Petite Bourgogne

Petite Bourgogne

Monday, June 2, 2008

Whoosh! Part 3 - The rest

In between my social and photographic adventures, regular life still happened. Why bother writing about regular life? Partly to give a more balanced view on my adventures. Partly because some interesting stuff still happens in regular life.

Adventures in bureaucracy continued. I did finally get my health card at about the same time I got a cheque from BC MSP. Seems that Quebec canceled my BC insurance when I applied in Quebec, so I was effectively without insurance for about a month. Good thing I didn't get sick. It's taking longer than expected to sell my car, so I had to change my car insurance. Car insurance is MUCH less expensive in Quebec. I think gas is about the same - currently $1.34 - $1.44 per litre, depending on the day.

One of our benefits at work is in-house language lessons. The lessons are 90 minutes twice a week over lunch. I was put in the beginners French group, but I'm very happy I'm not a complete beginner. We had one guy from the UK in our group who didn't speak a word of French. Poor guy - he was completely lost and gave up after two lessons. The French I learned in high school is quickly coming back, but I still haven't found the confidence to have even simple conversations outside of the class. Our HR technician gave me a good piece of advice: practice my French with friends (or strangers) over a few drinks. I may try that at some point. In one meeting I unintentionally said a number (vingt-quatre) in French, and everyone got excited that I said something in French. To give some context, meetings typically go back and forth between English and French, but a lot of software development vocabulary is in English with "er" (pronounced "ay") at the end. For example, to check in code (into Perforce) is "checkiner le code" in French. My team has been kindly adding French vocabulary and phrases to my white board. It recently got a summer addition: les gougounes.

Speaking of work, our big move the last Friday in May was impressive... and chaotic. It was the biggest move ever done. We moved pretty much everyone on the 6th floor - about 100 people - in under an hour. It was kind of like July 1 - the day when most of Montreal moves. I was moving out of my office while equipment was being moved in. Everyone was helping everyone else. IT and facilities did a great job making sure we had the connections and power we needed. We're in an old building that has "character". The real test was the following Monday morning when my entire team turned on their computers, build machines and Devkits. No brown outs, but our air conditioning was definitely being challenged. In addition to the move, IT even managed to get the computer set up for our new employee starting Monday. Not bad for a relatively small company.

The rest of work is... work. I can't really say anything specific. The experience has similar elements from all the companies I've worked at before. It's a bit like deja vu that way. The major difference is that my team has over 30 people. I only have one project manager and I have lead developers instead of team managers. As a result, I'm very busy dealing with the day-to-day. It's going to take awhile to coach the team to where they need to be so I can spend more time on what I should be working on.

After over three months of no communication, I got an email from the ex last week with a bit of an update. I won't get into any detail, but I learned something from my less-than-positive reaction. It's a good thing.

So, that has been my life outside of my more exciting adventures. Just like everyone else, it's not just about exploring a new city and a bunch of social outings. Other stuff happens, too.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Whoosh! Part 2 - So much merriment

I wanted the title to be "Eat, Drink and Be Merry", but it would have made the link too long. As the title suggests, April and May continued to have a lot of culinary and related events.

One MeetIn member is a pastry chef and he holds pastry tasting events every couple of months. I was finally able to attend one in early April. For a nominal charge, we sampled artisan tarts, mousses, cakes, chocolates and truffles on a Friday evening. Loaded up on sugar, we then headed out to Les Deux Pierrots for some merriment. It was described to me as a traditional Old Montreal hangout. The crowd spanned all ages, all there to have some drinks, listen to the live music and, if the music is good, dance. For those of you with some Kingston context, it's kind of like the Wellington (circa mid-90's) mixed with Clark Hall Pub on two floors. The music covered traditional Quebecois music (which is very similar to traditional Irish, Celtic, Newfie, etc. music) to rock covers spanning the 60's to this decade. We were the group of 30-somethings dancing off to the side while the students crowded the stage. I had so much fun that I went back with my Vancouver visitor over the May long weekend.

The "In Search of the Best..." theme dinners continued. They fill so quickly that I often wasn't able to RSVP in time. Still, my culinary adventures included Japanese shabu-shabu (fondue), traditional Mexican (think: mole rather than fajitas), Tibetan, a very unique wine bar (every hear of candy cap mushroom milk foam in a dessert?) , couscous, and Greek. Outside of the official MeetIn theme dinners, I also experienced a more traditional fondue place and a couple of terrasses in Old Montreal, an Irish pub, a fine Italian restaurant, and an all night Chinese food place after one pub night. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, I'm not sure about the last experience. Next time I'll stick with poutine. I've started collecting business cards from all the restaurants and will keep a scrapbook, just so I remember where I've been.

As much fun as the restaurants have been, I wanted some more culture in my life. In April, I attended "Shakespeare Unplugged" at the Atwater library. The two-person play expertly wove together scenes and lines from a variety of Shakespeare's best known plays. I was surprised at how many I recognized.

The first Friday in May, I hosted my first MeetIn event to attend a concert/cocktail party at the contemporary art museum. That was a unique experience. For the price of admission to the museum ($8), we could sip yummy cocktails from the cash bar, enjoy the museum (which we didn't manage to do) and attend an hour-long concert in the performance hall. The museum holds the Vendredi Nocturnes every month and it's so popular that they don't announce the name of the band until the day of. We saw Bob, a dark, eclectic local band which included "go-go boys" (read: performance art) in their act. The band was excellent, though not exactly my thing. A picture of a "go-go boy" and a toy reminding me of a Replicator from Stargate SG-1 is below:A little more of a traditional cultural event, a friend from MeetIn and I went to see Neil Simon's The Odd Couple at a small theatre. The acting was fantastic and the intimacy of the theatre put G and I in the "splash zone" of flying beer spray and chips as Oscar was demonstrating his typical hosting style.

Working for a company that builds games for licensed movie franchises has its benefits. Our social club sponsored two movie nights to see Iron Man and Indiana Jones. Both movies were great fun. We'll be going to one more movie in June.

Since moving to Montreal, I've been watching Sex and the City reruns on TV. May was capped off with a girl's night out to the Sex and the City movie last night. I'm pretty sure every woman in Montreal was at the movie theatre last night. The movie was great, which we discussed over cosmos (what else?) and martinis at Jello Bar. Once again, I wish I had had my camera. The lava lamps were mesmerizing. Ah... more for my cell phone photo gallery.

Stay tuned for Whoosh! Part 3...

Woosh! Part 1 - So Many Photos

Woosh! Where did April and May go? There were a lot of adventures and they are becoming a blur. I thought I'd write my updates in several parts, based on some major themes this spring. Montreal went from winter to spring/summer almost instantaneously. With the warm sunny weather, my camera has been getting quite a workout.

The first weekend of April was gorgeous, so my camera and I walked around Old Montreal. Basilica Notre Dame, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, architecture spanning about three centuries, cobblestone streets, and fabulous art galleries were all part of the 92 photos I took that day. I also started coveting digital SLR cameras that day. Everywhere I went there were other locals taking pictures with some pretty cool cameras. Suddenly, my little Kodak felt limited. I'm still very happy with how my photos turned out. I've been consistently posting my favourites on Facebook. I'll put fresh ones here.

The next week, a few of us from Meetin went to the annual butterflies fly free at the Botanical Gardens. I was like a kid in a candy store, taking 135 pictures of plants, flowers and butterflies, as well as thinking about which plants I want to make part of my soon to be jungle at home.

The photo above is a blog exclusive. I didn't put my photos from the Cabane a Sucre and hike on Mt. St. Gregoire. Cabane a Sucre, or Sugar Shack, is a Quebec tradition, involving a lot of food and maple syrup, but not so much on the shack part. The feasting occurs in very large halls reminiscent of those used for Oktoberfest. It was during the hockey playoffs, so there were a lot of Canadiens jerseys and "Go, Habs, go!" chants. To burn off our meal, we hiked up Mt. St. Gregoire. The views were beautiful, but didn't translate so well on camera - the browns and yellows really washed out in the sunshine. It was only the end of April, but I got SO sunburned.

I wore my sunscreen a couple weeks later for the hike on Mont Royal and the tamtams at Parc Mont Royal. The views from the mountain (relative to the rest of the geography, it's a mountain) were fantastic. One guy described the tamtams as a timewarp back to 1967. Every summer Sunday people gather at Parc Mont Royal, play drums, dance, play, partake in Vancouver's finest export (grown locally, I'm sure), whatever. There was even someone dressed as an apostle, carrying a flagstaff. I still need to edit that photo.

Fabulous friends visited from Vancouver over the long weekend and into the next week. It was an action-packed tourist weekend, including partying in Old Montreal, shopping downtown (and buying the perfect dress), a boat trip from Old Port, and La Ronde in the rain. I think I saw more of Montreal in four days than I have the previous four months. Thanks, J! Both sets of friends are also BSG fans. I now have a renewed passion for the series, just to see whether our speculations were right.

The last photo adventure was a walking tour of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve last weekend. In addition to pictures of the Olympic Stadium, Marche Maisonneuve, and a variety of other historical buildings, I also added to my collection of pictures of doors and front stairs. I'll be printing my favorites and replacing some vacation photos soon.

The walking tour wasn't the only adventure last weekend. A group of us, all from MeetIn, went on a foodie roadtrip to the Eastern townships. We planned to go to the chocolate festival in Bromont, but didn't quite make it. We wound up touring farms and towns... and I forgot my camera! I've got a great picture of a goat on my cell phone.

Stay tuned for Woosh! Part 2...