unbelievable. As you can see, it's three stories tall. When it was built it could hold 12,000 people. Twelve thousand!
I took a bunch of photos but none of them really turned out. (Turns out it was dark in there!) I would really recommend anyone visiting Montreal to see the place for themselves.

OK, cats and kittens, that's all for part 1. This post is already really long, so I'll continue it later.


At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Mom said...

Great writing & wonderful pix. Looking fwd to seeing your tattoos, glad you got a deal. ha ha ha ha ha ha thump

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Ri said...

So Richard asks to himself,

You gonna come visit the west coast again? I owe you a couple of drinks this time round, and this time I'll drink, and you can do the driving :P

Oh.. and reply to your email more often -_-

Cheers, and Merry Everything.



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