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Hi, I'm Nic. I love to travel. It gives me the opportunity to learn about other places, other cultures, the world — and it affords me an escape from my ordinary life. Follow my journey as I share what I love, where I've been, and what I've learned along the way.

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Crossing Thresholds

Crossing Thresholds

Sometimes our trips insert themselves into our lives in awkward spots, even when you plan for the opposite. You forecast your time weeks ahead, making sure to have everything neatly buttoned up before you depart — but then it all falls apart at the last minute. You hope it all falls back into place by the time you’re on your way — but sometimes the negative energy hangs around until you cross the threshold into a new time zone.

We finally left the house at 15:30 after a frenzied day of putting out fires, running in and out of impromptu meetings, and frantically packing and re-packing based on an inaccurate week-old weather forecast.

I was somewhat eager for the train ride to the airport to decompress, to sit and catch my breath for a minute — then realized we were traveling on Friday afternoon and that luxury would definitely not be available. We stood, huddled by the thankfully unoccupied bike racks with our luggage. Mid-trip, a younger woman and what appeared to be her son boarded the train, hanging out close to the doors in the only available space. They found a friend they hadn’t seen in a while and laughed as we skipped between stations, inching towards the airport. As we pulled into the Peoria station the young man fainted and hit the floor of the train, his fall accelerated by the rapid deceleration.

“Somebody call someone!” the woman shrieked. Everyone backed away to give the boy some room, save for a man who quickly rolled him onto his back.

“Does he have a history of seizures?” the man asked the frantic woman. “I have no idea! He’s my cousin!” she shrieked in return. Just as the last words flew out of her mouth, he awakened and the train lurched to a stop at the next station. She embraced him and they ran off the train, barely missing the closing doors.

“He absolutely stank of weed,” the man said, sitting back down into his seat. “He might have smoked way too much — but he was maybe 16!” The rest of the train ride was uneventful — I was for once glad to be bored out of my mind.

Check in, check bags, security, train to terminal A. Door after door, move after robotic move.

We wandered into the ChopHouse, hoping for a little respite from the crowds and a leisurely meal before our flight. We sat in the garish paneled closet-like back room, under a soffit and a polished tin ceiling. We had chicken caesar salads and ate them quickly, rushed by the waiter’s constant question: “Are you sure you have time?”

We sat a table away from a couple who seemed to be just overwhelmingly miserable. The man answered call after call on his phone, sighing heavily with each answer. They pushed their food around on their plates, while murmuring to each other in what seemed like a depressing fact competition.

“....the cousin that molested their child. I think he’s in prison now...”

“...lump on his neck. CT scan was inconclusive...”

I impulse-ordered a side of fries — if I was going to have to hear this sort of stuff, I needed hot carbohydrates and yellow mustard. We shoveled them into our mouths, paid the check, and then practically ran out the low, awkward door towards our gate — leaving them to sigh and murmur in peace.

We boarded our Air Canada flight at 18:30 in a cartoonishly Canadian format. Two people from the Zone 1 & 2 line, then one from Zone 3-5. Two from 1 & 2, one from 3-5. Such odd politeness I’d never seen.

The flight itself was uneventful. I spent my time listening to old episodes of ‘My Favorite Murder’ and halfway-reading the French versions of the articles in the in-flight magazine.

 

Promenade du philosophe / pourquoi aimer les tout inclus / VOYAGE ÉCLAIR À WINNIPEG

THE PHILOSOPHER'S WALK / WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE ALL-INCLUSIVES / QUICK TRIP TO WINNIPEG

 

Once the end of the flight neared, I took off my headphones as they were starting to pinch my ears — and as the silence of noise-canceled air disappeared, I began to wish I had left them on.

A woman in my row, on the opposite side of the aisle, was yelling at her seat mate. Just absolutely hollering — not in an angry way, but as if she had zero volume control, as if it was very normal that she was doing so. Her thick, drawn-out Canadian accent contrasted with her sheer volume. Every moment was narrated, every feeling expressed. Her kitchen cabinets were installed incorrectly, and she had photos to prove it.

“I MEAN, JUST LOOK AT THAAAT! THOSE HANDLES ARE ALL CROOKED! THEY WON’T LAST A DAY LET ALOOONE TEN YEARS! I TEXTED HIM — I DIDN’T FEEL COMFORTABLE TELLING HIM IN PERSON — I TEXTED HIM THAT I WAS DISAPPOINTED AND WANTED THEM FIXED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. JUST WHEN YOU TRUST SOMEONE, YA KNOW! OH MERCY, TURBULENCE JUST MAKES MY HEART DROP!”

It continued upon landing — “OH MERCY, THANK GOD WE LANDED ALRIGHT!” — and during the deplaning process — “WELL, MY DAUGHTER PICKED OUT THIS CASE FOR ME. SHE’S STUDYING AT MCGILL...” — and then we met again at baggage claim — “OH MY, I JUST HOPE MY BAG ARRIVES SOON!”

We grabbed our bags, booked an Uber, and ran out the doors to the departures loop. It was midnight, and the French-language security announcements echoed off of the adjacent parking garage.

The previous idea was to use the brand-new bus from the airport to a southern metro station, then catch the metro into downtown — but the last bus was to leave nearly 45 minutes after we’d gotten in and I wasn’t sure we’d make the last train. Maybe a car2go? Maybe bus then Uber? How would we deal with the bags? Screw it, we said — let’s just crawl into a car and forget it.

Our Uber arrived and we collapsed into the back seat, completely exhausted. Our driver was Raul, a Colombian man who had emigrated to Canada thirty-four years prior. He seemed delighted to have someone to chat with in the early hours of the morning — and we obliged, eager to reset our grumpy mindsets from the gauntlet of the day.

We chatted about politics, the Canadian healthcare system, election night and the day after... heavy topics for 01:00. The highways had all closed for construction and we wound around the city, slipping in and out of darkness on side streets and frontage roads.

As we slid into downtown and then into Old Montréal, the driver was talking about the Las Vegas massacre — completely incredulous as to how it happened.

“Guns are like tomatoes in the US, I think — just ‘Here you go!’” We chuckled at the metaphor, but sighed deeply at the truth behind it.

We pulled up in front of the InterContinental Montréal and he popped the trunk — “Thank you for the conversation, gentlemen! Please, have a good time in Canada — and you’re welcome to move here if you need to escape!” We laughed and shook his hand, and shuffled into the lobby, nearly colliding with a group of incredibly drunk Chinese tourists.

The InterContinental was a random luxury — we needed one night at a hotel before checking into our AirBnB apartment the next day, so I used Priceline’s secret deal feature. “Four-and-a-half stars, downtown, cheap,” I had read out to Mark the week before. “Should we do it?” I had calculated that there were only a handful of four-and-a-half star hotels in downtown Montréal — and some of them would’ve been the epitome of luxury for the night. “C’mon, William Gray,” I had chanted while clicking ‘Book Now.’ The William Gray it was not, but the InterContinental ended up being perfect.

We wandered into the lobby, and the incredibly cheerful reception clerk upgraded us as we’d never stayed in the hotel before, and gave us our keys as we heard the bar manager yell “No, sir, the bar is closed.” It was the group of Chinese tourists — they’d stumbled into the closed bar, sat down and started yelling drink orders (in Chinese) into the darkened room. We beat them to the elevators and made it up to our room, crossing the threshold at 01:17.

We each took a long shower, almost as if we needed to strip the collected negative energy of the day off of our bodies. We soon feel asleep in the dead silence of our brocade-embellished room, the velvet curtains blocking out all remnants of the outside world.

“Adventures,” I murmured to Mark, deep in the crisp white sheets. “Adventures,” he replied.

Le Familier et Le Nouveau

Le Familier et Le Nouveau

Next Stop — Montréal

Next Stop — Montréal