It's our last week here. Most of the Cirque folks seem thrilled to be moving on ... they've been in Montreal forever, it seems. But I've only been here three weeks and I'm not sick of it yet! Oh well.
To begin the week Greg had two full days off, awesome. Monday and Tuesday we caught up on a lot of stuff with house and kids, and also had time for some adventures.
Ever wonder what the "Muscle Beach" Rings Trio act performers do on their day off? Go to the beach! Along with Alya, Massimo, Denise and Gael, we took the metro and bus to l'Ile Notre Dame, where there was a fine sandy beach, with lifeguards, snack shops and a playground. It made for a great afternoon out, although it was very crowded for a Monday. I really enjoyed the chance to hang out with the other artists away from the Cirque tent; we were able to talk more easily, far from makeup and costumes and performance stress. And the kids, of course, had the time of their lives - including our three, plus Gypsy and Alisa.
On Tuesday we went for a bike ride, and actually biked through the city back to our hotel. This is a first - up till now we've played it very safe riding in wide open pedestrian areas. This time, we were able to use the designated bike lanes (separated by curbs from the main roads) that cross the city. We're not quite ready to let Baz out in open traffic yet.
This would be a good time to mention some of the cool things I've noticed in Montreal (different from the USA) in the 3 weeks we've been here.
- ladies wearing high heels, bicycling to work
- no one walking around on the street talking on a cell phone
- clean public restrooms
- yellow ambulances (Ayla claims she's seen these in Philadelphia)
- neato playgrounds - old-school crazy climbing structures, not the safe-and-sanitized new ones we have in the U.S. (here's Baz, terrified)
I've also gotten a handle on the bilingual life here. It's a constant odd challenge every time you go to speak to a new person here - should you speak in French or English? I get the sense that everyone else is similarly confused. Some general rules of thumb - true only for central Montreal:
- all signage and public announcements will as a default be in French, and they use the metric system.
- anyone who is in any kind of customer-service position, in any job, from grocery store clerk to computer technician, will be fluent in English as well.
- if you speak to them confidently in French, they will answer in French. But any hesitation or confusion, and they will switch immediately to English.
- Anyone who clearly speaks only English will be met with perfect English in return.
- Every once in a while I do find someone who clearly prefers to speak French. Some examples would be the plumber who came to work in our apartment; occasional cab drivers; some older people I meet in elevators or at bus stops.
I've heard that this changes the further you go outside the city, and that it's much more French-only in Quebec City. This is fine with me; I've been thoroughly enjoying the language and I'm still learning a lot of nuances.
Our schedule is as follows: We have to have all of our bags packed on Friday, to deliver to the luggage van early Saturday morning. We'll keep overnight bags for the weekend - we leave on Monday morning. We could have gotten spots on the coach traveling there for $25 each, but decided it wasn't much more expensive to rent a car one-way, and then we can take our time.
The next few days will be a jumble of last-minutes - visits to the library, science museum, old port area, trying to fit in a few last bits of sightseeing!