The Travelling Student – A Night in Montreal

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is part three in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program.

In part two we continued driving down the 401 highway towards Val d’Or but a last minute text message caused us to change directions towards our new destination, Longue-Rive in the Cote Nord region of Quebec.

We drove to Montreal and decided to call it a night. I had done some research and found a good deal on a hotel as we drove into the city. It wasn’t until we arrived that I realized I had stayed at the exact hotel 4 years prior, during my only visit to the city.

We arrived at the Sandman hotel in Longueuil, and, after a quick check in, took the elevator to the thirteenth floor where we sunk into our beds. Likely where we would have stayed for the night had it not been for our lack of snacks and beer. After going through two cans of Pringles we grudgingly left in search of food. Going mainly on memory, I quickly navigated us to the subway station heading downtown. Good food seemed scarce in the area and Matt and I have a habit of making every meal count (in my case, while sticking to a student budget).

Several stops later, the subway had cleared out when we arrived at the downtown station. Four floors of the concrete maze that is the Montreal subway system now had to be navigated through and we expected to emerge downtown, but instead ended up in a sort of underground mall. After a quick realization I explained to Matt that we were in the famous Montreal Underground, a long underground mall in downtown Montreal. Unfortunately all the stores were closed or in the process of closing. No food here.

Turning a corner and going up a set of stairs, we opened doors leading us out into the bustling downtown of Montreal. In about a block or so we saw and entered a shawarma place. I’ve often had good luck with shawarma places in terms of quality versus price, and this place was no exception. The quality was excellent (though not recommended for those on a diet). My chicken shawarma, for instance, came with a side of home fries, smothered in the optional mayonnaise.

A few hours later we found ourselves regretfully leaving two lovely ladies we had met at nearby bar. The last subway was heading back to Longueuil and we didn’t want to miss it. Before entering the stairs down into the subway, though, we came across a homeless man who was repeatedly punching a car window. Not just punching. The man would run from across the street at full speed and smash his fist into it.

The police soon arrived to, I assume, stop to the guy. They talked to him for a bit and then looked like they were ready to take off when Matt started yelling at the cops “What the hell do you think you’re doing, that guy should be arrested!” I’m not sure if the cops were just taking their time or if Matt’s comment had an effect but they got out of their car and arrested the man. (I like to think we had an impact)

One stop before our destination, I decided we should get off so I could give Matt a quick tour of Saint Helen’s Island. It’s a small island, packed with attractions, between downtown Montreal and Longueuil. The island includes a theme park, casino, The Montreal Biosphere, as well as The Concordia Bridge (where a great view of the city can be seen).

We soon found ourselves at the Montreal Biosphere where Matt’s interest of the sphere’s architecture greatly exceeded mine. Having worked on construction sites Matt explained how he imagined it was constructed. We walked right up to the structure where Matt asked me if I thought we were allowed to climb it. By the time I finished explaining how this was certainly illegal and that security likely patrolled the area Matt was already two levels up and climbing.

I found myself drafted as the lookout for security as Matt climbed higher onto the Bio Dome, and I was just hoping our arrival back at the hotel wouldn’t be by cop car or ambulance.