An Important Flight
The woman at the check-in desk hurried us through telling us the queues through security were taking about an hour - even through the prized Fast Track line - but still we didn't worry. We only started to get a little concerned when her departing line was, "Good luck catching your flight!" We had never had that said to us before…
It turned out that Fast Track was in fact no faster than the other queues, or at least that's how it felt at the time. It took us fifty minutes just to reach the x-ray part of security. Eventually, it was our turn: liquids and laptops out of bags, jackets, belts and shoes off, no coins in the pockets…we each went through without setting the x-ray off. T gathered together his belongings, as I was told that my handbag would have to go through another inspection, and was put at the end of a rather long line of other bags to be searched again. With 'gate closes at 18:00' written on our boarding passes, and it now being 17:50, we decided T should go to the gate so he could at least tell them I was on my way. Minutes ticked by, every second that passed by my blood pressure increasing, as was the volume of tears welling up behind my eyes. Two bags to go…and they started searching bags behind mine! I couldn't believe it! At 17:57 I managed to catch the eye of one of the security guys and, trying to keep calm whilst really wanting to shout, scream, curl up into a tiny ball on the floor and throw a massive tantrum, anything but keep calm and reasonable; I explained my flight was due to leave in twenty minutes, and whilst being aware that everyone wanted the whole process to be over, was there any way my bag could be next? After checking with his supervisor, he asked the two guys who owned the bags infront of mine if they minded (thankfully not!), and my bag was searched. Everything was taken out and swabbed at a snails pace (especially when he reached the deep dark depths of my bag and the considerable quantity of crumbs at the bottom of my bag - I was sure I had cleaned it the week before?!)
Eventually, my handbag was back in my hand, and the race to get to the plane was on.
I reached the display board that told me the gate number - one of the B gates - and it also informed me that those gates take fifteen minutes to reach. I looked at my watch: 18:05. That meant I would reach the gate at 18:20, which was the exact time the plane was due to depart...
I ran down the escalator, handbag on my shoulder, coat in one hand and hand baggage case in the other. I hate going down escalators, and have to have one hand on the rail at all times, and walking down them only happens in an emergency, therefore running down them - and these were looong bad boys – and with both hands full, was an event my nightmares are made of. I made it down in one piece and jumped onto the train, my elbows that had been nicely sharpened whilst living in Munich coming into play. All the while, thoughts were whizzing around my mind: This flight had been the last one with airmiles business tickets available for three weeks, if we flew economy we would have to pay for an extra seven bags. Would we get our money and miles back for this flight? We had a car and apartment in Montreal already booked - what would we do with them? T was due to start work on the 1st October, and we had given ourselves the week before this date to get over jet-lag and sort ourselves out. Should he go without me? All those flights we had caught over the years, and it had to be this flight! The last time we had problems with flights was around our wedding - why is it only the very important times that the whole flying thing goes to pot?!
The train came to a halt and it was then back on another escalator, but this one was ascending, which meant running on it was much less scary. My chest was pounding and felt as though it was about to explode, and I wanted to be sick. As I reached the top of the escalator T came into view. He walked towards me. My stomach sank. We had missed the plane.
"Hey babe," he said cheerfully, "The plane has been delayed, no rush." I couldn’t believe it – I was convinced it would have gone. I have never been so happy for a plane to be delayed!
Five minutes later, just as my breathing was beginning to get back to normal and I had stopped shaking, boarding began. I sank down into the plane seat. The air steward offered us a glass of champagne as boarding continued. Never been one to say no to champagne, I decided not to start now and, besides, boy did we deserve it! We toasted the start of our Stateside adventure, and then spent the next seven hours trying to watch movies and sleep but being unsuccessful with both, due to the excitement and trepidation of what now seemed very real indeed: we were going to live in Canada!!
First Encounters of the Canadian Kind
Then it was on to pick up our bags. All come off the carousel apart from one of T's, a little stress ensued - although our stress had been used up at Heathrow, so it was a token stress rather than full on stress - but on further inspection all 28kg of it was with the bike bags in the heavy/bulky luggage section. We divided the bags between three trolleys, and I insisted I took the trolley with the bike bags on it, despite it being the most unwieldy of the lot. All was going well, until we reached the corridor that was to take us from baggage to arrivals. Metal barriers had been placed to make a narrow passage for you to walk through. There was probably 2cm of room either side of my bike cargo. T went on ahead and reached 'the other side' without any problem. I started off OK but then I hit the right-hand barrier, and as I tried to straighten myself up and turn the other way, I hit the barrier on the left-hand side. On and on I went, bashing from one side to the other, the bike bags slipping further off with each crash and making my load even wider, before finally, I became stuck. The queue of people behind me became longer and longer, and they soon started climbing the barriers to overtake me. This action angered security, who barked at the over-takers to go back behind me. All the time I was getting more and more embarrassed and flustered, which wasn’t doing my trolley-driving ability any good whatsoever. T and the security girl came to my rescue. To my immense surprise, especially after hearing her harsh telling off, the girl was really friendly. I thought I was going to get berated for having such a ridiculous load on my trolley. Finally free of the barriers I stepped to one side to let all those behind me pass, receiving many dirty looks as they did so.
Great, I had been in Montreal for just over an hour, and in that time had already managed to piss off quite a large number of locals...
A Strange New World
Dawn soon turns everything back into colour from its veil of shades of black, and the stirring of locals as they get on with their daily routine transform this scary place into one that is more welcoming.
We were armed with our satnav (which we had remembered to load with the North American maps), so the apartment was easy to find, and only took us half an hour to reach from the airport. (Nearing midnight, every minute really counts.) The agency we rented the apartment through had sent us an email the day before saying there was minor decorating work going on in the communal areas, but when we were shown the place it was clear - even at midnight - that this was some pretty serious repair work, and not just a lick of paint. The guy who met us was the head of the agency, and he confessed he hadn't realised quite how bad the work was, so said that we could rent another of their apartments if the work was too disrupting. After all the paperwork had been signed and he had left, it was 12.30am (6.30am Munich time, and the time in which our bodies were still programmed). Part of me was soo incredibly tired, but another part of my body was saying it was nearly getting up time. However, a wee dram of whiskey in bed soon made the tired part of me win that battle and, after being awake for nearly twenty-four eventful hours, I slept.
Our First Day
On the plane from Munich to London, we had written a list of items to buy whilst we waited for the plane at Heathrow; things such as a travel adaptors, Cadburys chocolate, Liquorice Allsorts, Single Malt... all the essentials. Obviously we had not been able to get anything on this list (although T had managed to get whiskey whilst I was battling with security, so not all was lost ;)). But having no travel adaptors for Canadian plugs meant we couldn't charge laptops or phones and I couldn't use my hairdryer. Despite having lived out of the UK for four years, these items still had English plugs, as buying them in England was both cheaper and more convenient. We therefore had a great number of UK to Europe adaptors, but they were of no use to us now.
The apartment was situated on a high street called Van Horne in an area called Outremont. It looked so different in the day light compared to just nine hours previously, and we could see a variety of restaurants, bakeries, and local shops that had all been hidden under a blanket of darkness the night before. As we walked along, the place definitely had a different look and feel than that of Europe: from the different architecture and layout of apartments, the sound of the standard-issue big-engine automatic cars, the police sirens that sound as though they have come straight out of the movies; a general different overall feeling. We had purposefully chosen Outremont as many people who knew Montreal (thank you!) suggested this was one of the neighbourhoods in the city most like where we lived - and loved - in Munich. It is a predominantly French-speaking area, which isn't too big a deal - after all, we have spent the last four years guessing what people are saying to us and hoping that we are nodding and smiling in the right places.
We eventually reached a nice looking cafe and were greeted in French. In our jet-lagged state with lack of sleep, this was one of the times where I wished I could just speak English. But I need not have worried; the waitress soon switched to English on hearing our accent, and on closer inspection of the menus we discovered one side was written in French, but the other...was sweet understandable English!
After a feast of yogurt, fruit and homemade granola for me and a breakfast burrito for T, washed down with wonderful strong coffee, we continued our exploration of the area.
The trouble with coming from a relatively well-off city such as Munich, especially the area in which we lived, is that no matter where else we visit, the streets look tired and a tad run down. They may well not be, but that's how they first appear. Here, to our spoilt and sheltered eyes, this main avenue we had turned onto looked as though it had had its heyday about ten years ago. But it didn’t feel unwelcoming; it was just different to what we were used to. Once off this street the area of Outremont, with its handsome and enormous houses, leafy streets, and array of small parks, is stunning. It feels more European, and I think this is one of the reasons why it especially appealed to us.
Back in Outremont with our more reasonably sized car, we walked (still clinging onto the European thing of walking instead of driving everywhere) to the local supermarket and bought bread, cheese, ham, salad and wine. The prices were a bit of a shock: $3.99 for a loaf of bread, $6.99 for a packet of cereal and $3.99 for a pot of yogurt, but then it was a local store, and the exchange rate meant it was £2.53, £4.44, and £2.53 respectively, which was a tad more in line to what we were used to paying for such items.
The jet-lag was really starting to hit us, and we walked around the store looking at each item as though it was totally alien to us; as though we had never seen a plum tomato or packet of granola before. It took us quite a time to buy just those few items, and I think had we spent much longer in the shop we would have really aroused suspicion amongst the staff - they were already starting to watch us as we traipsed back and forth, changing our minds.
We eventually made it back to the apartment with our groceries in hand and were relieved we didn't have to venture outside for the rest of the day. We still had work to do though: we had the list of alternative apartments from the agency to look at and try to decide which one to move to. We stared at our laptop screens for a while, but it wasn't too long before our eyes glazed over. We had. To. Stay. Awake. We managed to make it to 9pm, and then the lure of bed grew too strong to resist. ZZZZZZ...
A Brunch Affair
We hadn't bought many electrical items with us due to the voltage difference between the US and Europe, but I was pretty confident about my hairdryer and straighteners working, as both were travel models and therefore were dual voltage. Now, armed with our solitary travel adaptor, I was looking forward to being able to go outside with dry hair.
Alas, it was not to be.
Granted, the hairdryer didn't spark or anything dramatic like that, but rather it blew a pathetic, cold whisper of air, even on it's highest setting. Therefore, we left the apartment for a day of looking at alternative places to stay, me with wet hair again (thankfully it wasn't too cold - this could have been a very different story had we arrived in Montreal in January I think...).
We had just one thing on our mind as we set out: Coffee. To our relief, it wasn't too long before we found a cafe. We sat down and the waiter greeted us with a big smile and placed menus down infront of us. (English and French – I love this country!)
"Just two cappuccinos, please."
A couple of minutes passed before the waiter returned armed with a basket of pastries and a jug of orange juice. He placed the pastries on the table and, as he poured us each a glass of juice, asked if we had chosen yet. Erm, awkward. T caught my eye and replied, "Just the two coffees please."
The guy walked away, leaving T and I looking at each other, and then glancing down at the juice and pastries wondering if we should touch them or not. We were served our coffees, and then the guy reappeared with two plates of bread pudding; a delicious cinnamon-spiced dense cake made from bread (unsurprisingly) and bound together with an egg-custard mixture. (Think bread and butter pudding, but a whole lot tastier.) We had no such reservations with this sweet treat, and devoured it in an instant. When the time to pay came the waiter was really apologetic, as he had to charge us $9 for our coffee. The reason was that it was a brunch cafe (never knew such a place existed) and he hadn’t the means to enable him to just charge us for a single coffee without food. We left the café with two things: 1. An awareness of brunch cafes, especially when wanting just a coffee and, 2. A box of pastries that the guy had given us by way of an apology.
After walking for over two hours and finding ourselves in downtown Montreal, our legs were sore, and it had begun to rain heavily, so we decided to get the Metro (the underground) back to Outremont.
Each country’s transport system has it's own method; which usually very simple once you know what you are doing, but tricky to decipher at first (especially if the instructions are all in a foreign language). It seems for Montreal, you buy an Opus card and then recharge it either for single trips, or with a daily, weekly, or monthly pass. We asked the guy at the counter, in our very British accents, if we could buy two Opus cards and then charge them each with a day ticket.
"But why you wanna do that? Just buy two day tickets. Why you wanna spend 12 dollar on Opus card?" In our jet-lagged, overwhelmed and confused state, we failed to come up with a good argument (such as we have just moved here and want to use the underground system…), and so came away from the encounter with two day tickets, but no Opus cards. Half an hour and two trains later, and we were safely back in Outremont. The apartment dilemma had not been solved though. The neighbourhoods of the other apartments were all very much downtown, and not what we were really after. The places were also much more expensive, despite the agency greatly reducing the price for us, and we were already at the top of our budget. The only place we saw that was a remote possibility was in the business district, but it wasn't as convenient for T to get to work, the area was still very much being developed, and there was a derelict-looking Haunted House restaurant on the corner. I assume it is closed down, but maybe the graffiti decorated building with it's peeling purple paint, boarded up windows, barbed wire along the roof, and tatty fake mummified bodes hanging over the front door is still open. All in all, a bit too much of a culture shock for the country girl in me.
Once in the actual supermarket, we discovered it seemed to have the same pricing policy as the small local store. Despite this one being part of a big chain, everything seemed super expensive. Would we ever be able to afford to eat in this country?! We reasoned (hoped) that maybe this was the Waitrose/M & S of the Quebec supermarket world, as everything was nicely presented, in which case we wouldn’t have to spend $8.50 for one ball of mozzarella, $4.99 for a small tub of cream cheese, and $11 for toilet roll.
With our credit-card-battering two bags of food rolling around in the boot of the car, we headed home to look for apartments on the internet. We found a very limited number in the neighbourhood, and of those, some looked in real need of decorating; others cost $6,000 per month! But we did find somewhere just around the corner and on a lovely leafy street, so we emailed the agent asking if we could look around it. He called ten minutes later, and we arranged a viewing for noon the next day.
A Place to Live?
As we wandered our way back to the metro, we passed an inviting looking cafe. We went in and sat down, and as we glanced around at the buzzing array of couples and families deep in conversation, to our horror, realised every single person was eating brunch. Not again - do they not have just coffee places in this city?! This time around, we were determined for our naivety not to be discovered, and ordered toasted banana and coconut bread to share. Although we did get a weird look as: a) it was the smallest thing on the menu, most items being platters of various descriptions, and b) we were sharing it. But the waiter obliged and we were soon tucking into the most deliciously moist coconutty cake, which was accompanied by a bowl of tart yogurt and sharp berries, both of which contrasted fantastically with the sweet bread. It was a very happy result, much better than just having a coffee – maybe we should ‘accidentally’ find ourselves in brunch places more often…
Back in Outremont, high on a mixture of coconut/banana bread and coffee, we went to look around the apartments. Each floor of the three-storey building was a different apartment, and all of them were on the market. They all had two bedrooms (the main one with a closet, of course), a reasonably sized kitchen-sitting room, a utility room, and each had their own front door from the street. We discounted the ground floor instantly, just because we didn't fancy being on the ground floor - that was it's only crime (although it was a tad smaller then the other two). It was a close call between the other two though.
We left feeling somewhat stunned; we had not expected to find somewhere so nice, especially so soon after arriving in Montreal. We had originally planned to rent a place short-term whilst we researched neighbourhoods, T's commute to work, access to public transport, etc, and then try to rent somewhere longer term in November/December. What to do…
We decided to check out T’s commute to Mirabel, where he will be working from early next year and which is situated quite a distance outside of Montreal. There was also a suburb further out of the city - across the river - that had been recommended as a possible area to live, and we felt we had better go and see it before we committed to one of the apartments.
On the way back home we saw a sign for ‘Carrefour’. In Seville, Carrefour was the name of our local supermarket, and the huge chain is common across Europe (in France especially). Still not too certain about supermarkets we were relieved to see one we knew, and decided to call in and get the items we had forgotten whilst being over-awed in the other store the day before. We parked up and walked in (after someone cut us up in the carpark and went in to the space we had spotted; and then got out of her car and shouted at us in French - Aargh! Thought people were supposed to be friendly!?! - however when she switched to English, it turned out she was in fact apologizing for taking our space).
Our first impression of the place was how much more inviting and tidier this store was than the ones we had encountered in Spain; the shops on the perimeter were much more appealingly presented. Minutes ticked by as we traipsed past shop after shop trying to find the entrance to the supermarket, thinking this store was just like a mall…! After consulting a map, and failing to find the supermarket, it finally dawned on us – this was indeed a mall, and not a supermarket. Ahem. We quickly retreated back to the car feeling somewhat foolish…
The outcome from our road trip: the commute was fine, the other residential area was not our cup of tea, and the Carrefour supermarket chain does not exist in Canada.
As long as we could get out of our current contract (which, seeing as the place was not what we signed up for and the alternatives weren't a straight substitute, we couldn't see as being much of a problem), we decided to go for it, setting our hearts on the top apartment. No sooner had we decided, than the agent rang and informed us that the top one had gone :( but the middle one was still available. We arranged a second viewing for the following day and in the meantime had another research session on the internet to see what else we could get for our buck, but our research re-enforced the fact that this option seemed like the best out there.
Getting Set up in Canada
Following another viewing of the apartment we decided to take it, arranging to meet the landlord the following day with the deposit and first months rent in cash. There is a slight problem though: having only just opened our account four hours earlier there is nothing in it, not a cent. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Time to raid our various bank accounts in Germany and England. The German one was instantly discounted as the debit cards only worked in Europe. The others had a pretty nominal maximum sum we could take out of the ATM per day. Aargh!
But one thing we have learnt over the past few years of moving around – not to mention the ‘adventure’ we had just getting married J - is that, more often than not, there is generally another way to achieve what you need/reach your required destination. We went back into our bank and asked for a transfer with each of our Visa debit cards - this way we were able to take out a much larger amount of cash than at the ATM. Despite this option not working with one account, it seemed to work for the other two.
I think we provided the bank staff with some entertainment, after all, they had checked our passports, work permits etc in order to open up an account, so it wasn't as dubious as it could have appeared. Nothing dodgy about withdrawing all this money, in cash, from various bank accounts in various countries, and then doing the same the next day... It was a tad nerve wracking on the second day of operations, wondering if the UK banks would have flagged up fraudulent activity and therefore put a stop to proceedings overnight. We did our best not to appear too relieved and surprised when the transactions went through without a problem and resisted the urge to celebrate when the cashier handed us our money. But if it hadn't worked then there would be no deposit for the apartment, and no apartment.
Money in hand we met the landlord; but we did not get the keys.
Because we have no credit history or means of a credit check, the landlord wanted to get in touch with T's work to verify he was indeed going to be working there. Having been unable to do this before our meeting, we had to wait another day whilst he got the confirmation we were who we said we were and – most important to him I guess – we could pay the rent. It was a bit disappointing to say the least, but we had the other apartment until Thursday (they had been wonderful and understanding, thankfully) so at least we had somewhere to sleep, and didn't have to lug our numerous bags of belongings around.
The new place was unfurnished - not as in Germany, where the term ‘Unfurnished’ tends to mean that, as well as no sofa, washing machine, and curtains, there is also no kitchen: no cupboards, appliances, work surfaces, just a shell of a room with a few holes in the walls for the plumbing and electricity. Apparently 'Unfurnished' in Canada can mean no oven, fridge, dishwasher, but this apartment came with them, not only that, but they were all brand spanking new appliances. It just had no furniture so, with an afternoon to spare, we went and looked at beds and sofas. We drove out to the vast sprawl of out of town showrooms to get a taster of what was on offer. Amongst the vast sofas (complete with cup holders - why??!!), we were surprised to see a number of neat-looking ones which wouldn’t fill the whole room in one swoop. After three furniture-filled hours, I was wilting and in need of water and something to eat. Here in the district of warehouse-style stores, apart from Tim Hortons and McDonald’s there wasn’t much on offer. We spotted a Walmart and popped in reasoning that, it being a supermarket, they should sell some bottled water and fruit. If we had been looking for kitchenware we would have come to the right place; fresh food, though, proved to be impossible to find. There was nothing that had a shelf life of less than six months in the whole store! Packets and tins seemed to be the order of the day, no fridges, no freezers even. What kind of supermarket was this?!! Thoroughly disillusioned, we left empty handed.
Weirded out by this bizarre experience, and still hungry and thirsty, we called in to one last furniture store; a chain that is a big name out here: Sears. As soon as we walked in we were accosted by a salesman, his eyes lighting up when we made the mistake of mentioning that we were moving into an empty house and were therefore after virtually everything. We tried to shake him off, but he hung around us like an irritating fly. As we walked around the store he bombarded us with sales patter, not seeming to understand that we were just looking. “But if you buy today, you could have it next week.” We are just looking. “When you sign up to the store card today you won’t have to pay for your purchases for a year, interest free.” Just Looking. ‘Don’t buy that one, buy this one. It’s triple the price, not really what you are after, but it’s worth it’ WE ARE JUST LOOKING!!! By the time we reached the mattress section, I walked off and left T to it. I was hungry, thirsty and tired and therefore was feeling extremely emotional and in a very bad mood, and having to listen to a loud, pushy salesperson who had wedged himself firmly in my personal space and was clearly not listening to anything we said, was going to push me over the edge. We eventually managed to make our way back to the shop door, and escaped with his sales patter ringing in our ears as we ran to the car.
A Place to Live!
We returned to the other apartment and researched stores and prices on the internet, and then had an early lunch enabling us to have the whole afternoon for shopping. We went down to the underground carpark, got in the car, and drove up the ramp to the garage door. The door opened, and we were met by a huge lorry blocking the whole opening. We sat there for a few minutes, waiting for someone to move the truck, but no-one does, despite them seeing us trying to get out. T goes to ask them to move and is firmly told they will be done in half an hour or so. So back up to the apartment we went - so much for our long afternoon. Eventually, we were back on the road and Operation: Furniture, was back on.
First and foremost though, we had to register for our SIN (Social Insurance Number), which we needed in order to be able to work in Canada. Despite it being 3.30pm and the place closing at 4.00pm, we didn't have to wait too long, and were in and out in about forty minutes (we had expected to have to wait hours as is usually the order for general registering services such as this). The time we had won here we soon lost however; as we turned out of the carpark straight into rush hour traffic jams.
We went back to a shop we visited the day before (NOT Sears) as they had comfy mattresses not only that, but they came rolled up, meaning we could fit it in the car - result! We also purchased a sofa (as you do), but we couldn't squeeze that in the car, and therefore had to wait approximately a week for it to be delivered. As we were not hungry or wanting to buying food, we returned to Walmart to get a few essentials: kettle, pillows, towels. Returning to the old apartment we packed up our belongings, as well as borrowing some duvets, bed linen, plates and cutlery; items we were unable to buy due to our afternoon starting later than expected.
Once in the new place, we ate a late meal of bread, cheese and red wine sat on the wooden floor of the living area (we had failed to get any kind of a seating solution) whilst the mattress expanded and straightened out.
Getting the Basics
Next stop; Carrefour Laval, (the supermarket that turned out to be a shopping centre) where we had seen a Bell store - after all that trusty internet searching time we had had the previous day waiting for the truck to move outta the way, we knew Bell offered internet/TV/phone packages, and seemed to be the best of the limited bunch offering such things. We needed to get hooked up to the outside world asap!! ;)
Nothing is ever simple though...
In order to be able to buy the whole bundle, we had to provide Bell with a phone number. But we were buying a phone line from them - the apartment had no phone line - so therefore we had no number to give them. They were insistent they could not sign us up without a number and things were starting to look bleak, then we suggested we sign up with them for a mobile contract - we were going to do that anyway, as we only had English and German mobiles - and then they would have the required contact number for us. Problem solved. But even this wasn't straight forward.
To get a mobile phone contract, we needed a Canadian credit card as well as credit history. We were returning to the bank the following day to sign up for a credit card, and credit history; well, we had none whatsoever. Therefore, our only option was to get a Pay-as-you-go SIM card as we could buy this with cash or an English credit card. The Canadian SIM worked on my phone which thankfully hadn’t been blocked (another potential pit fall). We were making progress.
As the sale was going through the cashier explained the costs involved, and we got a shock at how different things were operated here in Quebec. In the UK and Germany (even Spain come to think of it, which we had felt at the time was expensive for telecommunications), when you buy a Pay-as-you-go SIM, you don't usually pay for the SIM - even if you have to pay for it initially, it's a very minimal amount - but top up the desired amount, and when the credit is getting low, you top up some more. Calls to other mobiles in the same country cost in the region of 35p/9 - 40ct per minute, and are free to receive; and texts cost approximately 12p/ct and are again, free to receive. Here however, we had to pay $50 for activation (!!!), calls costs 30¢ to make AND 30¢ receive, and texts cost 20¢ to make AND another 20¢ to receive. These rates were just for the Montreal area - outside of this region it is classed as national rate. Further more, any unused credit you have left on your phone is deleted at the end of the month!
But we needed a phone number asap, and this was the only option available to us so we have no choice to proceed with it. Armed with a mobile number the internet package was finally processed and we would be online in five days.
Two hours later - and many dollars lighter - we finally left the Bell shop. Our day was far from over though. Next, we had to go and find some kind of seating solution. At the shop where we bought the mattress we had seen a couple of bar stools, but at that stage in the day we had just wanted to get home and stop buying things. We had looked at other stools in the other shops but none of them had been as nice, so we returned to the Mobelia furniture store for the third day in a row. Unfortunately, they didn't have them in stock in the store, but we were able to go and pick them up from the warehouse which wasn't too much of a detour. Our desire for a seat – any seat - drove us on. That night we didn't have to eat supper sat on the floor - we were progressing!
The Important Items
Whilst in Walmart (seems we just can not keep away from this long-life-item only supermarket) for a vacuum as well as a hairdryer (not as essential as some items in the scheme of things, but it was getting colder out); we were hit with a brainwave regarding our ‘seating-solution’ problem: camping chairs! An aisle of tents and flasks led us to our desired articles. $12 each - a bargain! Only two colour choices, either blue or pink – isn’t grey, navy or green the usual colour? - but you can’t complain about such things when they are that price. We put them in our trolley feeling very pleased with ourselves. Seating solution: Tick.
Next item on the list (and more importantly for one half of this couple) was a TV, so for this we drove on to the electronic store Future Shop. As we argued debated about the screen size, we smiled to ourselves at the poor salesman who was being beaten down by a somewhat fearsome lady who, despite asking him which TV would be more suitable for her needs, responded to any of his recommendations by saying she didn't believe him because he would be biased based on his commission. She then strode off down another aisle and returned with a man who, as she bossed him around, both we and the salesman assumed was her husband. Turned out he wasn't - she didn't even know him. As she proceeded to accost this poor random chap, the salesman went and hid behind his desk, but she hounded him out and eventually, after much more discussion between all three of them, the random guy was allowed back to looking at DVD players and the salesman finally made a sale. He seemed very relieved when we just said to him, "We would like that one please".
Purchases made, it was back home via a supermarket to buy some store cupboard basics - we had been living off food that was quick and easy to prepare all week such as frozen pizza, pasta with olive oil and chorizo, and basic salads, but the time had come to invest in store cupboard basics. as well as tin foil and plastic bags. As I walked around in a daze trying to figure out what the French words on the labels meant (it took me quite a number of minutes to discover that most had English written underneath, or on the other side of the packet), I was hounded by a guy offering tasting samples of Fois Gras. I have eaten Fois Gras before, and know that as well as hating the taste with a passion; it also makes me feel sick for many hours afterwards. This dude seemed to think that I really should try it despite my shy not-sure-what-language-you-understand protests. I walked briskly around the cheese counter hoping to lose him, but he was undeterred, and as he made his way towards me I hot footed it over to the meat section and tried to lose myself behind a chicken. Alas, he found me and continued with his Fois Gras advances. He eventually got the message when I made a dash for the safety of the fish counter. (You may be asking where T was at this time – why was my husband not protecting my Fois Gras honour? Well, he was very busy in the wine aisle deciding which red to buy...) After that excitement my nausea and lack of inspiration meant the trolley was full of random packets and ingredients that didn’t really go together, but it did contain some bottles of expertly-picked red wine, so not all was lost...
We arrived home at 4.30pm: a whole half an hour before our deadline! We pottered around putting our random assortment of groceries away in the cupboards, getting rid of the remains of the building dust from the floor now we finally had a vacuum cleaner, and discovering the reason those camping chairs had been such a reasonable price… They were children's camping chairs. We had somehow managed to overlook the fact they were pretty small, and also that it stated on the label they glowed in the dark...
Two Saucepans and a Knife
Little no-name was born into a litter of six, but all his brothers and sisters had be re-homed and he was the one no-one wanted. We could hardly say no when he was offered to us. ;) The weird thing was, the people who we got him from had given him a name: Mr Jones! It was meant to be…
We couldn't bear the thought of making him spend his first night shut in a room alone, so had somewhat foolishly allowed him to join us in our bedroom. What had seemed like a great idea the night before had waned a little at 2am, 4.30am and 6am as the little ball of tabby and white fluff decided to sleep on our heads, nibble our ears and lick our noses.
We had been able to get kitten food and litter at the local store - despite it being 9pm; being able to shop after 8pm is still such a novelty! - but little fluff needed more, so it was back to Walmart (yet again – but this time it was a different store, one closer to home) first thing on Saturday morning for kitten supplies. Whilst there, T found a table to put the prized TV on $14 - bargain! – and we also found two foldable chairs (this time we unfolded them to check the size and they were adult-size, and were also pretty comfortable). And to top it off, this Walmart actually had chiller cabinets with milk and cheese; still no fresh fruit or vegetables though…
Back home to no-name and T started assembling the table, and soon came to a stop. The table only had holes in two corners; the other two legs were supplied, but there were no holes in which to screw them. (We really must stop buying *bargains* from Walmart...) Instead of taking it back to the shop, T saw this as the perfect opportunity to go and buy a drill - you never know when you need a drill/power-tool and this was the perfect example of such a situation.
There is still so much for us to do in order to set up our lives out here, but the thought of it all is an exciting prospect rather than an overwhelming one. I look forward to the discoveries we make, the everyday similarities and differences between cultures as we experience life this side of the Atlantic.
It can sometimes feel that we are a long way from Europe, but with the technology we have these days it is so easy to keep in touch (just don't phone me at 9am GMT!!). With populations migrating to different corners of the earth and flying back home becoming a way of life, jobs bringing old acquaintances together once again, there's no denying that it's a small world we live in these days.