Montreal, Day Four

by dpreyde

Yesterday morning we went over the itinerary. We were going to walk to the Biodome, which is in Montreal’s Olympic Park (and is, I believe, inside a former Olympic stadium). Hannah showed me the route on her phone.

“It’s six kilometers,” she said. “Can you do that?”

“Yeah, it won’t be a problem,” I said.

Before we left, Hannah ate a bagel. I had a bite of one, but it tasted stale to me.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” she said. I threw mine out anyway.

“I’ll get something to eat on the way.”

Pretty soon it became evident how stupid it was to set out having had nothing to eat. We walked along Sherbrooke, which is a primarily residential street. We found a café which advertised muffins but didn’t actually sell them, and a convenience store which sold muffins in cling wrap, which I won’t eat.

Hannah was exasperated with my inflexbility.

“It’s not a problem, really,” I said. “I’m not all that hungry.”

The road stretched out interminably in front of us, and the sun beat down hot overhead. I started feeling strange.

Kilometer after kilometer rolled past. The sidewalks were pock-marked with holes and cracks, and every other block it seemed like there was heavy construction which partially or totally prevented us from moving forward. We had to zig-zag around obstacles, moving from one part of the sidewalk to the other, or from one side of the road to the other.

Every time something went wrong, I muttered dark and terrible things about the French.

Other than that we were silent, because I couldn’t think straight. I had a hard time concentrating. I felt deeply unwell.

We passed a grocery store.
“Can we stop in there?” I asked.

“There’s nothing in there that wasn’t in those other places,” said Hannah. We walked on.

Just before we reached the Olympic Park we found a Tim Hortons. For some reason beyond mine or anyone else’s understanding, Tim Hortons chocolate chip muffins are one of the only things I can eat for breakfast (or when I’m otherwise in a snit). I bought two, and scarfed them back.

Montreal’s Olympic Park appears to be a representation of what a bunch of architects from the mid-‘70s thought the 21st century was going to look like. In the second decade of that much-anticipated century, the park’s architecture is optimistic, faded, sad and kind of wonderful. There’s an enormous superfluous tower- complete with an inclinator- a building that looks like a flying saucer, two spherical domes, and probably some other stuff. All of it is surrounded by a vast expanse of empty concrete.

The Biodome is an interesting concept: a dome divided into four separate areas, each representing a different geographical climate, each climate featuring an area of different native animals. Most of the climates were from Quebec, which just goes to show you how diverse the province is. You couldn’t pull off a concept like that with, say, Nebraska. It was touristy, but a lot of fun. From there we went to the Botanical Gardens, which were a few blocks away. I was not excited about the prospect of spending hours examining various trees and flowers. But Hannah had expressed an interest, and so had L’aime, who met us at the gate.

The first thing we did was explore the Insectarium, which came with the price of admission. It was a museum about insects and oh God, it was so fucking boring I’m not even going to get into it. The most interesting thing that happened is that Hannah ran over my foot.

We entered the gardens, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and decided to see the Chinese gardens first.

We turned a corner, and found an enclave of beautiful Chinese-style buildings bordering an unusually turquoise pond. There was nothing identifiably Canadian, and it felt for all the world like we’d just stepped into the loveliest place in China.

We walked around cobblestone paths, which was not ideal for Hannah, though L’aime zipped right over them ‘cause she’s so light.

After half an hour or so, L’aime had to leave for some reason (I assume she’s the leader of a criminal syndicate). Hannah and I explored the rest of the Chinese gardens, then happened upon the First Nations gardens.

They were markedly different, and seemed to have been designed by a trickster god. Paths wound mostly through thick forest, sometimes emerging in a clearing, looping around and back and twisting this way and that. We found a pond, a teepee, another teepee, a sweat lodge, we stumbled across the pond again.

“Which way should we go?” asked Hannah.

“Have we gone down that way yet?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. I don’t think so.”

It was easy to get lost, but the garden was so beautiful I didn’t care. Eventually we saw- or thought we saw- everything, and found the Japanese garden. It was clean, precise and orderly. Not as interesting as the other two, but I think they were going for a Zen thing.

The Botanical Gardens reminded me of the places my grandmother used to take me when I was a kid; strange, magical, and somehow separate from the real world. The park closed, but Hannah and I wanted to stay longer.

We decided to take the bus back to the dorm so I wouldn’t have to walk anymore. My feet and the rest of me were both tired. My shoes, which had needed replacing before Montreal, had worn out completely. There were three holes in the bottom which I could poke my finger all the way through.

Unfortunately, the bus stop was a mile away, and so in order to not walk anymore we had to walk quite a lot more.

When we got back to our neighbourhood we decided to return to the Village for dinner. On the way, we got to talking about my food issues, and where they might come from, and what could be done about them.

“Maybe you should come up with a list of ‘safe foods’,” said Hannah. “Stuff you know you can always eat. And maybe even bring some of them with you. Like granola bars or something.”

“Yeah, that’d work,” I said. “I was thinking about that actually. Granola bars would’ve made a big difference.”

I was concerned that I had been perhaps too much of a pain in the ass to travel with. That’s often the problem with disabled people. No matter what our attitude is toward disability, I think a lot of us are secretly (or not so secretly) worried that we might be burdens. I’ve noticed, for instance, that the disabled people I know apologize more than non-disabled people. Even when we know we’re in the company of unconditionally accepting people (like Hannah and I are when we’re with each other) there’s sometimes that concern in the back of my head that I might be just a little too much. I think Hannah feels the same way about her disability, which is reassuring, I guess. Though I’ve never found her to be a burden.

While we were eating dinner, Hannah said, “So where are we traveling to next?”

I want to go to New York, we both want to go to London and Vancouver. Hannah would love to go to Cairo, but she’s concerned about the instability in Egypt. There’s a conference in Boston next year she’s thinking about applying to. We discussed the possibility of a weekend trip to Niagara Falls or Stratford.

There are a lot of possibilities.