I'm making good on my threat to post a blog. Many of you have asked "How's Montreal?" so rather than respond over and over, I'll post as often as I have any worthwhile observations to share and save individual communication (assassination conspiracies, point shaving operations, knit patterns) for email. So, with a tip of the hat to Andy Warhol's theory of plebian, shortlived fame, I'll begin here and let up with the apologies already...
About the title: we actually are living in a converted Salvation Army chapel.
Beginning at the beginning. The trip was good, Mel and John helped us schlep our 6 months worth of stuff to the airport and the boys were angels on the flight. Dave was traumatized when the passenger across from him started violently vomiting from her nose and mouth while unconscious (flight phobes: DON'T mix your tranqs with red wine!!!). But the flight attendant was a total mensch about it and the puke was soon forgotten.
We arrived at the house to a lovely crackling fire in the wood stove which heats most of the place, and our hosts Jean and Marie had made us a risotto dinner with wine and a galette of the Epiphany for dessert. This is a buttery, almond paste pie thing with a gold paper crown around it and a 2 cm-tall ceramic figurine of Barba Papa, king of the epiphany, baked inside. Whoever gets the "bean" is blessed with good luck for the year and gets to wear the crown. Guess who got it, in the very last piece to be served? Dave. Hard for him to top '09, but if that's what the galette augurs, it must come to pass. It came from the Pain d'Ore, a boulangerie perilously near here that has all the real French baked goods. They showed us around the place, then left us to our new home, to begin their travels through south America in the morning.
It's been really cold here ever since we arrived, with only a couple of days' respite from -22 to -34 temps. I've been coping by eating a lot and buying myself a real Quebec muskrat fur hat for my birthday.
And we have to keep the fire stoked at all times. When I'm up in the night to feed Iggy, I put a couple of logs on. Makes me feel like a woman of the frontier. Except I've got a plasma screen tv to watch while breastfeeding.
We've done a little exploration of our immediate environs, despite the cold. We live within short walking distance of the Quebec archives and Grande Bibliotheque, which has English materials too, and a great children's section. Also a beautiful modern building. A very useful institutional neighbour.
We started Milo at a day home on Monday. Right away we had misgivings; the lady's apartment is cramped and dark, there's only one other kid close to Milo's age, and only 3 kids total; nice ratio, but really boring for a social animal like Milo. That's what you get for putting your kid in a daycare you signed up for over the Internet. Long story short: he's starting at a new daycare on Monday, a big bright one with lots of kids and a Montessori program. We're pretty sure he'll love it. He's been fine in the original place, as they went skating and swimming, but he would've become bored by next week probably. It's going to be awkward breaking up with the daycare lady, she's a nice person, and doing the best with what she has.
Montreal observations: everyone is bilingual, even the homeless drunks shilling for change. Everyone is stylish; lots of people smoke. Downtown is teeming with activity; we're near the Universtity of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) so lots of students around, standing outside the campus buildings, looking gorgeous and smoking. We're close to many big tourist sights, and will explore those soon. The museum of contemporary art is walking distance from here.
Unlike Calgary with the Chinooks, the snow just piles up here. They have trucks that travel beside the snow ploughs to take the snow out of the city. It's hard to get more urban than where we are right now. We've missed being in a dense place like this. Just going for a walk is a social event; you're going to get to do a lot of people watching, window shopping, and umpteen snacking options will present themselves. And the beer. Fin du Monde is delicious, a rich dark sweetish brew, but kind of a big commitment at 9% alcohol. I love Maudite, a more tame version of Fin du Monde. The local IGA has more fancy import stuff than delis in Calgary; we are back in the land of committed foodies. It's hard to be a serious foodie with young kids, but we'll try our best.