Thursday, August 12, 2004

Toronto, Ontario—Montreal, Quebec—Day 194

My flight from Toronto to Montreal was fine. Typical flight except everyone was speaking French! It was my first realization that woah, in Montreal, French is the primary language. Not to sound ignorant, but growing up in Arizona I am so used to people speaking Spanish near or in the USA, not French. The flight was a little bumpy at first but I sat across from this cute French-Canadian guy who not only had the same woven wrist band that I do (mines purple his was black) but then we ordered the SAME drinks. I was almost convinced that it was fate until we landed and he met his girlfriend at the baggage claim area.

Oh well, ce’st la vie.

I got my bags and got a taxi to my hotel, which was happy to find was located in the downtown area. I called my new friend Andrea (a girl who I met at my friend’s wedding this weekend who is from Germany but living here in Montreal until September) and left a message for her. We had tentative plans for tonight and so I was excited—my first city in a while where I had actual plans to meet up with someone who knows the city instead of being on my own!

So then I checked online to see when the Granby Zoo was open. It turns out that the Zoo is about an hour south of Montreal and was open until 7pm. Then I saw that the hippos get fed at 5pm, and at this point it was just turning 1 o’clock. I figured that the best thing would be for me to rent a car to get to Granby instead of taking an expensive cab ride down.

So I did some work first and then headed down into the lobby to the Concierge to arrange for a car rental. He recommended me a place and soon I was off in a taxi to go rent a car. The taxi dropped me off (a little disgruntled after I paid in change—he said to me, what is this?!? This cannot be!) and I went inside to rent my car.

That is when I started feeling like Montreal was this crazy, trippy place. The people working at the car rental were speaking in English and French back and forth, back and forth like it was nothing and I was just dumbfounded. Its like I knew that there were French speaking parts of Canada, but I guess I just didn’t really realize it. It was pretty crazy and I had to remind myself that I was in Canada, not France. I rented the car and decided on getting the full insurance (that would be my luck to get into an accident or something here of all places).

Pretty soon I was heading down the parking ramp in a BRAND NEW Toyota Matrix. It had like 50 miles on it when I got it and I was like great, now I am REALLY going to get into trouble or something! I headed out following the directions that the girl at the car rental place had given me. My only problem was that not only did I have NO clue where I was going, but not a clue as to what the driving rules where/are here. I tried to do a left turn (according to the directions mind you!) but realized that you couldn’t turn left during such-and-such hours and so I got many serious honks and hand waving (not in a good way) at me as people zoomed around me. I ended up having to do a U-turn to get where I needed to go but figured that if anyone had a problem with it, well, I’m just a tourist!

I was on my way to Granby. All in all the drive was just fine, even though the weather was getting to be cloudy. It was about 3:30 when I set off and I made it to the zoo parking lot around 4:30 which was perfect timing. The zoo wasn’t that hard to find once I got off of the highway. I bought a ticket and was told that since it was after 4pm I was allowed to come back the next day for free. Putting the ticket into my pocket, I had a good feeling that I might just have to take them up on that.

I handed my ticket to the ticket guy and went in and found the hippos. Two of them to be exact—a mother and a baby. Apparently the mother is a new addition to the zoo as of just a few years ago and when she was transferred from a zoo in Mexico she was pregnant but no one knew about it! So she showed up in Granby already pregnant so now they have the baby. The baby was super cute and the two of them were happily sleeping in the water.

Their enclosure was also a fairly big size. I set down my things and found my place where I wanted to stand when the keeper came out. There was about 10 minutes before the feeding was going to begin so I waited and soon a crowd began to gather.

That’s when this annoying little boy came over. Ok, he wasn’t really little, he was more of a large ten year old or something and he and his family were also going to wait for the hippos to feed. But he came and stood right in front of me on the platform (asking me in French to please move). I thought he was going to stand next to me but no, he stood right in front of me which literally left no room for me on the platform. The guy to my left who was not on the platform gave me a look like “can you believe that?” and I just shrugged and smiled, but I was annoyed. Now where was I going to stand? There was a large group at this point and the keeper came out. She started talking and I still didn’t have a good place to stand, and pushing this kid out of the way didn’t seem like a good idea with his mother right there. So I stood halfway on the platform and got some pictures in between the tall man on my left and the large boy on my right, who incidentally started swaying when the keeper came out. So he would like sway into my line of vision and then sway out so not only did I have to time my pictures with the hippos eating, but with this boy’s swaying.


Finally the keeper ended her talk and I went to ask her their names. She didn’t speak much English at all (again, I was ignorantly shocked—but I am in Canada!) but I managed to get their names. She also told me that there is a third hippo, Kiboko, who comes out in the mornings, switching with mom and baby (Polita and Alcide by the way). So I thanked her and was able to get some more pictures while the crowd dwindled, eventually leaving just me and the hippos.

I then headed out of the zoo and drove back to Montréal, listening to French pop songs all the way which was really fun. Miraculously I got off at the right exit in Montreal and was able to find the parking garage for the hotel with little trouble.

I then called up Andrea who had returned my message and we set up a time and place to meet. Every Thursday night Andrea goes out for drinks with her German friends and basically anyone else who is friends with anyone German. We met up and then met with the group and I had a great night. I won’t go into details but I’ll just say that there is nothing quite like dancing with crazy Germans. Especially to 80’s retro.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.