:: E X P O 5 7 :: HEALTH COACH TRAVELS to Montréal :: editorial


Old Montréal graffiti 
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a  b r e a c h  of  tolerance

Early in March, I had an experience which made me realize that all of my tolerance for stress had been breached. I had negotiated years of extreme change in my professional and personal life.

I have been recovering for the past year from my employment at a hotel spa; the most unhealthy, unsafe work environment of my 44 years of work - more about that when I review High Tea at The Ritz in part two. In 2016, the HEALTH COACH research project bumped up against the future, and the future does not include health. Devastated, I was forced to ponder my job as a health professional and the future of the project.

Even more demoralizing is the increasing evidence on my massage table, of a health crisis in Canada, as most of the individuals I take care of join the epidemic of chronic inflammatory disease, extreme fitness and weight-loss dieting behaviours, combined with neglect and abuse of health that characterizes a culture of disease and injury.

... and then came that last, cracker-dog event in early March ...

I reacted spontaneously by asking my daughter if she wanted to get away to Montréal for a long weekend. She immediately said yes.

I started by looking at hotels and phoned my daughter a week later to cancel the trip. Montréal is a has-been, I announced. What are you talking about, Mom? came the reply. The hotels we could afford were dreary, unappealing, with scores of bad reviews, and poorly maintained websites. It gave me a bad impression of Montréal. I was also waffling about the expense and the wisdom of such extravagance at this time. We could wait until I turn 60 and go then, I reneged. What? That's how many years away?

I kept searching and joined Airbnb (the invitation gave us a discount) through a Montreal bloggerMarie-Eve Vallieres and affordable air fare ($465. return - all costs included) made the trip possible.

Oh! The joy of five days, four nights with my daughter! The romance of a long weekend away in Montréal made our imaginations swoon with thoughts of transformative gastronomic, aesthetic, and poetic experiences; unique indulgences; character-filled boroughs; French, sophisticated street style: vive la différence!

I am not an experienced traveler, and that presented some challenges and tested my character. Having a good time is not something I excel at (if there is a calm down party, please get me an invitation), but I welcome the opportunity for personal development. I was curious to learn about myself as a traveler. I am also discovering life as an old person; I will share some noteworthy details ...

We had two months to save, plan, and prepare. We chose to travel in my birthday month of May, thereby avoiding the big tourist crowds, and events celebrating Montreal's 375th birthday, 50 years since EXPO 67, and 150 years of Canadian confederation. I favoured the cooler, springtime weather, especially for walking. 

My weekender bag expanded to include an urban backpack, a small, checked piece of luggage, and the hope that the trip might galvanize my resolve to take the next, big steps in my professional life.



P r e p a r a t i o n

Getting ready for travel can be as expensive as the trip. Here is a checklist of some considerations:
  • Outfitters: footwear; clothing: comfort - weather ready  (transitional, maritime); spa wear; luggage; an urban backpack
  • Body care: body sugaring, chiropractic treatments, skin care
  • Itinerary: purpose and goals of travel; reservations
  • Post-travel food has to be preplanned
  • Responsibilities: Can you pay the bills when you return? Who's looking after the cat? Time off work. Household supplies - you don't want to return to a dysfunctional situation, broke.
  • Basic Health Habits: this is a situation when long term consistency creates resilience, reduces stress, and helps recovery, especially true for an older person.
  • Money: I phoned my bank before I left and used their mobile app; learning how to activate and use it turned out to be one of my successes during the trip. The fully functional app was very helpful, giving me a quick account balance with many other features.
  • Mobile device travel plan/insurance: I phoned my service provider before I left home to take care of all details.
  • Food and hydration while travelling: After consideration of our options and the various complications involved, my daughter made us a lunch to take on the plane, and we bought fresh-pressed vegetable power drinks, and an anti-inflammatory shot for me at an airport vendor, once we were through security.
  • Security Regulations: you can take your water bottle, but you can't put water in it.
  • Health support: argan oil, oregano oil, tea tree oil, dental floss picks


::  E  X  P  O   5  7  ::
p a r t  o n e  ::  n o. 1 - 1 9 

My travel companion 
My daughter is my favourite person. She actively engages with her intelligence - I've never witnessed a more agile, ever-evolving intelligence - so that at any given time, when I come along with an idea or question, the feedback is thoughtful, decisive, and helpful. I enjoy doing everything with Clare; it's always more interesting and fun. Clare is my safe person; the person I trust the most. She is also my honest person, who cuts through any nonsense, especially mine. Add to that, the bonus that Clare is young and beautiful, and I will concede that we live in a physical world of appearances. I knew it would help us to be noticed and treated well ... more about that later 

The gift your child gives you is the opportunity to be your best self. You will be motivated to do the hard things because of your child; things you would not bother doing for yourself.

The gifts of age
My bohemian days are over. The last time I visited Montreal, I was invited to join three friends driving a van load of furniture east. I think I had a couple of days to decide. With vague plans of staying with my friend Louise's family and friends, and with very little money or concern, I said yes. It was a great trip. We spent all of our time in the quaint neighbourhoods of Le Plateau Mont Royal and Mile End; I did not see downtown on that trip. Louise and I saw Leonard Cohen in a 24 hour bagel shop, and took the midnight train from central station to a New Year's eve party in The Laurentians.

:: E X P O  5 7 :: 
This would be a very different trip, thirty-one years later. Carefully planned, indulgent; a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. We had been entertaining the idea for years.

Technology
21st century technological tools like google maps, photos, online reviews, star ratings, blogs, and social media, help to plan a travel itinerary, but MTL cardinal directions are disorienting, especially on the ground. I suggest using the harbour and Mont Royal as directional references.
10 Travel Problems Solved by Technology

Compliments to Montréal Bloggers, Instagrammers, and websites: 
To Europe & Beyond, MTL Blog, Montreal in Pictures, Eater Montréal, Will Travel For Food, Montreal Food Divas, Local Montreal Food Tours  
jfsavariainayalimontrealismesttaavviim_lloydyellowillowpierre_damours_photovesia514ceeeskfrancisduvalnarcity_montrealarr_rosemontppmimilafollevieuxmontreal, 375mtldezjefflivemontreal


compare Winnipeg urban core population of less than 800,000 
to Montréal urban core population of more than 4 million people: 
overwhelming density, scale, volume, construction, 24-7 traffic
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Airbnb
We chose Airbnb for the value of having a condo situated on the edge of Old Montreal and downtown, near the harbour, with two queen-sized beds, and a washer-dryer - all to ourselves. We chose to support a woman entrepreneur. Airbnb is the grownup spin on a hostel, with some of the comforts of home, including familiar and comforting routines. We stocked up on snacks, sparkling and still water, wine, and cream for coffee. We froze, and took home, baked goods, like bagels. Some of the best food I ate in MTL, were the toasted St-Viateur bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon at the Airbnb condo. We were able to connect easily to Wifi and to our Netflix account. We walked to all of our destinations. I would choose to be in a different neighbourhood next time because downtown is noisy, everything closes earlier, and it feels lonely.

note: Airbnb is a disruptive, new form of, and an unregulated part of the travel accommodation rental industry, and some Canadian provinces are considering levying taxes and regulations in line with the hotel industry.

Social media is a useful tool to help record and tell a story. It works best if you develop your abilities in using these tools before your trip, especially if you are a novice traveller. I do not use Instagram, so the combination of distress and disorientation during the trip, and lack of habit and skill, resulted in my not taking photos or recording the experience in this form. Thankfully, my daughter, who is my blog photographer, saved the situation. Youth oriented, I am adding my part by coming out in this blog post as an old person ... stay tuned for more in  p a r t  t w o :: n o. 2 0 - 3 8 
and  p a r t  t h r e e :: n o. 3 9 - 5 7

Language: bilingual vs unilingual
Montréal is the second largest french-speaking city in the world. In one of the largest Alzheimer disease research studies (Canadian), the overwhelming evidence showed  a higher level of functional and cognitive ability in the bilingual group vs the unilingual group, even though both had advanced brain damage from the disease. 

Duolingo ★★★★ I used the app for daily sessions which grilled me on french language basics, and the progress was noticeable. However, this app loses a star because it is surprisingly rude, rather than encouraging, which just ended up being distracting.

My favourite way to practice: French Songs to Help You Learn French Faster

Health must be deliberately chosen, planned for, and supported pre, during, and post travel. Travel is also a test of health - one that I welcomed, curious to see if there were noticeable benefits from improved Basic Health HabitsI also viewed Montréal from a health perspective ... stay tuned for more. 

Rest and Relaxation vs Activity 
What is the purpose and goals of the trip? What do you need for your health? How do you want to feel when you return? Rest and Relaxation is a Basic Health Habit.

Basic Health Habits
I woke up the day before we went away at the exact moment of the full moon, unable to swallow. I responded to the infection  with a dose of oregano oil and water and went back to sleep. I continued with a couple doses of oregano oil throughout the work day. The benefits of longterm consistency of Basic Health Habits  in this situation helped my recovery. By the second day of travel, all signs of the infection were gone.


Itinerary

Thursday 
Winnipeg to Montréal 
  • 9:50 - 1:30
  • Private car downtown to Airbnb condo
  • 3:30 - 9 minute walk to Bota Bota , spa-sur l'eau: 4:15 facials, 5:30 Massage (90 min.), snack break, Nordic baths  
  • walk back to Airbnb - change
  • Dinner: to be decided

Friday 
Old Montréal - Downtown
  • sleep in
  • late coffee/breakfast: Olive and Gourmando - stroll back through Old Montréal 
  • 3:30 Afternoon Tea at The Ritz - reservation
  • Dinner: to be decided 

Saturday 
St. Urbain - Mont Royal, St. Laurent Blvd. - Le Plateau, Mile End, Rue St. Denis
  • coffee/breakfast:
  • walk to the top of Mont Royal - view of city - St Urbain neighbourhood of Mordecai Richler, St. Laurent boutiques, best bagel bakeries, great restaurants, hipster central ... 
  • Lunch: to be decided
  • Birthday Dinner: L'Express - reservation

Sunday
Lachine Canal - Little Burgundy - Saint Henri - Griffintown
  • Brunch: to be decided
  • Cycle Lachine Canal - walk back through Little Burgundy: Rustique, Atwater Market, Mamie Clafoutis, Founderie Darling ... 
  • Dinner: to be decided

Monday
Montréal to Winnipeg
  • Pack - clean up - recycling
  • 9:30 Breakfast
  • Walk along harbour and through the neighbourhood
  • Private car to airport
  • return flight home



Le Petit Dep 
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Power vegetable drinks
Whether it's a bra and spa wear marathon trial and buying session, restrictive air travel, or helping a flatlander power-house hills - these drinks, with added super foods, are best utilized in these demanding and stressful situations - we found them at pop up stands at the airport, at the ubiquitous Starbucks, and at dépanneurs and cafés around Montréal

Security Regulations 
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
On the return home, I forgot and packed a 400ml bottle of body lotion in my backpack. We were put through extra, unpleasant security checks and my lotion was confiscated.
Each month, Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport confiscates more than 900 kilograms of banned items mistakenly packed by travellers in their carry-on baggage. Some of these personal belongings are thrown out, but many other rare and strange knickknacks are sorted and put up for auction to help raise money for the La Maison Victor-Gadbois, a palliative care centre on the city's south shore. While much of the cache consists of confiscated bottles of water and sunscreen, volunteers never know what unusual oddments they might stumble upon. Last month's haul included several oddities, including a blender, a flashy snow globe and a lighter shaped like a gun. Although many of the items are not valuable on their own, volunteers say that as much as $50,000 has been raised for the charity in past years. Bargain hunters also say the auctions are as good as it gets for sale prices. CTVNews.ca Staff 

Fear
I felt pure fear when the plane powered up and took off - the Boeing 737 is the subcompact car of the sky; I felt the forceful impact as the wheels folded away, directly under my feet. The problem with fear is you don't know when or how it will end; it seems limitless at the time. It reassured me to identify with a nonchalant traveler and to observe their behaviour whenever I felt concern about turbulence. More about that under the topic: Storm shirts and a hug from Holt Renfrew in Part Two


Clare on Bota Bota, spa-sur l'eau with Habitat 67 in the background


I wonder if practice is needed to enjoy the spa experience? The policing of unfriendly, no-talking policies doesn't help, and poor equipment, like the impossible massage table face cradles, make it difficult to get comfortable and to relax! (Note: It is lovely to be with other people in quiet, relaxed mode, but someone hushed us the two times we laughed. Nour quickly helped me to forget about the face cradle.) Talking is allowed in the garden pools and lounge areas.

Bota Bota is a rare and dramatic setting that showcases the best of French creativity, and the best view of Old Montréal, the harbour, manmade islands of EXPO 67: geodesic dome and Habitat 67; all lit up at night, from the upper deck hot pool. It was the opening night of Cirque de Soleil's Volta, with open air music and lights, magically filling the city. This was a smart de-stress beginning to the trip. Reservations were made easily, without complications, and the welcoming, efficient intake process was friendly and helpful. I loved the Nordic bath experience mixed with bracing, maritime air!


Bota Bota garden 
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Bota Bota restaurant review ★★
Spa food favours the Bauhaus aesthetic with delicate portions, artfully arranged. ★★★★★ for the thinly sliced beets of the Beet variation. The red pepper tart with wilted onions, goat cheese and honey, On my mother’s table, was an interesting rif on pissaladière, but the crust was too dry, especially jarring served with arugula. Pluss for: creativity; great setting; good service - Minus s for: uncomfortable chairs and atmosphere; and for the pretentious and unsatisfying food. The outdoor eating deck was not open.


Valerie, post facial and massage


Marie-Céleste Package: Water circuit journey 90-minute Swedish massage , and a 60-minute Queen of the sea facial 

Best face forward: a relaxing facial ★★★
Tension builds up on the face first, and the head and neck have more sensory nerves than any other area of the body. This can help to relax the entire body. 

Swedish massage with Nour ★★★★★
The treatment unfolded in complete silence, and time stood still. Nour's treatment was generous and skilled. My daughter and I shared the couples massage room, although for most of the treatment I did not know if she was in the room ... the black-painted metal skeleton of the boat formed a room of unique enchantments; combined with the North African music of our therapists - I felt alone; on the edge of an expansive universe. One entire wall was covered with port holes, creating a panoramic view of the harbour, and I felt that I could reach out and touch the waves crashing at my head. My daughter later told me that at one point in her treatment, her therapist massaged her foot and head, simultaneously!


Montreal harbour from Bota Bota, spa-sur l'eau
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Thermal comfort
In internal, public spaces, you are at the mercy of other people; most are not healthy by any standard. The environment on an airplane is dryer than the Sahara desert. It was necessary to make many adjustments to the high heat and stagnant air quality in our Airbnb condo; the building hallways were poorly ventilated and stinky. Opening windows, even downtown, gave us healthful refreshment. For more information about healthy Thermal Comfort Standards, please visit: Basic Health Habit No.11: Hygiene


Things that can go wrong
The magic dice assured us there would be no air turbulence during our flight, our luggage arrived safely, and we suffered no crime, but we experienced:
  • delayed communications about check-in to our Airbnb accommodations, and transportation arrangements from the airport
  • wrong information about the condo location - but easily solved
  • physical and emotional stress beyond our coping skills in the late night situation at the end of a long day of travel, combined with hunger, and dehydration
  • feeling lost and overwhelmed 

You can't always do your best
Sleep deprivation the night before the departure day resulted in a condition I call raggedy eye, where the edge of an eyelid becomes frayed and scratches the eye ball when blinking (the average person blinks 15-20 times per minute). The only fix is sleep, so if you are hours away from bedtime, you are in for some misery. Your eye will water and you will be unable to focus or to see anything properly. You will be in constant and unrelenting pain. Combined with hunger and dehydration, hostility and alienation (stress default behaviours), and other miseries; you will be busy resisting the urge to run home screaming. 

Old Montréal

Music you love can be used as torture
So there we were, thrown into the deep end of a bottomless, mean city of more than four million. Our basic physiological needs toyed with: hungry, dehydrated, tired, estranged and scared; we wandered deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of haunted streets of Old Montreal in search of basic sustenance. Everything was closed. The following weekend would usher in an endless wave of tourists, festivities, heat, and humidity. The following weekend, Montréalers would take off their winter coats and boots (I was the first person to wear sandals in downtown Montréal, May 12th, 2017), terraces would finally open, and markets would start a new season. But not this weekend. 

Everything was closed.

At last we arrived at a noisy place; a restaurant by day - nightclub after dark. The sound was so loud it hurts me still. The burgers were great (the only choice), the beer was not. The french lad who served us was valiant and victorious, making us smile, laugh, and helping to restore us - morally, in the end.


end of part one



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Part Two: How Are You Treating Life?
Old Montreal and Downtown










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