- 96 people to take two chartered coaches to and from Montréal
- 96 bagged lunches which included a tortilla wrap (veggie, tuna, turkey, or ham), gourmet chips, a piece of fruit, and a custom made “Happy Birthday” sugar cookie for the company owner who turned 40-something yesterday, as well as two large coolers filled with assorted seltzers and sodas
- 96 people’s $90 CDN tickets to Cirque du Soleil Corteo
- 55 people’s assorted snacks for the early bus ride home
- 41 gourmet dinners (27 dinners at La Marée, 14 at an exquisite Chinese restaurant whose name I didn’t catch) for the late bus patrons
We estimate the company paid a grand total of $7,000 American for this trip. As I said: a very, very generous company.
And, so begins our tale...
We piled onto our respective buses (people leaving Montréal at 6:30pm on the early bus, those leaving at 9:45pm on the late bus) between 10:45am-11:00am. The ride to Montréal was uneventful. We sang “Happy Birthday” to the company’s president as he was trying to make sure we were on the correct bus then ate our “Happy Birthday John” cookies.
When we reached our destination things got a little bit exciting.
We were on the late bus. Our driver was having a difficult time finding parking because the quai had capacity for 30 buses, but when we arrived there were 50 buses already parked at the quai. Most of these were écolier buses, school children were having a field trip.
The bus driver asked one of the police officers that patrols the quai where he should park the bus. After a few minutes of scrappy dialogue exchange and a long pause as the police officer ran to confer with others, the officer asked us to go around the corner and stand the buses (you know, we’re not parked, the bus is just standing while the people unload, then it will move to offsite parking).
So, the bus went around the corner, passed a row of horse-drawn carts, and came to a “stop” 50 feet ahead of the horses. We began to unload from the bus when what can only be described as a really angry Canadian came to our bus and started yelling at the bus driver that he could not park there and that none of us should move because he is calling the police. The bus driver was already pretty annoyed that he’d had to scuffle with the police about where to put the bus so that we could offload, so he began yelling back at the man that the police had told him to stop and let people off at this exact spot and that he was not moving the bus until we got off it. The angry Canadian blocked the door and began insulting us (including the nationalistic portion of our program, the exclamation of “fucking Americans”).
One of the company workers then entered the yelling match, saying that we were told to come to this location to offload by the very police angry Canadian was threatening to call, that we would be gone in less than 5 minutes if he would just move away from the door. Angry Canadian would not budge, began to try to vandalize the bus in front of the bus driver, then the bus driver got into angry Canadian’s face and said, “don’t touch my bus.” Scrappiness abounded, although nothing physical, and finally angry Canadian walked away, but hit the early bus as he walked by it. (I am sure it hurt him more than it hurt the bus…)
So, we were feeling quite (un)welcome at this point. Husband and I broke away from the pack and walked along the quai and vieux Montréal, taking pictures and soaking up the sunshine. As we walked up Place Jacques-Cartier we saw a Trading Spaces truck. Yes, you heard me, the TLC Trading Spaces truck.
It looked like they had just packed up from taking shots of the scenery. I have no idea what they’re doing in Montréal, but as I snapped pics of the truck I couldn’t help but be reminded that the show disposed of my favorite part – its host, Paige Davis. Sad.
As we reached the top of the pedestrian block we began to cross in front of the Jacques Cartier statue when a hockey puck came flying at us. It missed, ended up in the iron fence surrounding the statue. A man with a thick Canadian accent looked my husband in the eye and said, “I was aiming at you.” I just glared at him thinking this guy is a fuckwad, and he has really bad aim. Thinking about this scenario as we continued our walk we surmised that perhaps the man was kidding, but after the horse incident we were truly feeling unwelcome in a town where we had always felt welcome before…
We went to a restaurant on the quai, because being hated by the locals takes a lot out of a tourist. Husband ordered nachos and an iced tea, I ordered le truffe de plaisir with water. I savored my truffe because it is decadent.
The check, with 4 separate types of sales tax, came to $12.45 CDN. I placed a $20 CDN bill with the check, then in a moment of misunderstanding, I agreed that the waiter can just keep the $20 (he said “everything is okay?” to which I respond “yes” because the food was excellent, but he meant “can I rob you of a $7.55 tip?”) so then we were left with no Canadian currency in a town where many vendors will not do currency exchange if handed American cash.
After being monetarily assaulted at the restaurant we caught up with several of our favorite members of the crew we arrived with and basked in the sun until it was time to catch the Cirque du Soleil show.
No drama getting into the show, we presented our tickets and were let into the entrance.
Once inside I really needed a drink so I asked the woman at the concession stand if she could accept American money. She said she could but there is no conversion. So, I paid $4.75 American for a Pepsi the size of the large version of a McDonald’s large Coke ($2.20).
The doors to the tent opened up and we went in to take our seats.
Photography is not permitted inside the tent, so I’ll just have to tell you that Corteo is the most fantastic of all the Cirques so far. Instead of just a semi-circle, the audience sits in a 360 degree circle around the stage, minus room for two walkways from which the performers enter the stage. And, if you’re not familiar with Cirque du Soleil, no animals or children are used in the show – only adult men and women (folks who saw the show and thought those little people were children – nope, they are adults). I did try to snap a few shots of the stage curtain at intermission but got yelled at by one of the ushers. I felt guilty, but then watched 5 other people in the audience also get yelled at for taking pictures during intermission. :)
This show is so my favorite of all the Cirques because much of the show highlights performers hanging from guide wires as they do tricks, or people with no guide wires or safety nets, but high up in the air. The show is about a clown who passes away and goes to heaven, and that’s all I’m going to say because the mystery of the show is revealed if you choose to pay $90 CDN, but my very favorite part of the show involved many men on four high bars set up in a square configuration, flying from one high bar across to or next to each bar. It was truly spectacular.
After the show was over, some people left for the early bus, some people went off to a Chinese restaurant, and the rest of us hit Place Jacuqes-Cartier. The president of the company asked us where we wanted to eat and we all had no specific preference. Since we happened to be standing next to Restaurant La Marée, John asked the hostess if the restaurant had seating for 27. The answer: yes!
This is a “fancy” restaurant – the waiters prepare the sauces for the entrées at your table, and they are famous for $35 (CDN) and higher steak and seafood. John let us know up front that the company would pay for our meals, so not to worry about what we order. I ordered filet mignon au poivre served with a wonderful Cognac flambé sauce which was accompanied with fingerling potatoes, carrot and parsnip medley, and cauliflower and petite string beans.
Every single person who ordered this dish contributed to a bevy of campfires created as the waiters set the sauce on fire before pouring it over the meat. I squealed each time a new fire was set (I love fire).
My meal was delish, I ate everything on my plate. We ordered dessert and coffee, but I have to confess the entrée was the best part.
After dinner it was time to go home. We boarded the late bus, and my husband and I held hands while I listened to songs on my iPod and took a little cat nap. When we reached the border I spent a minute in the Duty Free shop, purchased gimongous bars of Nestle chocolate and a wonderful little present for my mom’s birthday (not until the Winter). When we arrived back at the office parking lot we went straight home to a nice warm bed for a deep slumber and dreams of filet mignon and acrobats danced in our heads...