Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Gringa Trail to make a guest appearance

While I was checking my e-mails hunched over on the top bunk of my crew cabin, I noticed an e-mail from One a travel website that offers travel deals. They also have a blog site They invite bloggers from other sites to write about places all over the word, discuss only a certain place or focus on a single activity like food or sports. One Travel stated they liked my posts and were interested in having me as a guest blogger on the site. Immediately I was up for the idea, happy and surprised people are actually reading what I am writing and liking it.

Then it dawned on me…what the heck do I write about? Normally I am trekking through jungles, fighting with taxi drivers in Spanish, being helplessly pathetic at dancing salsa in a club or discovering the best street food to blog about. I was still supposed to be in Colombia basking on a beach in Santa Marta but I am now blogging from the top bunk of a boat earning (real) money to keep myself going. No fear the blog is still alive more post are on their way. I still have my drinking in small towns project on the go and a few more surprises up my sleeve.

I found some inspiration for my guest appearance so you will have to check it out! As well I am in the works of creating a Gringa Trail facebook fan page so the link will also be posted on there as well.

Thank you to all my friends, family and followers!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Canada found in Montreal

Define what Canada is, our culture and what is it to be a Canadian, without saying how we are not Americans. This was an essay my grade 13 Canadian history teacher assigned us after the death of Pierre Trudeau (our most famous Prime Minister)who reigned in a time when Canadians knew what is was to be a Canadian. This wasn’t an easy essay to write as most of the time Canadians rhyme off how we are unlike Americans and then throw in a few stereotypes. We play hockey, have maple syrup, beavers and moose then it stops. Surprisingly we actually do have a unique culture.

My trip to the Montreal Jazz festival taught me about what it is to be a Canadian and what our culture really is. Although this fashionable, artsy, cosmopolitan city is located in a province that at times would prefer to separate and be its own country at the same time Montreal defines what we are all about.

Sitting in a crepe restaurant I hear as our waitress switches between French and English with her customers with complete ease and no sign of an accent in either. I feel guilty with my horrible French; I have let it slip since taking it in high school and am a bit ashamed asking people to speak English to me in a country where both are our official languages.

Being colonized by both Britain and France we are somewhat a middle ground between Europe and North America. Which you can especially tell by walking the streets of old Montreal with its narrows cobbles stone streets, old pubs and outdoor cafes. I even spotted an elderly lady walking back from the corner store with a bag full of baguettes. Hippies flocked to Montreal in the 60’s and took over Saint Louis Square and Prince Albert street areas, there you will find old brightly painted houses with long staircases, cafes lining pedestrian streets with diners people watching with their dogs by their side and bohemian clothing shops with the smell of incense wafting out.

The city reflects Canada’s image of an Eco conscious country, I have never seen so many bicycles this side of Holland. The streets are lined with bicycle rental stations where you pop in your credit card and take a bike for a tour, with so many locations you just leave it where you finish. Most of the locals have their own bikes and it seems to be the preferred mode of transportation during the summer months. I was amused watching the streets seeing the bikers riding past seeming to go up in down in tune with the jazz music being heard from the festival stage.
I took in the sights hiking up Mont Royal where you have a fantastic view of the city and can really see the contrast of old and new. The Olympic stadium in one corner and the old port in the other. I even did the cliché thing eating Poutine (a French Canadian delicacy; french fries topped with cheese and gravy) in a pub called Montreal Poutine, ate crepes at an outdoor cafe and donned my fedora matching the trendy artistic crowd.

Montreal seems to reflect the best of Canada, music, art and culture, the new world meets the old. You see equality between French and English, multiculturalism, hip, trendy and eco friendly. Not to mention a fantastic hockey team (I had to throw that one in there).

Black and White in Montreal

Montreal is famous for young Ontarians as a place to go and get drunk when you are 18 years old. The legal drinking age is one year older in Ontario. Also Quebec is known for its strip clubs. I never ended up going on a binge fest to Montreal when I was 18 and I’m not fond of strip clubs but when I heard about the Jazz festival from a Peruvian friend I thought it sounded interesting and an excuse to discover more of my own country.

I hopped on a six hour mega bus with a friend, an old traveling partner from when I worked for an airline. We were determined to have a Sex and the City style Single and Fabulous weekend. Traveling adventures were to be hand by this single girl. Sometimes I feel like my life is a book or a movie where the story is about me I am the main character and the people I meet are just characters playing a role in my story and sometimes it’s the other way around. This time I knew the story wasn’t about me and I was just a character in someone else’s story. I had been feeling ill before we left and it just got worse. I later found out I had a sinus infection and bronchitis but during the festival I suffered wondering what the heck was wrong. I couldn’t even drink a beer in the party capital of Canada.

Montreal didn’t disappoint however I fell in love with the artsy city. I had images of falling in love with a musician name Jean Francois...or maybe a painter named Vincent. While I was lost in a hazy day dream of my future French lover my friend was getting some attention from an attractive Ukrainian, who is an artist living in the city. We shared beers with him and his friend while watching Jazz the first night.

We met up with him again at the festival where I sat hacking out a lung and chatting to a guy from France who was staying in our hostel. I could tell this attractive Ukrainian was completely into my friend. I couldn’t bare to go into a bar with my head throbbing so when he mentioned going back to his place to watch black and white movies on a projector screen in his apartment I was all for it. I also thought it was crazy romantic , watching an old Charlie Chaplin movie projected onto his apartment window blind, an Ukrainian could my friend resist, although I may have been in the way, a bit of a third wheel. She had no idea though, no idea that this guy could see how fantastic she was and how romantic the situation could have been. I had to basically spell it out to her, this guy really likes you. It made me think, are people these days too busy texting, e-mailing, messaging and facebooking that when it comes to real life in the flesh conversations people are missing the signs. Do we have to talk in texting code to get messages across? Are people too busy and caught up in their lives for the verbal and non-verbal signs we give when courting someone? Perhaps we are past the days of courting and onto sexting? All this made me appreciate the subtle romance and humour in the black and white movie we were watching. There is something to be said about silent movie romance.
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