Huitième Jour – Parc Mont-Royal

Today I slept in until 1pm! I haven’t slept in that long since I was a teenager. I guess this week has left me really tired! I am really looking forward to being fully moved into my apartment next weekend.

I met Nadia and Thor for thé glacé (iced tea) near Avenue du Parc and Saint Urbain, at Café Plume. Then we went and hung out in Parc Mont-Royal for a while and sat on the grass under a shady maple tree. I really notice the difference in trees here: there are barely any coniferous trees (fir, pine, cedar), only deciduous types (oak, maple, birch, poplar). It isn’t a huge difference, you would think – there are still lots of trees everywhere, but somehow it might be what I miss most about British Columbia. Thor told me that in late September all the leaves will be changing colour, and it is an excellent time to hike the McGill mountain through Parc Mont-Royal and see all the colours and the view of the city. I can’t wait to see it!

Afterwards Nadia and I went to La Panthère Verte (The Green Panther) for some grub. Their motto is “Bonne bouffe pour la jungle urbaine,” (good grub for the urbain jungle). They have a health-friendly menu, it is definitely one of my favorite places already! They carry smoothies, green juices, wheat grass shots, salads, soups, and sandwiches. I got a half a pita pocket stuffed with a veggie burger, pickles, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, and cucumbers. The smoothies are ridiculously good too! One had blueberries, coconut milk, banana, chia seeds, and rice milk. The one I had today was really good too: chai, coconut and rice milk, dates, banana, and goji berries. I think it is my favorite.

http://www.lapanthereverte.com/menu/

While walking with Nadia along Mont-Royal we came across a marché de la rue d’été (street summer market). All the stores move their merchandise into the street and there is a lot of good food, cheap clothing, dancing, and entertainment. There are a surprising number of dance studios here, and many were teaching people in the street to breakdance, salsa, or bellydance in order to sell lesson sets through their studios. I also found an amazing dress. Nadia stuck her hand in a clothing rack and pulled it out; I tried it on and it fit like a glove! Plus it was on sale for $20 instead of $100. So it came to pass that I bought my first Montreal outift.

I started reading over my 100 page analysis document and discovered that thankfully it is only 8 or so pages repeated several times in the same PDF file. Thank my lucky stars! I also discovered one of Tristan Murail’s pieces, “Vampyr!” Oohh I like, I really like! He is merging the lines between classical music and what electric guitars were meant to do. I want to write something like this, except even more crazy!

Give it a listen:

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Septième Jour – Fin de semaine

So, I have been in Montréal almost a whole week now. It feels more like a month!

Today I got the keys to my apartment and repacked my suitcases so that I can pack them over to my new place on the morning of September 1st.

I was a bit offended by the guy I got my keys from today. I have never, in my life, met such a grumpy person! He is the building’s apartment renovator, and basically refused to speak to me. I tried to speak some French with him – said the weather was nice, that I was new to Montreal, and when would the stove be in my unit. He didnt say a single thing to me, except that my stove would arrive “later.” He seemed to think I didnt know how to close and open the front door to my unit as well, and snarled at me before stomping back to the elevator and directing me outside without so much as a “Bonne journée.” What a bitter person!

On the other hand, I did finally get an internet contract! It will be installed next Thursday, and I can request paperless billing the day after. It’s $65 plus tax per month (I feel myself die a little inside over the cost!) but at least with this plan I know I wont go over my alotted gigabytes per month. I decided to go with Videotron in the end, because their phone representatives have really good reviews and the store is a 10 minute walk from the conservatoire in the event that I have a problem.

I did try starting conversation at school today with a cellist. She was really nice, and I hope I get the chance to talk to her again! I think she is good friends with the guy in my cours d’analyse…
I have noticed that the style of dressing and fashion is very different from Montreal to Vancouver. Vancouver has more of a hobo-healthy living dress style, merged with insanely expensive fabrics. Montreal is long flowy dresses and skirts, or extremely bare stomachs. Everyone has a very high accentuated waistline, just under the bust. Women draw attention to their waists by wearing only a bra-shirt and long flowy skirt, or a cinched waist (via clothing design or belt). I feel a bit out of place in my Vancouver clothes, which is just silly. I am excited for winter when I can wear most of the clothes I brought. I did not pack with 30 degree weather in mind!

There is a giant analysis essay I am supposed to read for my cours d’anaylse on Tues, which I discovered is 100 pages! That is a lot of translating! But I am learning new words:
mise – scene
étape-stage
niveaux – levels
pente – slope
taux -rate
esquiver – to dodge something
sinon – otherwise
aveugle – blind (unable to see, not window blinds)

Tonight I decided to stay in and watch Netflix. I looked back over what I did this past week, and felt absolutely exhausted. I am making a list of all the things I need to buy for my new place, and going to bed!

Sixième Jour – Il faut que je pense en français!!

I had Histoire de L’Art (Art history) this morning. All I can say is that it will be a challenge. The professeur was very nice and told me if I have trouble with anything to email him, and I might be able to write the exams in English too. He talks very very very fast, and with a thick accent and many idioms, so it was the most challenging experience I have had here so far. I think I need to keep my Thursdays open after this 2 hour class to avoid my brain decombusting. After all three of my classes this week i have learned quite a bit but have no idea what my homework is! (If there was any) I have started to meet some students but I don’t know how good my French is, or if Ishould try to speak English. I feel like a lobster that decided to try bowling. But that’s ok! I am here for the experience, and it is still only the first week!

I found an amazing place for lunch: “Juliette et Chocolat” -a chocolate bar-café! Everything on the menu is chocolate oriented, and then they have fantastic salads and buckwheat crepes, and Mighty Leaf tea. I found my new favorite hangout! I had a buckwheat crepe stuffed with ham, fromage, freshly made basil pesto and the mostly perfectly blanched baby potatoes I’ve ever had. The tea was really really good, and they somehow managed to find the Mighty Lead brand in looseleaf cannisters, not tea bags, which I highly approve of.

http://www.julietteetchocolat.com/chocolat.php
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(Image courtesy of: http://fr.chatelaine.com/blogues/juliette-et-chocolat-a-brossard/)

So much chocolat! And it is just one block from my new appartement -scandalous!

After lunch I paid my rent for the next twelve months and walked away from my “locateur/propriètaire” (landlord/rental company) with a copy of my lease papers. I discovered that I am responsable for shoveling snow off my balcony in the winter, so I guess I need to buy a small snow shovel!

I also embarked on the grand journey to acquire an OPUS metro pass. This includes traveling to Station Berri-UQAM and waiting in a line up the length of 7 city blocks for two hours with every other university student in Montreal. You have your picture taken and they print out a plastic chip card for you, that’s all. Then you wait in an equally long line up inside the Metro station to put $180 on the card to have four months of unlimited travel on Montreal Transit. I am very glad I had a book in my purse to read while waiting in that lineup. I also had to bring a copy of my lease, a signed, engraved, stamped piece of paper from the conservatory, and my student card and BC Drivers License. Such a lengthy process, I think they could improve this a little!! I also discovered in the process that this is the Metro station where the Greyhound bus service is located. My parents will be sending my parcels to me via Greyhound cargo bus, and that is where I will be picking them up in a week or so.

I am still trying to decide which Internet provider to go with. I think I will have to spend $40-50 per month, plus an activation cost and router rental. There are some cheaper companies but they have many bad reviews and complaints, which makes me quite hesistant to go with them. I have narrowed my choices down to ColbaNet and Videotron. I know the Conservatoire uses Videotron, and they are rated as the #1 Best Provider of Quebec. I am going to go into their store on Saint Dénis tomorrow and ask some questions. I am very surprised that nobody seems to offer student internet packages! The secretary at school told me that the internet companies here try to suck every last penny out of you; I have been forewarned!

I had dinner at Blanche-Neige (Snow White) Diner on Côte-des-Neiges. I noticed that while many restaurants are more expensive here, some are much cheaper. This is one of several restaurants I have found where for $8.99 you can have a soup, main course (salad, rice, fries, protein), thé ou café or jus (tea, coffee, or juice), and a déssert! The food is fairly good quality for such a good deal too! I think I like Restaurant Saint-Hubèrt more than Blanche-Neige, but I also have yet to try the mildly “fameuse” Blanch-Neige breakfast menu! Maybe on Saturday!

Cinquième Jour – Je suis nostalgique

Today I experienced beaucoup du sentiment nostalgique (homesickness). I thought about all the places I love going to, and my friends, family, and the beautiful scenery. I was sad. Then I thought about all the new things I have experienced here in 4 full days and I felt much better.

Today I got a full tour of the music school. Ghislaine is wonderful! (The financial aid/front desk lady). She looks so youthful I thought she was half her age, and she has great enthusiasm and so much knowledge. I get the feeling she really runs the show. The rooms are so cool. Most have two doors and computer-controlled humidity and temperature gages for all the pianos and other instruments. All the classrooms have hardwood floors and giant wall-size mirrors. The school also rents a lot of its space to the community since there are so many halls and theatres.

I went walking along Saint Denis after my tour, and began to explore Saint Hubert, a few blocks over. I really like the plateau for all of its bookstores, restaurants, bars, clubs, and boutiques. It has a little bit of everything you could possibly need. Including this fascinating cookbook:

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I also had my first German class! It was taught in French, and I survived, quite enjoyably so. I also finally started to talk to a few students and breach the barrier, but I feel like it may take some time. I caught this amazing view as i was heading in before class from the second floor:
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Also really want to check out this jazz club on the weekend and hear some Montreal sounds. It’s name means “sharp” (as in the musical pitch designation – A#).
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Too tired for words, but finally starting to feel like I fit in! Bonne nuit, Guten nacht!

Quatrième Jour – Prendre ça cool!

Today I went first thing in the morning to sign my lease contract. Yay! My first REAL appartement! I can’t wait to get the keys, hopefully on Friday.

I went to a little place on Saint Denis for breakfast. I will be so glad to have my own kitchen, since going out for food here is horribly expensive! (Minimum $20 per meal) The meal was good: Earl Grey fleur bleue (Cream of Earl Grey), Quiche Lorraine, et salade césare. The waitress was so nice and spoke French with me even after having to clarify something in English. Progress!

There was another microbrewery next to the Cafe. Must take Jay there!

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I found out that to get my OPUS Metro pass, I need my student ID, a permission contract from the Conservatoire and a copy of my lease (Bonne chance que je viens de louer!! -Good thing I just started renting!). I have to pay $200 in cash for that at a specific Metro station that takes your photo (Berri UQAM). I feel like everything is in cash here! Rent, taxis, metro. It is so different than just taking my Visa everywhere in Vancouver and Washington State.

I finally cracked my flute out of the case and found an entire hidden hallway of practice rooms (again the hallway is disease-fluorescent green…. I can’t even describe how bad this colour is!). These practice rooms are AMAZING. They are like Five-star hotels of the practice world. I am sincerely impressed and will subsequently have to practice in them a lot!

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After practicing I was cleaning my flute when my cleaning cloth got stuck inside of it! C’est dommage! Luckily it didn’t damage any keys, and I managed to go to a Quincaillerie (hardware store) and Magasin du couture (Sewing store) later and found some extra large tweezers and dowels to get the cloth out. Major crisis avoided!

Walking back to the school it was so hot (over 30 degress C) and I stopped in a shaded alley to cool off for a few minutes.

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I also had my first Cours D’Analyse (Composition Analysis Class) with Serge and his other maitrîse student, Jonathan. We are going to be analyzing Tristan Murail’s work “Winter Fragments,” and “flotte bois” in comparison to Gérard Grisey’s “Quatre Chants pour franchir le seuil.” I didn’t quite understand what my homework was, but I am just going to analyze as much as I can before next Tuesday and show it to him in my private lesson on Monday. I was surprised how much of the hour of French lecture I understood, but I am sure I missed a few things, and they may have been quite important. I hope I learn more French quickly!

Afterwards I sat in the park by the school for an hour and enjoyed the breeze. Things I have noticed a lot in Quebec: Quebec flags, U-turns (EVERYWHERE, ANYTIME!), blatant jay walking, graffiti, construction on almost every street corner, and cat calling. I actually got whistled at like someone would call a dog today. The guy was so persistent I lost my temper and turned around and yelled at him about sexist discrimination. He was quite put off by that; I guess that wasn’t the usual response! Some of the graffiti is really interesting though. This one stood out to me when I passed it this morning:

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I went out for dinner with my lovely friend Nadia at Aux Vivres. We talked about French school, the scene at McGill in the music faculty, and apartment problems. We are planning an Ikea trip for the first after next to get me a bunch of furniture and drink some wine while assembling it. I’m looking forward to that already!

Tomorrow is my first day of German. I am interested to see how that goes down! Until then, I will endure the slow-cooker night in my auberge!

Troisième Jour -J’étais perdu!

Bonne journée! (Have a good day!)

Today I was incredibly nervous – first day of school! In the morning I went and saw an appartment in my friend Thor’s building, and it was a winner. I paid a depôt on it, and am signing the papers tomorrow morning, assuming no catastrophe ensues overnight. I can’t wait to post pictures of it; it’s very cosy, and will be newly-renovated. The best part: it’s only a 15 minute walk from school! Great for the -40°C winter weather! I have a slightly queasy feeling about it falling through, because I am scared it is too good to be true: my first appartment to myself!

After that I embarked to the school and met the administration team -they are my saviours. They all spoke English with me, and helped me figure out where my classes were, which ones to take, how to deal with my student loan, and how much the courses will cost.

So my classes are to be:
Composition lesson
Choir
Cours D’Analyses (Composition Analysis)
Allemand (German-YES I AM LEARNING GERMAN…..IN FRENCH!!!)
Histoire de L’Art (Art History)
Orchestra Residency / Quintette à Vents (Writing a score for wind quintet)

I had my first composition “lesson” (real ones begin next Monday). Wow. Serge welcomed me right into his giant studio -equipped with computers, huge speakers, a big screen projector, keyboards, mixers, and a huge writing desk. The hallway outside is so bright lime green it makes me dizzy, but this studio (luckily not green) is amazing. I am welcome to book it for two hours at a time, accessible with my own key card (every day if I like!). I can use anything on the public computer log in, including hundreds of scanned scores and recordings. We discussed my goals and writing assignments for each semester of my study, and then he showed me the library on the 4th floor. There are hundreds of music scores there too. Plus CD’s and computer with every software program you could ever want as a musician. I can’t wait to go hang out in the library tomorrow morning!

I had lunch at this bizarre “to-go bar-café.” I managed to get a soup, mini salad, giant salad, and drink for $10. The waiters were very nice and teased me quite a bit about my bad French.

After lunch I decided to explore the “Anglophone” (McGill) side of the mountain. I took the Metro for the first time to get there. It really reminded me of the San Francisco BART -so dilapidated it wobbles all over the place as it hurtles through dark dirty tunnels. I guess I am spoiled by Vancouver’s pretty and smooth skytrain lines. As soon as I got off the train at Bon Aventure station I was completely lost. “J’étais perdu quand j’y suis arrivée!”
I walked in a circle over several city blocs (blocks) and ended up recharging my phone at Café Starbucks so I could figure out where the heck I was. I finally managed to get to Rue Saint-Catherine-Ouest, and fait du shopping!! I found my winter coat, and it’s a beauty. -Good to minus 30, wind and water resistant, and washing machine-friendly. It is dark grey, knee-length, has a big furry hood, and makes me look like I really do live in Montréal. I had a great chat with the sales lady, who asked me what Vancouver was like. She had heard many bad things about it, such as the horrible Chinese influence, homeless population problems, rudeness, snobbery, and expensive lifestyle. This made me sad, and I tried to tell her about the ocean, the beautiful nature, the good ethnic food (and GOOD Chinese people!), and the open enjoyment of all ethnicities and healthy lifestyle. I heavily encouraged her to visit, and I hope she gets the chance.

I also found an interesting microbrewery I would like to try when my boyfriend visits, called “Les Trois Hommes Brassery.” (Three Guys Brewery) After that I took the bus the rest of the way around the mountain back to my auberge, and congratulated myself for finally making a 360 degree trip of Montréal.

I got Thai food on Côte-des-Neiges for dinner, a block from my auberge. It was nothing on Vancuver Thai food, but the waiter made up for it. He was an exceptionally nice Haitian man who humored me by ignoring my French errors until he actually couldn’t tell what I was saying. I noticed that in general the restaurants here are way over priced, so getting appetizers, soups, smoothies, or salads definitely seems the cheapest way to eat on the go. Luckily the Vieille Café at school is way cheaper.

Now spending the night in my boiling hot room, pouring over websites of exceedingly expensive Québec internet plans and Ikea furniture. Bon soir!

Jour Deux -D’Exploration du plateau

Today I took the Montréal bus for the first time. I discovered that the Côte de Saint Catherine bus is one of the few that makes a semi-circle arc around the mountain. The mountain is a giant behemoth in the middle of city, and everything must go around it. I have yet to see the McGill side of the mountain, maybe next weekend.

Back to the bus: I like that you can get a pass for $18 that is good for 3 days of travel anywhere on STM (Socièté de transport à Montréal). I learned you buy these passes in the Metro Station and they can be bought with cash only -good to know when I get my Student pass. It is interesting for such a big city that the stops aren’t announced. You really need to be sure of where you are going, or at least ask the bus driver (in French). All the street names are in the French, and the Quebec flag flies everywhere. I have never seen as many BC flags as the number of Quebec flags I saw today.

After getting off the bus I met my friend Thor for lunch. He took me to this great vegetarian restaurant, “Aux Vivres” on St. Laurent near Mont-Royal. What amazing food! I had a BLT César Salade (ceasar salad, obviously) -but it had “fake bacon” made from coconut pieces. Sounds bizarre, and it was, but it was also one of the best salads I’ve ever had. After that we walked all over the plateau, checked out the Metro, and walked over to an appartment building I am considering living in. The rooms are nice, but a bit expensive. Im seeing an appartment in Thor’s building tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be funny if he and I ended up living in the same building!

I hung out on Rue Saint Denis for a long time at “Café Starbucks.” I am really surprised at how friendly the people here are. The homeless smile and try to sweet talk you into giving them money, random people sit down at your table to have a brief conversation and leave, and if you bump into someone they actually say sorry. I feel like my Vancouver manners are a bit abrasive.

The best thing today: I finally saw the Conservatoire de musique! The École des arts dramatiques à Québec is on the upper floors, and the Conservatoire is floors one and two. What a beautiful building! It is probably the size of Sears and the Bay at Metrotown put together, and completely grey in colour, with huge storey tall letters on the sides of the building exclaiming the nature of the “artist.” There are also tall glass towers above the base level. The desk guards were very nice. Only one spoke a bit of English, but he told me the building is less than 20 years old. There is a café in the foyer too. There were also squirrels outside leaping over bicycles and trees, and a park outside the front entrance. It is so beautiful.

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I walked home over the next two hours along Côte de Saint Catherine, past all the huge houses, and Université de Montréal.

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I stopped at a park along the way and observed some very excited French children and some rather frazzled ducks. The way Montréal has preserved its parks and greenspaces preserved is really inspiring. The city is full of buildings and concrete, but the parks are everywhere. It’s no wonder everyone looks so fit and healthy!

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Tomorrow is the first day of school! I am pretty nervous, but I am glad I found my way to the building. I guess that is the first step! À Demain!

Je suis arrivée à Montréal!

This morning I woke up and left everyone I love behind to go and experience Montréal. I will be doing my masters degree in music composition at the Conservatoire for the next two years, but at the same time experiencing this entirely new culture, city, and French language. I decided to keep a blog to record things I see or find interesting during my time here, and keep my loved ones in touch during my travels.

The first thing I noticed was that when the plane from Edmonton descended into Montréal, the flight attendants stopped speaking English all the together! All the airport signs had French first, then English writing.
My taxi driver spoke very little English, and we got lost trying to find my auberge (hostel/inn). I said, “Il se place à trois trois trois trois Chemin de-la-côte Saint Catherine.” But… he only heard “trois trois trois.” So we “trois’d” back and forth for some time until he figured out I literally meant 3 thousand, three hundred and thirty (trois mille, trois cent, trente-trois) and pulled a giant U turn in the middle of the road.

The secretary at the Canadian PROMIS auberge is my new best friend. Apparently this building, here since 1953, houses females transitioning to living in Montreal for both long and short term stays. There are no men allowed above the foyer floor, and giant statues of Catholic angels and important figures line the hallways. The rooms are clean and simple.

I went for a walk down Chemin de-la Côte des neiges (the next street over) when I had settled. I noticed immediately that all the buildings are brick. This I love! I didn’t go to a restaurant for dinner, but i saw people with grocery bags and knew there had to be a Marché (supermarket) nearby, and sure enough I found one at the corner of Ave Gatineau and Ave Lacombe.

Tonight feels very strange. My brain hurts from the sedatives I took on the airplane (I detest flying!) and speaking French. As I walked down Côte de Neige, I noticed that nobody spoke English. Lots of the promenaders looked of Carribean or French-African heritage. One man sat playing his guitar and singing outside a falafel house, and sang very loudly in French about a woman he wanted to please. A few men stood around smoking and cheering him on.

The street outside my window is a constant murmur. The noise is not overwhelming, but the city feels very vivant (alive). There is a contstant heartbeat in this place. In a way, I am reminded of a Francophone San Fransisco. If such a place existed, this would be it.