We woke up before we wanted to and moved the kids to the car while Mr. John and I took down the camper. We are getting good at this! No one ever checked us in to the campsite, so we dropped the money for our camping spot fee in the office door and headed for the border.
We drove through lots of tranquil places and quite suddenly the city of Montreal just appeared. We learned a lot of new things following the signs. The directions were Nord, Sud, Est, Ouest on the signs and we did not dare to try to pronounce anything. John decided to use one of the only French words he knows a lot: Oui! And the way he said it made us laugh every time. We thought we had it down and were figuring things out when we missed a merging onto our desired freeway… Then things went au Sud. You see, when we crossed the border we had to turn off our cellphones because we heard many horror stories of people who didn’t and ended up with thousands of dollars worth of data charges on their phone bill. We were navigating sheerly via “THE BINDER” and a map of Montreal. Yeah… like, REAL navigating. So, one wrong turn on our printed google map directions, and we had to resort the tiny microscopic street signs on a map full of French names that we couldn’t pronounce, even if we did ask for directions. I was not finding my 4 years of Spanish helpful to me at this point.
We found a helpful person at a gas station and only got lost one more time before we found our hotel. Ha! It is on the outskirts of Montreal and it is super quiet and almost empty, with an indoor pool. In other words: perfect! We unhitched the old grey mare and I swear our mini van breathed a sigh of relief! Then we drove to downtown Montreal and abandoned Mr. John… For the next four days he will be attending a business conference and talking sports and having a blast with his friends, so we didn’t feel bad and neither did he.
I was a little apprehensive about navigating by myself. Though I’ve lived in big cities, I am and always will be a country mouse. I’m used to my freeways 2 lanes wide and no merging or other connected freeways… or tunnels… or traffic. My options at home were North? Or South? Not: take the 51 Sud to till the 63E exit and merge onto the 720 Ouest, take Rue de something to the Boul Saint something and make a U-turn on Notre Dame… can you start over again with the 51 Sud? This was an adventure!
We made it through all the transitions and made it back to our hotel easily. Thank goodness! The kids immediately changed I to their swimsuits and swam for 2 hours. They came out only because they were starving and they wanted pizza. I looked up a places nearby and chose one and carefully wrote down the directions. Thank goodness for wifi at the hotel!
We entered the pizza place and were greeted with a “Bonjour!” Which we returned with a cheerful, “Bonjour!”. She followed with a string of sentences where I assumed she asked if we wanted a table for four. I apologized and said, “We don’t speak French.” She smiled and reassured us, “That is fine! I speak English.” We were treated with a lot of kindness and patience. When my chatterboxes inform everyone about our drive from California to Montreal, they are curious about our journey. One of the servers had such a thick accent, the kids thought she was still speaking French, so when she left they asked me how I understood French! 😀 everyone is super friendly and I think having 3 adorable kids helps. The pizza came in 4 quarters, on 4 plates and she offered me butter. I thought she must have used the wrong word, but no, she offered butter 😀 The pizza was super tasty… hold the butter.
Most people speak very good English, it is so impressive! Now and again I will say something that isn’t familiar. We asked at the restaurant why the flags were “at half-mast” and that did not translate and a couple of other phrases. It is very interesting being here. I’m so used to reading a sign and knowing what it says, that I can now commiserate with children learning to read! Bailey left dinner that night bound and determined to learn French. She immediately downloaded apps to help and wrote copious notes in her notebook of useful phrases spelled out phonetically. She can’t wait to find people to experiment on with her newfound knowledge. Watch out Montreal!
I can’t sleep tonight. I don’t know if its because Denver keeps kicking me or if it’s because Mr. John isn’t here. The bed is definitely comfy enough.