Thursday, April 25, 2013

Montreal: Day One In Review

Had a really exhausting two days; 33 hours to get to Montreal and spent yesterday bustling about apartment hunting and purchasing some essentials. Right now it's 7am and I'm wide awake thanks to falling deeply asleep after a "nap" :P

Singapore To Montreal
I took British Airways flights this time. Wanted to go with SIA, but it seems they don't fly to Montreal. Plus, the company arranging flights for my company appears to favour BA, so went with them. One thing nice about BA's luggage policy at this time of writing is that unlike SIA, have a more liberal hand luggage policy. If it can be lifted by yourself, fits into the onboard luggage size and fitted into the overhead storage (but not above 23kg) - you can bring it along. Unlike SIA where I had be very stingy with what I put into my camera bag.

BA's flight has a 23kg per luggage policy, go above that and you get hit with an overweight luggage policy. Extra baggage counts can be bought online for £34. I had two pieces of luggage, my saxophone and my main luggage, so that worked out very well. Considering my sax only weighed 6kg lol.

With SIA, on my flight from London to Singapore, I had 1 extra piece of luggage (8kg) and I was told it would be £50 per KG (really?!). I had to send that home via excess baggage. Believe me, it was painful.

Flight wise, I managed to snag a window seat on my first leg of the flight; was supposed to be in the middle but the dude in the window seat insisted on having an aisle seat. He found one, I got a window seat woo!

I can't remember the last time I flew BA, or if I ever flew BA at all. Entertainment units were all touch screen now, worked pretty well though I think touchscreen could be calibrated better - on both flights I had to touch the buttons lower than expected for them to register. Managed to watch Cloud Atlas and Wreck It Ralph. Tried watching Twilight, but it's just not my thing, wolves or not.

Arriving in London at 5am after a 12 hour flight is not too bad, but with over 12hours to wait for my connecting flight to Montreal, the camera bag began to weigh me down. Unlike Changi Airport which had these little carts to push your luggage along, Terminal 5 at Heathrow didn't have 'em. To be fair, I think given the layout of heathrow, those luggage carts would hurt the flow of traffic. Still, this means I'm probably going to sell my camera bag - as I don't use it for photography related purposes at all - and just get a roll-on luggage for 'em.

Internet access at Heathrow Terminal 5 is £1 per 9 minutes, Changi has free terminals giving 15 minute slots per use.

Given the extremely long wait, I'd planned to get a shower. However, it was only available in Terminal 4. This wasn't as straightforward as I thought, needing to ask the airport staff to arrange to be brought to a different part of the airport for the transfers to Terminal 4.

After arriving at Terminal 4, after some quizzing around found that the showers were only available after immigration >.> So, I had to go through immigration. Thankfully it was a painless process. Once out (lol), I found that the showers were out of towels for sale!

Bought some thick tissue paper at the convenience store nearby, and that sorted me out. There are two shower rooms in Terminal 4, not particularly big and if you are bringing like full size luggage, good luck, there won't be much space. There is a hot shower, and shower foam, that's about it.

After that, a transit using the heathrow express to Terminal 5, went through security again (I had the luck to be randomly inspected, and had every single piece of gear scrutinized lol.), then prepared for the long wait for my Montreal flight.

The montreal flight was uneventful, I'd slept through most of it, missing one of the meals actually. Got through customs and immigration without a hitch.

Here's where the challenge rating increases. Montreal is part of Quebec, and French is their main language. Wherever I go, I hear french being spoken, though I occasionally hear English and lots of the chinese here speak Mandarin.

Given that I've only been learning it for the last few weeks or so (shoulda started earlier), I can only understand mostly greetings. Some places I went to didn't seem too friendly when I asked "Bonjour, parlez vous Anglais?", although some places like the Fido shop, were perfectly friendly in either language. (I picked up a Nexus 4, but that will be another story).

So, what I did yesterday was visit two apartments, explored downtown montreal, got my Opus card for STM travel, got a new phone - prepaid sims appear to be very expensive so decided to get a contract as the release terms were very friendly, just pay back the cost of the phone. And the longer you've been on the contract, the lower the cost to pay back.

One thing about the prices here is that the tax is not shown on the menu. I was quite surprised the first time I got some food (Burger King, would you believe it) and the bill was higher than expected. New thing learned. Oh, the BK breakfast in Montreal easily trumps the BK in London or Singapore :P

Ok due to sleeping way early yesterday, I woke up at 6am-ish, and am now frantically typing away. Things to do shortly would be to take the trains at rush hour to experience how bad (or good) it is. Yesterday I was on several trains about 5.30pm, and 7.30-ish, and while packed, was not sardine type packed in Singapore. The train cabins here are smaller than Singapore, but I felt larger than the trains used in the Tube.

If the rush hour traffic is bearable, I'll likely get a place close to a metro stop and commute. Else I'll hunt down a nice place near Mile End, probably around the Laurier station.

Day 2, here we go......

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