Saturday, January 9, 2010

montreal & quebec city

When I stepped out of this train station, I thought two things. One, I've landed in a fairy tale. And two, my hotel is just down the street, so I won't need a cab.

Just about ten years ago I decided to take a trip, all by myself. For a while I didn't tell anyone about my idea because I didn't want to hear the following:
  • You're doing what?
  • That's not safe.
  • You'll be lonely.
  • What are you going to do all day?
  • What if something happens to you?
  • Who will take your picture at the places you visit?
  • How will you eat - you'll have to sit by yourself?
Guess what? I was able to see into the future for a very brief time because lo and behold, I heard every one of those lines, most more than once. I specifically remember someone asking why I would want to do this alone because I won't have anyone to talk to about the trip after I come home. My response was - well, I could tell you about it. Which was met with a heavy sigh and a well, I guess. I really should have figured out then, and not after eight more years of heavy sighing, that this friendship would be best left in the past.  

With my passport, plane tickets, one small suitcase, one too large carry-on, and just a wee bit of apprehension about the next ten days in French Canada, I was off.

I arrived in Montreal three hours later, it being around 11 at night. I got a cab, and as I settled in the back seat, alone, a had this thought: I could be abducted in Montreal. The thought picked up the pace as I tried to explain in Franglish that I was staying at a residence hall at McGill University. I fussed with my map and confirmation email and shoved them up front to the cab driver. He finally figured it out. And I finally got to McGill. Why a residence hall? The school year was over and I read in my travel guide that this was a great budget option for people who wanted to be in the middle of the city, but pay about a 1/6 of the middle of the city lodging cost. And I didn't plan on spending much time in my room anyway. Just at night to sleep.

This hall was quite big, and looked to be built in the 1960s or 70s. I checked in and took the elevator up and up and up to my floor. Found my room (which was right across the hallway from the shared bathroom - much to my delight!), opened the door and turned on the light. And there it was: the sadest looking college room I've ever seen in my life. All white. A tiny little bed shoved up against the wall, so close to the door that the door hit the bed each time I walked in. And a window across from the bed, staring out at another residence hall, sort of like a mirror view. A wall of desks and a closet. Tile floor. And all fluorescent lighting. This was my home base for six or so nights.

I went back out into the hallway, and it was eerily quiet. I walked into the bathroom, which wasn't so quiet at the moment. I'm still not 100% certain what was happening in the bathroom, but it sounded a bit intimate. This was a pretty big bathroom. Lots of private shower stalls. Just lots of stalls, period. I quickly shut the door and made my way back to the on-call desk (which was staffed 24 hours a day, much to my mother's delight). I explained that I just didn't feel comfortable in my space and wondered if there were open rooms in the older part of this building. I'd read about that side in my travel guide and I think there were baths in each room. No dice for me. No rooms open on that side.

Back upstairs. In my room. Locked the door. Sat on the bed. And waited. A. Very. Long. Time. It's now well into the morning. I gathered my toiletries and stuck my head into the bathroom. No sounds. I wrapped everything up in there in about 4 minutes, fumbled at my door with my key. Opened. In. Locked. Jumped in bed. My mind was racing. In about 5 seconds I had convinced myself that someone would pick the lock to my room and do horrible things to me in the middle of the night. So, I pulled over a desk chair and propped it in front of the door. That apparently was the only safety measure I needed because I fell right asleep.

[I had planned to tell this whole story in one post, but it's going to be a series.]


  1. Can't wait to hear the next installment....

  2. Some of the things you write remind me of me. :) I totally would have needed something like a chair in that situation and panic would set in as I'm in the process like....oh MAN, what if I get hospitalized and they can't get ahold of my family, etc. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story!

  3. Wow! I have done that chair thing, too! Are you there right now?? That picture looks like summer time. You rock!

  4. No Carol, I was there about 10 years ago. The photo is from wikipedia. More to come!