Biking to the Library

Earth Day 2012: Montréal
April 27, 2012

I took me three tries to finally get inside the library.

Cycling into the city center last Sunday wasn't a problem until I reached the Place des Arts. Up to that point I hadn't realized anything special was going on around town. But, as I approached the central square I saw thousands of people lining the street. I couldn't pass through.

Many were holding up colorful handmade placards proclaiming various messages. At first I assumed it must be something to do with the university student strike and accompanying protests that have roiled throughout the province over the past couple months. There were lots of people out on the streets who were indeed showing support for that movement by displaying square, red swatches of felt or cloth pinned onto coats and flags. But even with my rudimentary French I quickly understood these weren't the complaints of striking students. The statements on the signs had more of an ecological bent:

Oh. It must be Earth Day.

Earth Day 2012: Montréal
I decided that even if I could somehow work my way through the crowd it would likely be a particularly busy day at the library. So, I followed along with everybody else marching up the hill to gather at Mt. Royal Park. The Montréal Gazette estimated the number of people at the rally as 100,000 on their website later that day. It didn't seem like that large of a gathering to me, but then I never did see the tail end of the march. Nor would I likely be able to distinguish a crowd of 50,000 from one of 100,000. And the waves of people holding up signs did just kept on coming and coming.

The next day I again pedalled into town. No protesters out to block my passage. But when I arrived at the main entrance to the library I found the doors locked. A sign posted to the glass announced the facility was closed Mondays.

I finally managed to get into Montréal's Grande Bibliothèque on my third attempt. As a new resident of Québec I was entitled to a library card. I hadn't even thought to bring the documents I'd need to sign up for one the first time I went: I was just curious to explore another part of the city. But, by this third try I must have wanted to see something for all my efforts. I checked beforehand on the library website to see what proof of residence they required (and to ensure they wouldn't be closed yet another time.) I brought all my papers along in my shoulder bag.

I think I registered as a patron more to see if they would actually issue me my library card than out of a desire to check any particular item out. Most of the collection was in French and well above my reading level. I did borrow a travel guidebook written in English (destination France) and several audio CD's that seemed worth listening to.

Since returning to Montréal a week-and-a-half ago I've taken on another stint of cat-sitting. Professor Gwen is off again playing out the stereotype I have of how an archaeologist should be: she's presenting at a couple conferences then running around Greece for a couple weeks. Having her place free again to cat-sit works perfectly for me as:

  1. I love cats
  2. My classes in Québec City won't begin until the last day of the month

Temujin & Ögedei
Along with dishing out kibble and changing litter I've been taking advantage of this free time to better get to know Montréal. The city was covered in ice and snow the last time I was here so exploring was no fun. I surely wouldn't have attempted to get around town by bike a couple months ago.

I've resumed my routine of swimming laps at the NDG sport center every other day. I buzz around different neighborhoods by bike on a daily basis. I've gotten together occasionally (dinner, pub quiz) with some of the archaeology graduate students I went out with when last in town. I've been enjoying having this comfortable place to base myself and familiarize myself with Montréal.

But, come tomorrow all that will change. I've booked a ride along to Québec City. Hopefully, one of the housing options I've been in contact with on-line will pan out and I can settle right into my new life there.

Classes start Monday.