Get back in our little car today and take the quick, not-so-scenic route to Montreal. As usual I sit surrounded by maps and guide books, trying to make sure I know which way we’re going, as I’m not completely trusting of our GPS system. I wonder, though, why most SatNavs have female voices. I think it’s meant to be calming for the driver though Hubby is convinced it’s to make the driving experience more realistic. He is happy to shout and curse the SatNav woman because he says it’s the same as shouting at me when I give him wrong directions. As is often the case, I read out bits from the guide book a day late. “Ooh we could have gone on a steam train in Quebec”, as we’re 100 miles or more in the opposite direction.
Discover that we could also have gone on a whale-watching expedition and this makes me shudder, remembering the disastrous experience in Iceland last year when the mixture of seasickness and the previous day’s dose of laxatives, lead to a very unpleasant three hours in the Arctic Ocean. My book says that while the whalers of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth tribe were out hunting, their wives were expected to lie perfectly still at home in the hope that the whales would become equally docile. Now that’s the job for me, “Just stay at home and lie down, darling, until I get back this evening.”
Dougie tells me to put the books away for once, get my face out of the maps and just enjoy the scenery (what scenery? We’re going the direct route.)
“Trust the SatNav”, he declares, “she knows the way to Montreal.”
It’s all going very well until the last ten minutes. Montreal is on an island in the middle of the St Lawrence River so we know we have to go over the river at some point and head towards the Downtown area which is full of skyscrapers. SatNav woman takes us over a fantastic bridge and then, just when we think we’re nearly there, the stupid woman directs us through a huge tunnel in the middle of the city. The signal for the satellite gets progressively weaker until it disappears altogether. Just at that moment, in the middle of the tunnel, the road splits left and right.
“Which way do we go?” Dougie asks me.
“Don’t ask me, you told me to put my maps away, told me to trust the SatNav.”
“Which way do you think then?”
“Erm, err, hmm, well I don’t think it’s right as that says University, so let’s try left”, I say with the conviction of a woman who has no idea what she’s talking about.
We turn left, come out of the tunnel and are now travelling on another bridge back out of the city. GPS lady most confused, wakes up from her slumber and issues some ridiculous “turn left”, “turn right” commands one after another as Hubby frantically yells and shouts at her, me and the world in general.
“Re-calculating, re-calculating, make a U-turn where possible”
“I CAN’T MAKE A U-TURN, YOU FOOL! WE’RE ON A BRIDGE! WHY DID YOU TAKE US THROUGH A TUNNEL WHEN YOU KNOW WE’D LOSE THE SIGNAL? ARE YOU COMPLETELY MAD?”
As Dougie rants at her, like Basil Fawlty with his Mini, we drive away from Montreal for some time before she can get her bearings. We park up, have a big shouty session, then try again. This time, SatNav woman gets it right and we eventually pull up to the hotel. Valet parking awaits us again and a doddery old chap in a peaked cap looks like he wants to take our cases. Dougie reckons the old bloke would have a coronary carrying all my shoes and is so fired up anyway, he grabs the cases, hands the keys over, and stomps inside. I think he would be happy never to see the car again.
Once settled in, we decide to start making use of our free 3-day Museum Pass with a trip to the Biodome, which used to be the Velodrome when Montreal had the Olympics. The great thing about the hotel is that it has its own Metro station! We take the lift down to the basement and come out in the Underground. We discover there is a huge network of stations and walkways underneath the city and they are all linked to each other so that in the winter no-one need to go above ground: shops and restaurants too, all underground. In the Metro I take charge. Having lived in London many years ago, I always feel comfortable getting around another city’s underground system. I seem to know instinctively where we need to be and which escalator to take. Dougie says it’s a pity I don’t have the same innate sense of direction when I’m above ground…