Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh Canada

An old friend offered us accomodations in Montreal, and we'd have been crazy to pass the opportunity up, so we came over for a visit. As per usual, I wasn't sure what to expect, other than what we saw on google street view. I had the impression that people would be fairly evenly split between french and english speaking natives in the city, which mostly held out for spoken conversations. The metro system, advertising, signposts on streets, etc were all (or virtually all) in french - which after a day or two wasn't really too hard to work out for the most part. I can pick together halves of most sentences, but not quite everything. It's reinforced my belief that if I ask people to speak slowly, I can mostly understand. I can't converse in the language to save my life, which is unfortunate.

I wish I'd had a decent roaming data plan instead of this (admittedly fantastic while in the UK) O2 PAYG data plan - We had access to complimentary internet but that's no use whatsoever when you're out and about - and that was where we needed it most - for looking up locations on the map, checking train times, translation services, that sort of thing.

One of the big lures of a smart phone is that it's a utility device (at least the way I use mine, anyway). It's effectively an extension of your brain, a streetmap, a location service and more. None of that is available to you if you can't get data into the thing, which is a real shame - with the amount of local storage I've got on the box, I should be able to cache huge amounts of relevant data (like all of the google map data for a location and the surrounding area, or translation dictionaries, that sort of thing). For cloud services like live audio transcription, sure, you'll need a net connection. Next time I'll be more prepared. I certainly didn't expect to be paying close to a pound per text.

As for Montreal itself - well, I think we're still digesting whether we really like it or not. We certaily saw some beautiful things, and some areas of the city were a delight to walk around. Other areas were pretty grim, which I'd expect from any city really but it certainly wasn't what I expected from the ends of the metro lines - in most cities that takes you  far enough out to be in the suburbs - not Montreal.

The important part was seeing some snow - and even better, watching it fall while sitting in a jacuzzi ;)
Definitely an eye opener of a visit.

And like usual, the travel aspect (the portions outside of our direct control, at least) have gone to hell, and we're apparently waiting for a pilot to arrive from Toronto. We're looking at another couple of hours sitting in the bloody airport, listening to other people's music, screaming children, and plagued coughing and sneezing. have I ever told you that I hate people in general, and all humans in particular?

Apart from the nice ones, that is. And maybe the pretty ones. They get a free pass.