Monday, March 4, 2013

march forth

Looking back to last year at this time, when I had made it up to Montreal from VT (see this post for the oh-so-fun story) and wandered the city for a couple days, trying to read the French signs, finding my way to a couple of museums- I loved the Lyonel Feininger show at the Beaux-Arts- and some of the spots recommended to me by a friend. I tried poutine. I sat in a cafe full of chiming clocks and collectible cars, drinking Madagascar hot chocolate. I finished knitting my first hat. I stayed in a funky hostel by myself and, bundled against the cold, ventured out each wintry day along the slushy cobblestone streets.
By the end of the second full day, I wanted company, but I would settle for more self-indulgence, and I'd already dined at the bar of a cozy bistro the night before, where I ate and drank something delicious and paid who knows what. I was tired, cold, and uncertain about things. In my borrowed guidebook, I read about a Scandinavian spa in the the old part of Montreal, not far from the hostel.
First I had to re-park the car, so my visit was preceded by an anxious hour of driving around. Then I accidentally got on the expressway and had to navigate my way back, puzzling further over signs, and parked the car back in the same lot and paid who-knows-what again for the privilege. I decided the spa (something I'd never done) would be a treat to myself, since I hadn't bought anything else, even though of course the whole trip was a treat, as was Vermont. I had covered so much ground, I was worn out, all the walking, all those months of wood stacking, and the rest. I was primed.
The Scandinavian bath was very romantic, with dim lighting- the better for padding around in a bathing suit, I thought. There was a glowing whirlpool the size of a regular small pool with a hard cascade of water beating down on one side, under which one can sit and let it blast one's head, neck and back. Then a plunge into a dark, cold pool or a brief shower of cold water. Then a steam room and a Finnish sauna, alternating with cold-water dips and relaxing on long heated benches or large floor pillows. I did the cycle three times until the place closed, followed with a luxuriant shower and emerged into the night feeling warm and radiant and very mellow.
As I walked to my hostel, wrapped in my coat, tiny pinpoints of snow flecked my face. I stopped into a tiny store and bought a loaf of bread, a glass jar of Nutella and a bottle of orange juice. When I got back to the common room, I proceeded to consume numerous slices of toast, thickly slathered with the chocolate-hazelnut spread (which seemed more okay to eat in Montreal, for some reason). I couldn't explain why this seemed to so perfectly cap my experience, but it did, and a year later I still remember how good it felt.

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