Have you ever run into a strange situation while travelling?
Maybe, you found yourself driving to the race site somewhere in Quebec, only to come dangerously close to running out of gas on the scariest emptiest stretch of country roads between two small towns, and you were so worried you’d have to spend the night in the middle of nowhere, that you found the closest gas station instead, which was closed, of course, and slept right by pump number seven, waiting for the 6am opening.
Maybe, you arrived to New Delhi at 2am, only to discover that your ride mixed up the dates, and now no one is picking you up and you have no place to sleep, and then an elderly Indian gentleman rescues you, because he has a daughter your age, and you sleep in his daughter’s bedroom, because she is away, studying in Belgium, but before you go to bed, you stay up until sunrise, and talk about all the things on the balcony, while the elderly gentleman smokes small beedis (herbal cigarettes you can buy hand rolled on every corner). No?
I woke up in a quirky little Airbnb apartment in Montreal’s End Mile neighborhood last week. This place had tall ceilings, light hardwood floors, books from floor to ceiling, and “old Hollywood” style posters.
Looking through my Airbnb profile recently, I realized that I have now stayed in over two dozen different homes – across multiple cities and countries, and styles. From modern lofts in Bologna to large family farms in Ontario to Frank Lloyd Wright style houses in Texas to tiny city apartments in Moscow.
It has been quite a journey.
My friend and I arrived to Montreal after nine at night after some traffic delays, but mostly typical Sunday dilly-dallying. Few years ago, another friend introduced me to the abbreviation FAFFE – “Fucking Around For Fucking Ever”, which really applies in this instance. Once your conversation partner is privvy to the abbreviation, you can use it in conversation both swiftly and efficiently. E.g. “Stop FAFFEing!”.
When we finally parked the car, and found our door – up a flight of stairs from the street, the key was in the lockbox as promised. Remember those New York City walk-ups that were featured so prominently in Sex And The City? End Mile neighborhood is full of little streets with similar heritage apartment buildings. Other characteristics of the neighborhood are fancy coffee shops, bagel bakeries (Montreal!), regular bakeries (Montreal!), long sidelocks and black beards. End Mile is also known as one of the largest and oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Canada.
After some juggling of the locks, we made it inside for the initial quick glance – the place was tidy, clean, and unbearably cute. Next step – get out stuff from the car, and settle in for the night. Uber Eats was calling our name, and at this point, we were open to any form of sustenance.
I locked the door once again – I refer to this as my Soviet pessimism – can’t be extra careful in a large city – and after a short jaunt to the car and back, we returned only to… not be able to open the door. Like… at all. No amount of juggling, and turning, and pushing, and pulling, and swearing, and eye rolling seemed to help. We even asked a neighbor – a tall Jewish man wearing a traditional black suit and hat – to give the door a try, in case we were missing some “End Mile old door trick”.
My friend was in town to touch base with her cycling coach, and undergo some testing, so here we were at ten at night, by the door we could not open with three fancy bikes, two bags, and a countless number of totes with snacks and half empty food containers.
“I’m sorry, baby. That sounds really frustrating”, that’s Italian on the other line. I call home to report that we made it to Montreal, sort of, and are currently trying to break into an old heritage apartment; while my friend is sprinting around the building to see if we can possibly get in through the back door.
“Are you guys panicking yet?”
“I don’t think so”, I shrug.
After arriving to New Delhi airport in the middle of the night with no language, local currency or friends, the current situation seems fairly mild. It’s frustrating, and I am exhausted, but I also have MY phone and MY wallet on me, and we have car keys, which means, worst case scenario – we just go and check in into a closest hotel, and sort this out in the morning. I find myself wondering if I’d be this calm, if I did NOT have all the previous travel escapades to rely on, which all ended well. This is a form of resilience, yes?
The situation did resolve itself eventually. Our host finally got our (slightly panicked by then) messages, and jumped in a cab to come and rescue us. It turned out that we tried the wrong lock, double locking the door, and jamming the bolt.
Phew. We got in, showered, ordered Indian food, and all was good with the world. And there were Montreal bagels the next morning. It really doesn’t get better than that.
Speaking of bagels, I updated my “Montreal travel notes” blog post, so you can check out some recommendations here. We have a winner!