Backpackless Backpacking – Part II
Probably the most pressing question: Did I finally get my backpack? – YES! I’d been travelling without my main luggage for 12 days before I finally got it on Saturday night. Also I was extremely lucky because my backpack found its way to me through interplay of some miniscule incidents. In the end, it was Joe Klein, an employee of WestJet, who had to carry the can for what Condor buggered up. My friend Suzanne wrote a very nice e-mail to WestJet thanking them for their work. If you like to read the full story about what happened, here´s your chance. I just had to put this down, this is wonderfully written!!
Lena arrived on a bus from Toronto without any luggage. She left Germany on Condor Airlines, and upon arrival at Pearson, found that they had lost her luggage. Safe to say she was very distraught as she landed in Canada for a two-month stay travelling the eastern coast of Canada and the US. After numerous attempts to reach anyone at Condor airline, she still wasn’t getting any one to talk to on the phone but rather a recorded message. She was desperate to find out where her luggage was and how and where to get it to her since she is making so many stops in both countries. Even when she eventually talked to someone, no one knew anything about the paperwork she filled out to trace and re-route the missing luggage. After spending 5 days in Quebec City, she returned to my home for four days, hoping that I had received a call from the airline as she had given my address in Dorval for delivery. No such luck and the worst is that she is leaving tomorrow for Toronto and the US for the next 6 weeks. As luck would have it, Joe Klein, from your Domestic Arrival baggage retrieval managed to contact someone at Condor Airline in Germany after many attempts over the last week. Miss Braun’s luggage has been in WestJet hands for that whole time but due to Condor not sending any disposition information along with it, there was no way of knowing where to send the luggage unless someone managed to talk to a human being at Condor. Joe managed to do this only this morning. Getting nowhere either, he stressed that there must be information as to where this bag was to go in Montreal. Finally he got my address but no phone number. Joe googled my address and got the number of the administration for my building (as residents are not listed). As luck would have it, someone from our Board of Directors was in the office (usually closed Saturday and Sunday) and took the info and left me a voicemail but no number to call back. Upon getting the baggage claim phone number on your website, I left a message explaining the urgency of getting the luggage today due to Lena’s departure tomorrow morning. Since I could get a call sometime within the next 24 hours according to the recording I got at that number, I decided to head to the airport with document in hand and try to get the luggage. When I got to the desk and told my story, Joe said you’re here about Anna-Lean Braun’s luggage. YES I said and he pointed to it and said I just called you back 5 minutes ago, suggesting you come and retrieve it should you wish to instead of waiting for the courier service to deliver later in the day. I was just so thrilled to get the luggage and grateful that someone went to all the trouble he did to get this luggage to her rightful owner. That’s what I call customer service. It is a rare thing these days and so I am wanting to acknowledge this man’s dedication to his work and to serving the public.
Over the last few days I’ve been given a lot of items at hostels. Another backpacker even left her old backpack to me because she had bought a new one while staying in Québec. Since I didn’t have much else to do in Québec City, I went to some thrift shops and bought four shirts for 8$ (~6€) – In fact, they’re better than most shirts I’d packed in the backpack. Also I bought a hot pants for 5$, so now I’ve got a long pair of jeans and a short one. Ça suffit! 🙂
Seriously, all together I spent about 30$ (~24€) on clothes and some toiletries and now I’ve got everything I need to survive on the road! Apart from that, it’s not a lot you have to carry, which is great, especially in walkable cities like Québec or Montreal.
I stayed in Québec City for Day 7 and 8 as well. On Monday I took a ferry to Lévis, which is a city on the other side of the Saint Laurent. From there you get an amazing view of the Québec City skyline as well as most of the monuments, such as the Château Frontenac, la Citadelle and Parliament Hill. On Tuesday I took a long morning walk around the Citadelle, which is a significant location regarding Canadian history. For example, you can see and walk along the battlefield, where once the French had fought against the British. Apart from that, you can watch the change of the guards every day at 10am, which is supposed to be pretty spectacular, though, I haven’t seen it myself. You can also cross the entire city by walking on the fortifications. The walls are about 4.5km long and you get a pretty nice view over Old Québec. Since Tuesday had been a beautiful day, five of us wanted to go out and watch the sunset from one of the spots on the fortifications. At some point we decided to change the location and climbed up to the Citadelle. The American, who joined us, suggested to buy some wine and chocolate and so we ended up sitting in the grass at one of the highest points of the city, drinking red wine and watching the day turn into night over the Québec City bay. The other German girl also brought a Ukulele, which made everything just perfect. It was a beautiful highlight at the end of my stay in Québec City and one of those moments in life that you know will never happen again… Right people. Right place. Right time.
On Wednesday I took a train to Montreal. I’m so glad I’d decided to pay a few more bucks and go by train to Montreal instead of taking the bus. The landscape was really beautiful and the ride was relaxing.
When I got to Montreal, Suzanne, who I stayed with, had already prepared dinner and we spent the evening talking about life and our travels.
On Thursday I met one of the German girls, Johanna, who I´d shared a dorm with in Quebec City. We went on a hop-on-hop-off-tour through the city. We got to see most sights, but due to a lot of traffic in the afternoon, we couldn´t hop off the bus at every stop. However, we did visit la Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal and also L´oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont Royal, which does not only look magnificent on the inside. From up there you´ve got an amazing view over the entire city of Montreal. Afterwards we went on top of Mont Royal, however, it was terribly windy and we didn´t stay too long. In the evening we met up with Esther, who was also staying with us in Quebec City. It was her last night in Montreal, so we decided to cook a meal and drink cheap beer. I ended up sneaking into their hostel with them, then used the community kitchen and cooked dinner together with them. In fact, I´ve never before sneaked into a hostel that I was not staying in and used their facilities and Wi-Fi… It is pretty convenient, though. After dinner we “sneaked out” of the hostel again and sat in the grass in Dorchester Square (a “park” downtown Montreal) drinking beer, surrounded by skyscrapers and young people smoking weed.
On the next day, Johanna and I took a bus to the Village, which is a district in the east of Montreal. The guide on the tour bus said that it was definitely a place to go to because there were lots of cheap shops with funky things to buy. It certainly was an interesting district with a very special atmosphere. Everything was decorated with pink light bulbs and rainbow flags. Since Canada hosted the International Pride this year, I suppose they also had a couple of demonstrations and events in that district. People were generally a bit offbeat there, but very friendly. It was a fun morning indeed!
At the very eastern end of the city there is the Olympic Village with its stadium, the Olympic Tower and the very famous exhibition Espace pour la vie (engl. space for life). You can visit le Jardin Botanique, le Biodôme, l’Insectarium and le planetarium. For financial reasons, we chose to go inside the Biodome only. It was certainly a nice attraction, but having already been to the Eden Project in Cornwall, which is considered one of the biggest and most impressive Biodomes in the world, this one was rather boring to me.
In the afternoon we visited le Quartier Latin. We walked along Boulevard St-Laurent, which was closed to cars that day. There are many shops on both sides of the street and since the Boulevard was only open to pedestrians, a lot of stuff was also sold on the street. Apart from that, there were buskers and percussion-groups (YAAAY!! ) as well as thousands of people – Canadian, French, English, American, German, Italian, Asian, Latinos… There is definitely a high ethnic diversity here!
We were supposed to meet my friend Suzanne for dinner that night. When we arrived at our meeting point, we still had 30 minutes to kill, so we decided to sit in the grass on Place Emilie Gamelin and just relax. After a few minutes there was a backpacker asking for directions and we started talking to him. I´d noticed that he was also carrying a guitar… To cut a long story short, we ended up having a little jam session in the park, which was amazing.
Day 3 in Montreal started a little later – I had a chance to write a few notes about Montreal in the morning and then met Johanna in the afternoon for walking tour through Vieux-Montreal (engl. Old-Montreal). The weather was fantastic and after two hours of walking along the seafront and some ice cream we headed back to her hostel. We had an early dinner and took the metro to get to one of Montreal´s islands St-Hélène to see the sunset and the skyline by night. It was on the way that we found out there was a Linkin Park concert on the island that night. After having watched the sun go down and having taken tons of skyline photos, we enjoyed a few Linkin Park tunes on our way back to the metro station. Obviously, their sound could be heard all over the island, which was pretty cool cause we were able to listen to their music for free…
When I got back to Suzanne´s place, my backpack had already arrived and Suzanne told me the whole story.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank Suzanne again for EVERYTHING! Thanks for picking up my backpack and dealing with all this luggage chaos. Thanks for letting me stay at your apartment – that made travelling and sightseeing in Montreal extremely convenient!!! Also thank you for all those good conversations we had – you are certainly an inspiring woman! I hope you´ll have many more amazing travels to come and also keep up doing all your charity work. Unfortunately, there are not that many people left who are really much into this kind of work, but it will surely pay off and bring you joy and happiness!