Montreal Jazz Festival, World Cup Final & more
13.07.2006 25 °C
It was the large scribble: 'The guy from Montreal where the Jazz festival is.' next to an email address of a canadian (who I met in a jazz bar in La Paz) in the back of my Lonely Planet's Bolivia guidebook that gave me the idea of going to Montreal for the Jazz Festival this year. I need this trip after backpacking in South America, believe it or not, to feel more at ease with myself during this reverse culture shock period.
My first destination after the 9-hour Amtrak train ride is a hostel with great characteristics but the noisiest mattress. Learning to share dormitory-style bunk beds with others and tolerating decent snoring is easy - privacy costs money. But making strange noises with every muscle move at night needs a bit getting used to. Since I was not in the mood for that, I picked a second hostel and learn a new skill - balancing on air mattresses and finding part of my body touching the hardwood floor in the morning.
There were not much of a culture shock here, even with the official use of french language. People goes on with their daily lives the same as any other big cities. Old Montreal, where my hostels are located, even with its European-styled mansion, cafes and restaurant lined up on cobblestoned streets, gets a bit too touristy for me to appreciate its history.
I stopped by the famous Notre Dome Cathedral, wandered around downtown and then headed towards Mount Royal, a large park next to McGill University. Hiking up the slopes was not physically demanding but getting lost in the hidden paths was - in terms of blood supply to the mountain mosquitoes.
The next day, I paid a quick visit to the Saint Joseph Oratory and the large cemeteries next to the medical schools before heading to little Italy to watch the semi-final match between Portugal and Germany.
A short bus ride took me to Plaza de Art, where the Jazz festival was held every year. Everything from lounge to blues to flamingo to drums, everything with an addictive rhythm and beat in different languages are shared by thousands of people on the streets. No one tried to carry lengthy conversations during the performances or speak up to override the music. Squeezing myself close to the front of the stage proved to be a worthy effort. I danced the nights away in jazzy/mediterrean beats combined with superb performances with thousand others. I even learned a bit belly dancing! I walked back to the hostel passing through streets filled with pornographic shops and prositutes, musically-satisfied.
Sunday morning, I woke up with renewed excitment because of the world cup final and met my new friends in the Latin Quarters. We watched the unfair ending of the match at a crowded cafe. One italian fan got into an accident almost within minutes after the match ended by driving his sport car into a bicyclist, adrenline rush I guess. To cope with my slight disappointment, my friend took me for a nice walk and ice cream at Lachine, a seaside community with beautiful sunset and clouds of tiny flies.
The biodome close to the 1972 Olympic stadium was my destination on Monday. To be honest, it was torturing to see the cabayas, monkeys and macaws that I saw in the Bolivia jungles here, in captured environment. My fond memories of cabaya families rumbling in shallow banks of River Beni, sqirrel monkeys jumping from branches to branches around the Chalalan lake at dusk and macaws flying in pairs in the open sky still lingered. I admired the spoiled penguins for a moment, escaped from the biodome quickly and spent the late afternoon at the Botanical Garden closeby to recover.
The next day, Cynthia and Ken, whom I met last year in DR and again in Peru, came to pick me up in Old Montreal. We took a 8-hr drive back to their house in Bathurst, New Brunswick, where I spent the next few days 'trying to fish' in the Atlantic Ocean, watching sunset in Captain Bob's 'Maggie Ali' captured by his Narobi adventures, daydreaming on the small stream behind their beautiful house with Cynthia's dog 'Chao' on my lap , walking on sand bars at Soloman Beach and enjoying fresh scallop for dinner. In other words, I spoiled myself rotten.