Montreal - - Day One, Thurs 3/26/15
We turned on the TV, and wouldn't ya know they have all kinds of French-language TV. It took a while to find a show in English, but it was worth the effort - - the morning show we found had this barbershop quartet called Young Guns.
They sang "Java Jive", and they couldn't have been whiter.
Locale: I did a little research on Montreal before we left town - - I found a list of 10 great restaurants, and #1 on my list was a diner near out hotel called Le Gros Jambon, well-known for their breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal, I could eat breakfast six times a day, we were out the door like a cannon. And wouldn't you know they were CLOSED! Oh, the humanity! But we found a cute coffee joint down the street with good food, Espace Cafe. The proprietor couldn't have been more charming, a middle-aged guy totally chatting us up. Richard thought he was just approaching the limit of being too friendly, but I reminded him that Canada is sort of a suburb of the Midwest.
Our meal: coffee for both of us, water, some eggy breakfast sandwiches with cheese and bacon. So good.
Topics of conversation: the outerwear of other patrons. It was cold, so people were still in their winter coats, and what a splendid show we had there at Espace Cafe. A middle-aged blonde woman in a smart beige car coat (Richard's terminology). And a 40-something Latin gay man in a high-style dark brown wool coat with leather insets in the sleeves.
Our friends John and David had been to Montreal recently and loaned us their guide book. Our plan for the first day was to do the Old Montreal self-guided walking tour, the perfect way to start our trip. We stopped at the Chateau Ramezay, a 17th century chateau of some historical significance. Lots of old crap in there. I took a cute picture of Richard and a beaver.
Say it with me: Nice beaver!
We walked past a cabaret called Le Balcon that had a sign advertising a show that night about Edith Piaf! Mon dieu! We called them as soon as we got back and made a reservation. They put us on hold to speak with a reservation agent, then put us on hold again to speak to someone in English. Richard had to give her his credit card number and home address. She seemed to be unglued by the name of the city we're from, or maybe she just enjoyed saying it with the tight and piquant U particular to the French language: "Nuuuuu York....Nuuuuu York....Nuuuu York!" Yes, she said it three times.
Locale: the hotel lobby.
Our meal: Richard had French onion soup (when in Rome) and Caesar salad, I had the pizza Gault, which had wild mushrooms, salami, and bacon (Canadian bacon, naturellement).
Topic of conversation: we asked the server how to pronounce the name of the hotel - - Hotel Gault. She said she hears all kinds of things - - gawlt or goat or go. She didn't say which was correct. Maybe there is no standard pronunciation, or maybe she was being diplomatic. Quelle diplomacie!
Another topic of conversation: Jessye Norman singing "La Marseillaise" at the French Bicentennial, 1989. Wearing a silk hooded caftan done up like the French flag and, to use the priceless description of our friend Dennis, "skulking around the Place de la Concorde."
Back up to our room. We watched a rerun of Ellen (Juliana Margolies and Bruno Mars) and the local news. The financial expert on the news had creepy eyes - - the eyelids opened and shut independently of each other and the eyes rolled around aimlessly. I couldn't pay attention to what he was saying, he was like a china doll possessed by Satan.
Later in the news, Richard and I had a hair pull about matching the necktie with a pocket square. I'm against it, it doesn't bother him. If only I had known this before we were married.
Locale: Le Balcon, for the cabaret show. Our primary server was a classic cabaret server type, the woman of a certain age who loves the place and smokes too much. Her name was Chantal. She had a trainee with her, a hunky guy named Reg. It was his first night.
Our meal: Richard started with a scotch and water, I had a club soda and lime (confirming my place on the City Council of Squaresville). First course: we both had the "inspiration de cabaret", escargots and spinach in phyllo dough in a red pepper sauce. Main course: Richard had the tagliatelle with confit of duck and red pepper. He was impressed with how much duck they gave him, they were not stingy with the duck. I had the salmon with capers, served with roasted red pepper, haricots verts, one slice of grilled tomato with pesto, and mashed sweet potato. Delish.
Topic of conversation: that woman at the back of the club working on her laptop, could she look more miserable?
The performer was a woman in her 50s named Claire Garand, vivacious, engaged, and perfectly Piaf in her manner of singing and generous brio. Her use of gesture was maybe a tad stale - - I thought maybe she staged the show in her apartment looking into a long, yet narrow mirror. She opened the show in a curly red wig, a plaid coat, little black dress, and black boots. The young Piaf. She opened with "Under Paris skies", such a sweet song.
Her pianist was playing an electronic keyboard, sometimes singing along. His hairstyle was totally Nigel from *This Is Spinal Tap*. He was wonderful and clearly had a good camaraderie with her. She did lots of commentary in between songs, naturally in French, rapid fire - - Richard and I estimated that we got between 10% and 25%.
Our table was right next to the stage (there were maybe only about ten tables with people at them), and she sang "Milord" to me, took my hand, and brought me onto the stage to sing and dance with her. That was maybe more of a thrill than it should have been.
Dessert: Richard had the mango sorbet, I had the chocolate hazelnut cake, we both had decaf Nespresso. Reg called me "Milord" when he delivered dessert, how cute is that.
The singer came out for the second half in a new getup - - a short red wig, a black velvet little black dress, and strappy heels. Piaf, Diva. On Project Runway they would call this look "madame", and they would be right! The second half of the show had more sing-alongs, and I was a little amazed that the audience knew every damn word (Richard was not amazed). We said good night to Chantal, and she called me "Milord", too.
In bed at 11:30. Out like a light.