Montreal, Monday 7/17
The Auberge Loft fiasco
The next day we rode on to Montreal via Northern Vermont. The roads were full of potholes and made me think of driving on Hwy 17 from Myrtle Beach to Charleston. I always had to avoid the right lane because it was too bumpy. Once in Montreal (at Customs, we presented our passports with no problem) we saw lots of "Witness"-looking scenery outside. Think granaries and silos and little gas stations announcing that they have beer and wine. It was close to 100 degrees outside and my back was soaked despite the A/C.
On the bridge to get to Montreal we saw a bilingual sign, "Road Rage Won't Make You A Winner". I need to tell Keith this periodically.
My mother-in-law, Bonnie, had booked us a month ago at the Auberge Loft & Suites on the Rue Ontario. When she booked it, I tried pulling its picture up on Expedia/Travelocity, but I just got a bare-boned listing. I remember having a funny feeling about this, but soon forgot about it. However, I had a hell of a time trying to locate it on MapQuest so we could get there from VT without getting supremely lost. Using Keith's North American atlas, I located a major road off of the bridge and drove towards Rue Ontario. No problem, I thought. We'll be in our hotel room by 6pm and we'll have our showers and then go out to eat. AHHH.
Alas, it wasn't to be.
We went up one street (Rue St Denis) and I saw a lot of European fellows with long hair, bicycles and construction boots and a fireman washing his truck with leather loafers on. I cringed everytime I saw the cyclists edging towards our vehicle. They were everywhere. Then we went down Rue Denis again in the other direction, found our street and parked. Couldn't find the hotel, though, but we did find the correct street address: 335, which was a gray apartment building with a bicycle up front! First, we called the hotel's number on the intinerary, and all we got was, "The party at this extension is not available. Please leave a message." That's not good. So, we went inside the coffee shop on the corner and I asked the barrista in French if she spoke English so we could find this hotel. She hadn't heard of it. We did some more driving, it was getting hotter. Then Rue Ontario merged into another street as it got closer to the downtown. ARGGGH. So, we called Bonnie and told her the situation and she called the number, got the same lax response and said she'd try to book us at another place. Meanwhile, I ran to the Hyatt at the Place des Arts, while avoiding dirty, loud homeless men to find out if this hotel was for real. I check on a map, checked in the Yellow Pages, and asked a very nice Hyatt front desk person. She said, "I've never heard of this place."
So, we bagged the Auberge and stayed at the Best Western, which was a great deal -- although we did have to pay for parking across the street. The place was almost across the Bell Center, where the Hurricanes beat the Canadiens last month.
Looks like we ran into a scam with this hotel. Luckily, Keith's card was never charged because he lost his wallet in a car wash (it was later recovered) and he subsequently canceled all of those cards, including the one he made the reservations with. Talk about luck!!! When we got home, I checked the Auberge on the Internet, and it turns out they did a good job of faking themselves with phony pics from another hotel with almost the same name. So, when booking your trip to Montreal, please avoid this place: The Auberge Loft and Suites!
Now it's 9pm and we're hungry. We changed our clothes and headed out towards St. Catherine St. a main drag filled with chain stores, coffee shops, restaurants -- looking very much like Greenwich Village. Unlike NYC though, every 5th store was a Dance Club featuring full-contact lap dances (they've been legal here since 2001). One place was even called "the Chateau of Sex" (the House of Sex).
The Dinner and the mean waitress
I pick a place called Reubens and order a beer, hamburger and Keith orders a spaghetti/meat sauce plate (looked kinda gross) and a beer. Three seconds after he twirls his noodle, a big flea-like bug squirms into his fork! Keith kills the crawling insect and speaks to the manager, ("Hope it's not a problem in your kitchen) who apologizes profusely and gives him the SAME DINNER! Keith did manage to eat it though, but it was painful to watch. My dinner, however, was yummy.
Our waitress was named Lisa with tight yellow curls, and she never smiled. Her eyes were cold and heartless and when Keith suggested we have coffee, I said quickly we needed to leave this place. Well, since Keith's dinner and beer were free, rude girl decided to look at what Keith left her in the bill wallet to make sure she wasn't shorted because of the bug. Unbelievable!!!
We walked on, avoided more homeless men -- the urine-soaked ones didn't move, while the more active ones were soliciting on the crosswalks when people were crossing. Montreal's poverty is 27.3%, which is the highest percentage of any Canadian city.
We decided on the Second Cup coffee shop and what was cool about this place was that the bay window opened into the street (with no window), so you could drink your coffee while looking at the passersby, like being on a little stage. I ordered 2 caffe lattes in French, feeling very proud of myself and we got the wrong size and the wrong drink. Apparently, the barrista didn't know French. Although I kind of liked my green tea coffee, it was too sweet on the 4th sip. When I asked another barrista where the restroom were, she had to buzz an iron door behind me and I had to go downstairs. Guess they're serious about only wanting customers!
And soon after we called it a night.