Monday, February 9, 2009

Montreal Day Trip

I have officially been accepted to study abroad at Champlain’s Montreal campus next semester! I am so excited that I am able to squeeze a second semester abroad in before graduation and still obtain all of my leftover requirements. What I quickly realized while working in the study abroad office though was that in my entire 3.5 years of living in Burlington, Vermont (an hour away from the Canadian border) I have NEVER visited Montreal. How ridiculous!?

Yesterday my golden opportunity arose. There was a bus trip planned for a day-trip to Montreal, all expenses paid. How could I possibly pass that up? We arrived in the Bader parking lot at 8:30am to check everyone in and pass out bagged brunches. Once the bus arrived we loaded up, took a head count, and then we were off! We passed through the border with no problems at all and were on our way to the city. I rode the bus next to Asa and once we started getting near the city he started getting really excited, which was SO contagious! He spent last semester there so I decided to stick near him all day so he could show me all of his favorite places nearby the campus. We were dropped off at the academic center on Sherbrook and went inside to say hello to a couple of the current students.

We met the interim director and she told us everything we needed to know about the academic program, the RA spoke to us about her job in the residence hall, and Brooke Zambroski told us about her experience so far this semester.

We split into groups and toured the rest of the building, four floors in all (I think), each with it’s own lounge and restrooms! The classrooms are pretty small, but just like in Dublin it’ll make an intimate learning environment which is so much more beneficial than sitting in large groups.
When our tours were over we met out front for the walk over to the residence hall. We are housed in the same building as UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal) international students. I am so excited to live with people from all over the world once again! We visited one of the quads, the apartments seem nicer than the ones in Dublin, but they are also much smaller with lower ceilings and feel a bit more confined. On the plus side, every student is allowed his or her own bedroom! It’s nice to see the residence halls, but I spend most of my time outside of them so I’m not too worried about it.
Finally it was time to venture around and explore the city. I kept nearby Asa and Nick (another Montreal alum that I work with in the study abroad office) so they could show me their favorite hangouts.

Our first stop was Frite Alors where I was told I could order poutine (aka heaven in a bowl). Poutine is a big bowl of French fries with gravy and chunks of cheese. It might sound and look a little miserable but BOY was it tasty! I probably won’t be eating it too often taking preference to more healthy options, but it’s great to already know those little secret treats exist!

As we kept walking we decided we needed some coffee to keep us warm. Although the weather was up in the 20’s Montreal is quite the windy city! So we stopped in a Starbucks (I know, I know, not a very cultural place but hey! I have gift cards!). Then we headed up Saint Catherine Street to look at all the shops. I loved the way the city is an ecclectic mix of old and modern architecture.

I quickly realized that not only was I in shoe shopping heaven, I was in a very general shopping heaven. There are several mall complexes on the street, including an underground mall that the Metro has a stop in. Talk about convenience!

In addition of course there are plenty of smaller boutiques in the mix. I saw some museums I’d like to explore and even ran into a Titanic exhibit with real artifacts from the accident.
When we had finished walking through one of the malls we realized we had an hour and a half to kill before having to meet back up with the rest of the group and a mere $10 in our pockets. I asked where a good place might be to grab a beer and people watch, so we crossed the street into Les 3 Brasseurs, grabbed a seat and talked our time away.

3:30 finally rolled around and it was time to make our way to the meeting point and get back on the bus. I think I passed out as soon as we started rolling – all the excitement was exhausting!

I definitely can’t wait to get back up to the city and explore China Town and Old Montreal. I am so excited about spending my last semester of college there and think the experience will be equally as rewarding as my experience in Europe.