Sunday, May 14, 2023

Ooh La La

So last week I headed up to Montreal for the binual conference of the Canadian Guillain-Barre Syndrome foundation. In 2019 I went up to Toronto and wrote about it here. I honestly didn't think to explore Toronto because it's just a smaller version of New York City. But Montreal was a different thing..

Montreal is way different than New York. 4 years ago i went to Toronto and all I did was go to an airport hotel. But for this conference i stretched it out to enjoy the city. After I checked in at the hotel i asked the staff there to tell me what to do for half a day. I told him I heard there was some hill I should go to the top of so I can see the whole city. They explained to me that Montreal is really called Mount Royal. And the receptionist actually helped me with my Uber app to tell me exactly where to go.I was dropped off at a park that reminded me a little bit of Prospect Park. (not really like Prospect Park and it's architecture, but like prospect park in that it was a place where people came to relax) There was a welcome building and a coffee shop. I had lunch, then walk to the top of Mount Royal. Here's the view I was told to view. You can go to Google and find a lot of better pictures. Here's a Garmen view of my walk to the top of Mount Royal.

When I got to the bottom of the hill and was waiting for the Uber to take me back to the hotel I realized I needed to learn some French quickly. The best teacher in the world is Phoebe Buffay so I knew she told Joey to speak French.

That really didn't help. I knew enough to keep my mouth shut but more on French later.

I did make it back to the hotel where the conference kicked off.

And the conference was fantastic. I got to meet people I hadn't seen in a few years and met a lot of new people who've been on the same journey I have. That's really the point. For me I'm not really interested in any new medical research or what the doctors say about diagnosing GBS. It's been 9 years for me and honestly I think a good doctor is more interested in what I have to say about my journey.

English in a box
And part of the fun about this conference was that it was in French Canadia. I learned that for the most part Quebec is a bilingual province. But English is a distant second on that list. Part of the conference was in French and at that moment I was sitting with people from Western Canada and asked them about their traditions. What do people do when people start speaking French? They told me it's okay to play with your phone or get up and leave. Sometimes there are headphones that translate. For that speaker I got up and left and hung out in the hallway with other survivors of my lovely disease. When the next doctor started talking in French one of the head honchos of the conference gave me a pair of headphones.I learned why the UN is so dysfunctional... Live translations don't really work. Especially with a lot of technical words.

Saturday evening the conference wound down and two wonderful things happened. First I found out that in two years the conference is likely to be on the west coast of Canada. That's going to be so cool. Second, I went out with to dinner with two people I had just met. They were both Canadian but really didn't know much about Montreal. And we found out together that the place to go to dinner is a neighborhood called Old Town, or Old Port. We just directed our Uber to go there and explored. A whole bunch of clothes streets alongside of the docks. Tons of tourists tons of restaurants and none of them were restaurants that would be seen in every city in the United States. No sign of an Applebee's or a Hard Rock Cafe. No Dinseyfacation. Lots of street entertainment and happy people. I would recommend any New Yorker who wants to go on a nearby vacation destination to go to Montreal.

But that wasn't it. For my ultimate activity in Montreal I actually found a 5K. ( it turned out to be the penultimate activity) it was a high school fundraiser race. Course NDL there was a 1K and a 5K and a 10K and a 5K walk and it all started it ended at a local high school. I registered for the 5K race. They called it 5K course. I took an Uber from the hotel and got there significantly early. Upon getting there I realized that this was not a bilingual place. There was no English. But since I speak 5k I was able to figure things out. So much so that while waiting for the start multiple times strangers walked up to me and started asking me questions in French. I guess at a race I am the guy that looks like he knows what's going on.

The race itself went fine i probably finished last but along the course every couple of blocks there were high school kids cheering. It was kind of cool that in French Canadia they cheer Ooh La La, Bravo! But before and after the race I had a little problem.The first I anticipated.I was picking up my bib on race day and I would need assistance attaching it to my shirt. It turns out there were kids volunteering out in front of the school. High school kids holding up signs with question marks on them. I took off my shirt and put it on a table and ask the kid in slow English if he can help me attach the bib to the shirt because my fingers didn't work too well.He didn't say anything to me but he gladly helped me.After the race they had sandwiches. They will all wrapped up pretty tight and I couldn't tell what was in what.They had signs with French words.I noticed a couple of students speaking

English in the corner. I went over to one of them and said to him that I didn't speak any French but wanted to know what was in the sandwiches.He pointed to the sandwiches and read off what the sign said.chicken, pigs, vegetables. He was so kind I couldn't tell him that the word we used to describe pig meat is ham.

But did you notice earlier I said that this race wasn't my final activity. That's because on my Uber ride over to the race I noticed that we crossed the gigantic bridge and it had a pedestrian path. A pedestrian path! I was actually holding my breath as the Uber driver found the starting line for the school hoping we weren't far away from that bridge. We were really close.So naturally I ran back to Montreal after the race. It was just about 3 mi but I felt like I was in the place where I really belonged. Upper Giant Bridge over some sort of industrial island with a sewage plant on it and then down into the back of Montreal.  It was definitely the peace day resistance of my trip.
a description of the pedestrian path and some
warnings that I did understand

this is the view of Montreal from the bridge. It's a terrible picture and you can't really tell but that hill behind the brown building is where I was standing two days earlier. It is Mount Royal


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