pfctdayelise @ : Montreal/Canada first impressions
So it's Tuesday night, I have been in Montreal for a full 48 hours and PyCon tutorials start tomorrow!
I flew over with Air Canada. MEL>SYD (Qantas), SYD>YVR, YVR>YUL. The flight from Sydney was delayed by almost an hour and I only just made it on to the last leg. I was rather surprised to find out that the domestic flight (almost 5 hours) didn't include any meal. Apparently that's standard for North America now, it would be nice if Zuji warned me about that. What a hold-out Qantas is in that regard. (Mind you the "meals" for MEL>CBR or MEL>SYD have always struck me as totally ridiculous.) I didn't really sleep as I had centre seats on both AC flights. I watched some Portlandia, The Mindy Project (why doesn't this air in AU?!), Big Bang Theory, a couple of Spanish films ("Three many weddings" and "I thought it was a party"). I also read 2/3 of an auto-biography, "Who says I can't?" by Catherine DeVyre, who it turns out is a Canadian-cum-Australian (which I didn't realise when I picked it up), and listened to the new Beyonce album and Yuna's "Nocturnal" and played some Threes. Anyway not-sleeping has turned out OK, I arrived in Montreal Sunday evening so sleeping then was appropriate.
I kind of forgot to think about organising money until the day before leaving, and NAB don't process travel cards on the weekends despite finding a branch open on a Saturday. So I bought a Travelex multi-currency debit mastercard at Melbourne airport. I'm pretty sure it is basically the same product. It's a bit less convenient though, as I can't change the PIN and if I lose both cards (or even just the PINs?) I'm kind of screwed. Anyway, it's working out OK.
The view flying into Vancouver was breaktaking. Kind of like the photo in this blog
but the cloud was thicker and more blankety, and these snowy peaks were just poking up everywhere. Australia really doesn't have mountains to get that excited about.
I am staying at a studio apartment near Berri-UQAM station, walking distance to PyCon and several interesting neighbourhoods. I found it via airbnb, but the hosts have a website
with a few properties, seem like they do it semi-professionally. It's a great little place, very European feel. It's super nice to stay in a place with a "homey" feel rather than a hotel! They also wrote a fantastic document which is an intro to the apartment and Montreal, with suggestions of things to do/see, which has been great.
* Montreal is kind of drab and the buildings near the airport are square and boxy. A local told me that things don't start getting green until May and indeed many tourist services (eg bike tours, and Bixi!!) don't start until May, which sucks a little bit. There is still snow on yards, although mostly not on roads/footpaths, and it's always melting.
* Speaking of footpaths, I was surprised at how bad many of them are, with obstacles and uneven-ness and broken things to dodge. Would be such a pain to have a stroller or wheelchair. Reminded me of Buenos Aires where I had a similar impression. It is a hazard of being an older city than an Australian city, I guess. There is a reason we don't have water hydrants on the street!
* Related, it seems like every home and shop has stairs.
* Lots of terrace houses (?) in what I think of as "New York style" (a la Sesame St and Sex & the City :)), although obviously this style has wider adoption than my media consumption would suggest. Don't know why but seeing fire escapes amuses me :)
* The metro is so great. There also seems to be lots of buses.
* Lots of cathedrals/churches
* Quite a lot of construction
* Many intersections don't have pedestrian crossing buttons - they have permanent pedestrian lights which activate with the traffic. There is no aural signal though.
* There seems to be slightly more homeless people here than Melbourne, which is extra distressing given how cold it is.
* How great is it that Australian prices include taxes? Answer: It's so great.
* Quite a lot of Australian wine is available, although no names I recognise, and weirdly none of it specifies the grape type eg shiraz. So I feel like a wine snob! The most helpful is that some is labelled "dry red wine", but most of it just says "red wine"! For example this bottle from Notting Hill Vineyards: "expressive, flavourful", "full, robust palate with soft tannins", "slightly woody, berry flavour", "floral bouquet with hints of vanilla and berries" (according to their website
it's a cab sav)
* Food is slightly cheaper (meals maybe $2-4 cheaper after adding tax).
* THE CARS DON'T HAVE FRONT NUMBERPLATES
Traffic on the right is turning out to be more taxing than "the French thing". Given I have no pretence to speaking French, I have no qualms in saying "hello" and then continuing in English. No one has given me any flak for it. But if I don't think about it at least a little bit, I constantly drift to the left on the footpath and thus have way more space negotiations with other pedestrians than if I just keep right. And of course I have no confidence jaywalking.
Yesterday I went walking in the Gay Village (or just the Village?), and Old Montreal. In the afternoon I had a nap, then went to meet bemusement
and his sister and her partner (who he was visiting) for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant on the Plateau. (Near there I passed a small bar advertising a gig for the Jezabels, but sadly I think the show has been postponed. I also passed a cafe called "Melbourne".) The food was quite good. There seems to be quite a few dedicated vegetarian restuarants around; I might make an effort to try and visit them all. May as well!
I pulled out my tourist map and the locals became quite animated at the prospect of pointing out precisely where the best coffee was. bemusement
, a Google employee, was quite bemused (as it were). "It's been a while since I've seen a paper map get so much attention", he said. After dinner I walked part of the way home down rue Saint-Denis.
I had some gatorade last night to try and cure my seemingly unquenchable thirst since arriving, as well as some red wine. One of them must have worked, because I slept about 12 hours but at least woke up not being constantly thirsty. :)
Today was rainy all day, so I only got around to leaving the house around 4. I went to the convention centre to register for PyCon (eee!!!) and then walked along rue Sainte-Catherine from Quartier des Spectacles to Centre-Ville. I picked up a Canadian SIM for $50 (well $58 inc tax) from Fido which includes:
* unlimited incoming texts (including MMS)
* unlimited outgoing texts, including international (not including MMS)
* basically 0 call dollars
* 1G data ($35)
Phone reception is basically only in Montreal, although they said I'd still be able to use data if I travelled elsewhere. So I think that's a pretty good deal. My number is 1-514-549-4836. Not sure if I have everything set up correctly yet because no one has replied to my texts, which maybe means they didn't receive them... *shrug*
For dinner today I went to another vegetarian cafe, which was OK. Then home to write this and drink all the red wine and check I am all ready for the tutes tomorrow! Tomorrow I have a day of tutes on machine learning. I hope this will give me enough background to diss ML with confidence. :P
One other thing that is happening, is that I ordered a laptop from Dell.ca! The model
I wanted is not sold in Australia, for some shitty reason. So I ordered it the week before I came, to be delivered to my apartment address. But I slightly panicked and forgot to put the apartment number. Also, the owners told me they don't have access to the letter box. So today I rang Dell support and they told me they will update the address to add the apartment number and access code to the shipping company, as well as a note not to use the letter box!! I feel about 85% certain this will work out. 10% is still terrified my laptop is going to get handed to any random stranger in the building and 5% that it ends up in a depot and I can't claim it before I leave. It will probably be fine though. :o
Would have been better if it arrived _before_ I did the tutorials but hey, I'm not that organised, it turns out.
TODO: Attend PyCon, meet up with Evan, plan side trips.