3–8 March 2008
Bright and early on the morning of Monday, 3 March 2008, we woke up and hopped into Susan’s car, a 2001 Honda Civic that was approximately the color of eggplant, for a daylong drive to Montréal. We were off for a well-needed, weeklong, after-wedding getaway. (We both generally dislike the term “honeymoon” and prefer something more along the lines of German’s Hochzeitsreise.)
We arrived in Montréal well after dark and checked in at a quaint boutique hotel we found online, the All Suite VIP Loft at 329 Rue Ontario Est. The building itself dated from the eighteenth or nineteenth century and was located in an older neighborhood just north (or east, as the Montréalais think of their city’s geography) of centre-ville. At $67.69 a night, we thought it was a real steal.
New York City on Leap Day may have been cold, but Montréal was certainly colder. And snow-covered. Yet beautiful. Because of the cold, we spent much of our time there in the RÉSO, or la ville souterraine. On one of our ventures outside, we took a stroll through the park atop Mont-Royal, where we met the friendliest squirrels. Ever. Or, at least, the most daring in their efforts to beg food from you. We were carrying a bag, and they clearly knew food was inside. They came right up and put their front paws on our shoes. Then one, when we least expected it, leapt up onto Susan’s purse. The act was so swift and stunning that the only response Susan could manage was a squeal and a quick flick of her arm to let Mr. Forward know he was not welcome there.
Early in the morning of Thursday, 6 March, we took the métro to Montréal’s Gare Centrale and boarded VIA Rail Canada’s train 20, the 7.00 run to Québec City. The sun had just started appearing over the horizon, bathing Montréal’s skyline in soft hues of pink, orange, and violet as the train chugged across the Saint Lawrence River.
By the time we reached the outskirts of Grand Montréal (Greater Montréal), the sun was shining brightly over the driven snow through which our train was passing. The vast, frozen, snow-covered landscape glistening in the sunlight was punctuated only occasionally by small towns, remote houses, and farm buildings. It looked more like Siberia than anything we expected to find in North America.
At 10.16 we arrived at the Gare du Palais in Québec City. From the gare, we trudged through the slush and up the steep incline of Côte du Palais to our destination: the Château Frontenac, one of the world’s grandest hotels. (Susan notes that, even though we explored the entire hotel, we found no ghosts.)
We filled our time exploring the quaint streets and alleyways of one of North America’s oldest cities (Québec City was, in fact, celebrating the 400th anniversary of its founding the year we were there). Susan made a snow angel on the Plains of Abraham, where the British claimed final victory over the French in their conquest of Canada. We rode a toboggan on a run that had been set up on the Terrasse Dufferin, right in front of the Château Frontenac. And we pelted the invaders from atop the Porte Kent in Québec’s city wall. (Of course, as Americans in Canada, we were the invaders.)
The next day, Friday, 7 March, we took the 17.35 train from Québec City. We arrived back in Montréal on VIA Rail Canada’s train 27 at 20.52. We stayed one more night in Montréal, at La Tour Centre Ville, 400 Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest. Finally, early in the morning of Saturday, 8 March, we found Susan’s car once again and drove back to Washington, D.C., to begin our new life—together.