Beaver Tails, Croissants, and Wine, Oh My!

After waking at 3am to drive to the airport this morning, I am completely exhausted.  But the excitement of traveling and the anticipation of the next few days in Montreal just won’t let me sleep!  My cousin ,Gaby (who flew in from Philadelphia), and I were reunited at the baggage carousel of the Montreal Trudeau airport and were zoomed into the city of Montreal in a taxi whose driver weaved fearlessly between other cars, pursued by what sounded like an ambulance.  Or it may have been the police, but they couldn’t catch us.  We were gallantly deposited on the steps of Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth (Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth – home of John and Yoko Lennon’s famous Bed-In), and a short time later we entered our luxurious 2 bedroom executive suite on the top floor.  After getting lost a few times, we discovered a formal living room, a dining room that seats 10, a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and 2 and 1/2 baths.  I think we might need to keep the gps tracking devices activated on our phones so we can find each other in this set of rooms!  We then dumped our bags and rode up and down on the elevators until we found Le Montréalais bistro to take care of our rumbly tummies.  We immediately ordered 2 glasses of sparkling wine and toasted our Spring Break.  After our Pacifique Salad and Smoked Meat Sandwich, we took a walk to search for the legendary Beaver Tails (deep-fried pastry dough smothered in Nutella or other delectable sweet toppings of your choice).  We walked far, pushing through wind gusts like a good little Dorothy and Scarecrow would.  Eyes watering, hair askew, we came upon an empty storefront, with the remnants of Beavertail menus on the wall.  Tragic.  Heads bowed, we thought we would take a shortcut back to the hotel through the Underground City (a warren of tunnels that span 11 miles under the city of Montreal, that are filled with thousands of shops and places to eat and drink).  We now know where to go when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives.   One could live in the Underground City for years and never need to visit the street level.  As usual, I was a dismal failure at being Navigator, and luckily my cousin is a naturally talented pathfinder.  I think I’d rather have her plugged into my car, giving me directions, than my crabby Garmin, who always scolds me and repeats in her jaded phrase, “recalculating.  recalculating.”  Gaby got us back to the hotel through the tunnels, and we rewarded ourselves with pastries and lattes from the Boutique Gourmandise.  It was an eclectic mix of very bright spring clothing and handmade pastries.  We chose the pastries.  Bringing them to our room, we claimed a small end of the enormous dining table, spread out our tour books and iDevices, and proceeded to while away the afternoon, sipping coffees and planning the rest of our week.  At the end our day, we were too tired to get dolled up to eat out, so we ordered some Caesar salad, some foie gras, some fruit salad, and a bottle of wine from Room Service.  Then we settled into our living room and Facetimed my husband and kids, tormenting them with our plans to find a functioning Beaver Tails the next day.  Tomorrow, we will intersperse sightseeing with bouts of eating, followed by strolling along the mighty St. Lawrence River.  If anyone would like to join us in our gluttony, we have a sofa sleeper in the living room, or space on the room-length dining table than could sleep quite a few folks.  Day 1 completed, and things are only going to get better…Happy Easter, Mon Ami!Image

Keep Calm and Buy Booze in the Duty Free Shop

Every 6 months, I fly from wherever we happen to live, to Davenport, Iowa, to visit my Aunt Barby. She is my dad’s older sister, a retired school teacher, spinster, and she could use a daughter around every once in a while. I love her and I love to help her, but I seem to have a travelshitmagnet that activates on all my trips to see her.

1st leg of my trip and my travelshitmagnet is working on full battery power. Before I left Jasper, I deliberately updated my Garmin online, to prevent any weird “Recalculating” glitches hitting me mid-highway. Well, the update ended up giving the Garmin little hiccups, and during the drive through the city of Calgary this morning, every other word coming out of her was, “Recalculating.” All I could do was laugh through my tears, as I drove in circles.No problem no problem – the highways signs brought me to the airport eventually.

At the airport, I stressed myself in the long-term parking garage, trying to commit to memory, the exact spot that I parked my car, so when I return in 10 days I don’t find myself wandering around like a pathetic Gretel, sans Hansel, searching for the breadcrumb trail to my car. I had installed an app in my phone a lonnnng time ago, that is supposed to help you in this exact type of situation. Trouble is, I couldn’t remember how to use the damned app. Hashimoto’s strikes again. I finally took a picture of the concrete pole I was parked next to. No problem no problem!

Wheeling my luggage into the main terminal, I checked-in, went through Homeland Security (I love how you can walk behind the ticket counters at Calgary International Airport in Canada, and in a few steps, you are on U.S. territory…it’s like time travel or something – you don’t even need to get on an airplane, and there you are on U.S. soil). The flight was delayed. First for 13 minutes, then for 25 minutes, but finally we boarded. The pilot told us later, when we were airborne, that the flight was delayed by “weight and balance issues.” What does that mean? Do the fat people need to be divided evenly on each side of the aisle? Did the sports freak a few seats down really need to bring his hiking boots, his skiing boots, AND his snow shoes?! It was a small plane – 2 seats on each side of the row. And for some reason, most of the passengers decided to bring ALL of their luggage as their carry-ons. With few exceptions, it seems that most of them ignored the rules about what constitutes legitimate carry-ons (this explains the “weight and balance issues” the pilot was talking about). And nobody likes to put their bags under the seat in front of them, so all the overhead bins were taken by the time I boarded. No problem no problem- I don’t mind resting my feet on my carry-on. Let’s just get this damn plane off the ground – I have a connecting flight to catch on the other side! The poor flight attendants began to play musical-overhead bins when some of the bags were so big the bin doors wouldn’t close. Still, it seemed we were almost ready to take off. Until the female attendant discovered a pair of crutches hidden under a seat. She asked the passengers around, if everyone was comfortable with the crutches stretching under 2 sets of seats, and was told, “this is absolutely unacceptable” by some crotchety old lady. The flight attendant patiently began to rearrange the overhead bins again, and my poor seat mate finally nudged me and whispered, “help me keep an eye on my leather jacket – it’s changed bins 6 times. I feel like I’m playing a cup game on a street corner in New York.” Sure enough, I turned away just ONCE and I lost it. Good thing it wasn’t a small child or a puppy; later, when the flight landed, it took a few minutes, but the jacket was found at the front of the plane. During this musical overhead bin show time, the plane started taxiing down the runway, and the female flight attendant actually had to get on the phone and tell the pilot to stop. So he stopped. On the runway. I fully expected the traffic jam to cause other planes to honk their horns, but airline pilots are much more polite than the rest of us drivers.

My seat mate was a lovely old man from Medicine Hat (for my ‘Merricun friends, it’s the Canadian equivalent of the town of Mayberry. And my seat mate was Andy Griffith). He said he liked small towns, and never wanted to live in a big city like Chicago, but “it sure is amazing to visit the big city! And, oh my, what about those flight delays? And would you take a gander at the male flight attendant? His eyebrows are quite elegant, and his earrings are diamonds bigger than my wife has! And how do you stay so calm when you might miss your next flight?” I told him that there really weren’t any other options than to stay calm. I had spare clothes in my carry-on in case I missed my flight, and fussing wouldn’t make the plane fly faster. What I didn’t mention was that I had stopped at the Duty Free Shop and purchased a giant bottle of Grey Goose vodka, and it was happily nestled in my spare clothes, inside my carry-on. Every time I felt myself begin to panic about missing my flight, I pictured a shot of Grey Goose on the rocks, with a squeeze of lime. No problem no problem.

5 minutes before we landed in Chicago, the female flight attendant got on the intercom and lightheartedly told us not to worry, we were only delayed by 45 minutes, and we should all be fine, as long as the people who were not connecting to further flights would stay seated so the rest of us could run like mad beasts for our departure gates. Oh. And did we forget to tell you that we are landing in Terminal F and you need to run to terminal E to take a shuttle bus to Terminal C? That’s right, we’ll be landing in Terminal F-you. I had exactly 15 minutes to make it clear across the airport to get on the last plane to Moline, Illinois. Well, I ran like Hell and made it – the last one to board. It turns out, I needn’t have run, because we were stuck on the runway for an hour after that. This pilot told us we were “inexplicable delayed.” Not possible. Inexplicable is aliens landing their aircraft on the runway and us having to wait until they disembark their aircraft before we proceed. Inexplicable is a plague of locusts splattered on the windshield of the plane, blocking the pilots’ view. For the rest of the rational world, there is always an explanation. What was that pilot hiding? Somehow, I thought crutches were involved. During this time, I felt a hot flash coming on, so I aimed the overhead fan towards me. And I discovered my new seat mate forgot to brush his teeth…after drinking all night last night. And also, he forgot to bathe. And the fan kept blowing his aroma my way. No problem, no problem. I made it onto the plane, I’m almost at Aunt Barby’s. And there is Grey Goose waiting on the other side.

I should have bought a bigger bottle. After waiting at the luggage carousel in Moline, through 3 airplanes’ worth of luggage, I decided to face the fact that, while I was running to catch the plane to Moline, the guy who was carrying my suitcase to the same plane, stopped to pick his nose. Maybe I was spared having to spend the night in Chicago, but my luggage will be spending the night there. We’ll be reunited tomorrow, and all will be well in the universe. Actually, I’m not stressed. I’m safe at my Aunt Barby’s house, I have spare clothes in my carry-on, and I have a double shot of Grey Goose on the rocks. No lime, but no problem no problem!

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