The Montreal Chronicles: Eat, Pray, Love Run from hobos

The following photo montage is a testament to the awesome weekend I had in Montreal. Trust me, this time it might be better if you see pictures instead of reading about me ramble on about how I loooooooove Montreal. This is not to say I won’t have SOMEthing to say about it. Anyway, let’s begin with the begining.

I got to Montreal by the Greyhound. The Greyhound may not be the most humane way to travel, but it is definitely the cheapest. After an all night 8 hour bus ride, I finally got there at around 9am and checked into a little Bed and Breakfast. I had the cutest room at the BnB, HANDS DOWN. Not that I saw anyone else’s room but seriously…how cutesy is this!

You cannot tell from the picture but this room is actually on a pretty crazy slant. Tres charming!

There was no better feeling in the world than passing out on that bed after a long night of the inhumane Greyhound night bus. And what’s more, my awesome host Natalie treated me to a three-course breakfast. I didn’t know three-course breakfasts even existed.

Anyway, on with the adventure:

EAT:

Lots of unhealthy eating was definitely done.

At Nickel's which is a restaurant chain owned by Celine Dion. Not even the song "My heart will go on" in the background was going to deter me from devoring the deliciousness on this plate.

 

Montreal's finest poutine. Just a quick explaination of what that styrofoam container contains for non-Canadian readers: that delicious heart-attack over there is french fries and oodles of gravy topped with cheese curds.

 

I haven't been to all the places in the world but Montreal quite possibly has the best almond croissants in the world.

PRAY:

Solo getaways are also great for getting in touch with your spiritual side. There’s nothing like not having your friends to stay out with till 4am and dissolve your troubles in tequilla shots.

The majestically towering Notre Dame Basillica

Notre Dame Basilica. One of the most gorgeous, peaceful and soul-stirring churches I've ever been in.

St. Joseph's Oratory. The Oratory is sitting on a hill behind the statue of St. Joseph in the Montreal fog.

RUN AWAY FROM HOBOS:

If you ever go to Montreal, you may or may not notice the population divided into three categories.

1) Normal people: These are people dressed like you and me. Regular Joe’s and Josephina’s going about their daily business of being French. If you are not a normal person and live in Montreal, then chances are you belong in one of the following two categories.

2) Hipsters

3) Hobos

One of the first things that happened to me when I got there was a fellow that looked like he had been living on locusts and brambles his whole life  came chasing after me screaming “Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!..” followed by a string a French words. He could have been asking for sex or he could have been asking me for a chapstick. Who the hell knows. He even started talking to me in English to get me to talk to him. It was clearly amusing to everyone, including my iPod which actually quite appropriately started playing the song “Howling for you” by The Black Keys.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that since the culture of Montreal seemed to be predominantly hipsters and hobos, it might be appropriate to let you in on some tricks on how to be able to tell the difference.

The main reason why you would even confuse Montreal hipsters and hobos with each other is because: 

1) They both usually have beards.

2) They both wear mismatched clothes and don’t care.

3) They’re both bilingual.

However, here are the subtle differences:

1) Hobos will talk to ANYONE including you, animals, buildings, inanimate objects and themselves. Hipsters only talk to the latest version of the iPhone.

2) It is very easy to get a hobo’s attention. Just the mere fact that you exist in Montreal means a hobo or two will find you and chase you. You wouldn’t get a hipster’s attention even if you were dressed like Lady Gaga riding a giraffe holding a giant rubber chicken.

3) Hobos smell like urine and cigarettes. Hipsters smell like Starbucks and indifference.

And if you are still unsure, I drew you a picture that you can print out and take with you if you ever go to Montreal:

Now you know the difference. You're welcome.

All jokes aside, Montreal is absolutely gorgeous. Even after being chased by hobos. Here are some of my favorite photos:

Old Montreal.

Rue St. Catherine. The shopping street where I spent the rest of my time when I wasn't eating, in a church or being chased down the street.

More of cutsey Old Montreal

Surprisingly there were no couples trying to take cheesy photos near the LOVE structure. Guess I was the only cheesy one there.

Horse-drawn carriage ride along the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal. Pretty freaking romantic if you're unfazed by the constant overpowering smell of horse poop

                                                                                                                           FIN

And that’s my little Montreal photo album for you. The weekend was way too short for everything I wanted to see and do but the whole experience still has me on a high. I’m already planning my next getaway and what I’m going to cover. I have a feeling there will be plenty of more Montreal Chronicles in the future. Until next time, have a happy Monday (about as happy as Monday could be).

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The Lenten Plight of an average guilt-ridden Catholic

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Yes, it’s that time of year again, children.

If you are Catholic, you know that it’s time again to put on your woollen sackcloth and gird your loins for 40 days of Famished Fridays. If you are a Catholic that carries enough guilt to make the whole world and a couple of Martians  repent, then you are probably preparing to take on some extra sacrifices.

Since I fall in the latter category of Catholics, I have spent the last couple of days stressing myself over which of my vices would reluctantly get the boot for 40 days. In the past, I tried asking some of my Catholic friends for suggestions for stuff to give up. The best I got was, “Well, pray about it.”, which is the Catholic way of saying ‘Quit bitching, I’m busy’. The worst I got were actual suggestions of some unthinkable things like giving up make-up and hot showers.  

So I decided to “pray about it”, which I’m now doing on the eve of Ash day by listening to Taylor Swift and blogging instead of lighting a candle and saying a novena.

In previous years, Lent used to be a time when I would try to one-up myself with ridiculous things to give up. I think maybe it was more of a competition I liked having with myself to see how far I could push myself. Alas! As history of my Lenten endeavors would indicate, I’m not very competitive…even when I have nothing and no one to compete with.

-Contact lenses (2007)

Yes, a few years ago, I gave up my contact lenses for Lent. I understand this makes no sense, but hear me out. I hated wearing glasses. Trading my glasses in for contacts in 11th grade was like shedding my frog costume for confidence. Hence the idea of wearing glasses for forty days straight  sat as well with me as  the idea of wearing a burqa would sit with Paris Hilton.

Why this won’t be such a sacrifice for me now? Because in addition to not having the same 5-year-old boy haircut and unibrow that I did in highschool, I now also have a little more confidence outside of my outward appearance. And I have since highschool changed my glasses to a pair that doesn’t make me look like a frog. Everybody wins!…except Lent.

– Facebook (2009)

I gave up Facebook for Lent 2009. It was no easy feat but I was juiced up on the idea of one-uping contact lenses. Since Sundays don’t count as Lenten days…something I learnt at the end of 40 torturous contact-lensless days in the social desert…I got my Facebook fix once a week. Some consider this cheating. I considered it God’s way of keeping me sane.

Why this won’t be such a sacrifice now? Because I won’t be making it.

Coffee (2010)

In my craze to one-up every previous Lenten sacrifice, I told myself I would give up coffee. This marked the beginning of the end of my adventures of climbing the Lenten Mt. Everest seeing as how one week into the climb, I fell off the mountain, cracked my skull and lost my mind. This illustration explains perfectly what happened and why it will never happen again.

Sadly, my successful Lenten streak of super sacrifice ended here. (www.lapsura.com)

 – iPod (2011)

I’m pleading insanity on this one. Clearly, I either forgot the coffee failure of 2010 or my over-zealous Catholic self felt the need the make up for it. I didn’t survive one day and decided to pray everyday on the bus to overcome the guilt instead.

Why this won’t be a sacrifice for me now? Because last I heard, the Catholic Church considers suicide a sin.

– ?????(2012)

No, I didn’t take a 10 minute break from my blog to pray about anything. But what I do understand now at the end of this post is that giving up things makes me miserable. Perhaps if I could be one of those truly Biblical people who “anoint their head and wash their face” while they reach for the Tetley instead of a Starbucks grande, then I might have more success with giving up.

But I’m not.

So this year, I’m not giving up anything. I will listen to my iPod, drink coffee everyday and wear my contact lenses. I will take hot showers, drink wine and be a happy person. Misery need not claim another Lenten victim. This would also very much benefit everyone around me since no one needs to be dealing with coffee-less Karen as much as they shouldn’t be dealing with a lunatic bitch carelessly hurling around sharp objects.

Probably the best thing I could ever give up…for everyone’s sake.

In place of giving up pieces of my life that keep me sane, I will instead give up procrastinating on things like laundry, dishes and dirty bath tubs and bring life back to order. Because order makes me happy. Almost as about as happy as my iPod, coffee and contact lenses. And if I give up being lazy, maybe for once, I will be happy for Lent. I’m pretty sure this is what Jesus would do anyway.

The Bunny Flop

For the past few months, I’ve been wishing for a little mini vacay. Nothing crazy. Just some time off from work to catch my breath and some sleep. Its been a long year and I thought maybe I was due for some R&R.

Well, you know how the old saying goes…Be careful what you wish for because you just might break two bones in your foot and get it.

My story begins on a rainy fall Friday. I had packed a weekend bag and was ready to go to the middle of nowhere on a Catholic retreat. Jesus is relatively easier to find when you are two hours away from malls, assholes and youtube videos.

For those of my readers unfamiliar with how these retreats work, basically the first night is spent moving in your luggage into your room, shamelessly discreetly scopping out the lineups to see if anyone new and cute also decided leave behind civilization to find Jesus and just general tomfoolery.

This retreat, tomfoolery came in the form of a two hour period of “icebreakers”. Icebreakers, to me, typically should consist of AA/ support group type introductions…. “hello, my name is Karen. I enjoy fudge brownies and punching slow walkers…” that sort of thing. But NO. Icebreakers were a string of never-ending trials that just wouldn’t end. And maybe it would have been one thing if my team (Team Burn the Rug…don’t ask) was winning but the fact that we were in third place, in a race of three teams, was pissing me off. All I wanted was to kick the asses of the other two teams and then go straight to bed.

The chance to do precisely this presented itself in the grande finale game. The Bunny Hop Caterpiller Crawl. Allow me to enlighten you on just what this foolish lawsuitphilic game entailed:

  1. Each team had to pick one person to participate.
  2. Each participant had to be wrapped in a blanket and bunny hop halfway through the room.
  3. At the halfway point, each participant had to abandon the bunny and scramble to the floor to caterpillar crawl the rest of the race to the finish line.
  4. How many ways can you spell liability?

I know all of you have a wonderful imgination but I have attached pictures to show you just how ridiculous this was.

You know what they say...you may be pregnant with twins but the camera will add a few extra small animals.

 Now that I sufficiently looked like a small undiscovered planet, the real game began. After much ado about rules, none of which involved the event of an inevitable accident/lawsuit, we took our places. Clearly, by this point my thoughts changed from vanity to apprehension.

My face shows the fact that my brain clearly thinks this is the worst idea since crocs with socks

 The race started and we were off hopping our merry way. Apparently, I had cheated modified my course a tad and thus had the lead in this race. I was going to beat those other two suckers! I was just hops away from the mid point when something happened. My excitment and competitiveness got the better of me and I took a leap. It was one small leap for a bunny and one giant crack for two metatarsals. I felt pain but still wanted to win the race. Besides, I reached the mid point. I didn’t need my feet to do the caterpillar crawl. But one slight movement told me the only thing I was going to win that night  was a 6 week unpaid vacation and a bottle of Tylenols 3’s and Percocets. 

As you can tell, the real winner of the bunny hop is the little heap in the back lying in a half fetal position

After much fuss and tears, I was taken to the ER. The triage nurse asked me what happened. Me and the three friends who accompanied me burst into giggles. Because the truth was that there was no way to frame this story in a way that would sound respectable.

In what parellel universe would a sensible, critically thinking person like a triage nurse, after hearing a story like that,  not come to believe that the best way for people to get to know each other at a catholic retreat is to play a game of jackassery taken straight from the play book of  The Drunken Frat Boy?

 
They wheeled me in for an X-Ray. The verdict was passed. I had a broken foot. The nurse gave me two Tylenol 2’s half an hour before the doctor dug into my broken foot to cast me. Since the T2’s were useless mofos, I suffered the worst 10 minutes of my life and then was wheeled out of the ER.
 
And that my friends is the story of my first fracture ever.
 
Epilogue
 
Its been 5 days since that fateful night of non-drunken bunny hopping. I spend my time on this forced vacation doing the things I love to do. Procrastinating, blogging, watching youtube videos,  milking kindness from others, catching up on tv shows and eating. In fact, as we speak I’m munching on a delicious chocolate chip cookie after which I shall take a percocet and go to sleep…for a long time.
 
The Icebreakers were subsequently renamed The Footbreakers but then cancelled altogether due to liability issues. I think games in general are a concept that have been cancelled forever from all future retreats. Now catholic retreats will break the ice the old fashioned way: silence, awkwardness and lots of time well wasted at the cookie table.
 
My Facebook friend count kicked up a few notches after this retreat. Essentially, the bunny hop pretty much accomplished its mission. It broke the ice, my foot and the misconception that Catholic retreats are safe and boring.