I would have said that there couldn’t be two more excited twiblings than those with me this morning, but I’d have to eat my words come Monday, when we finally go zip-lining. Today, however, was the second most anticipated event of the trip.
After a quick (and complimentary!) breakfast at our hotel, we hopped aboard the metro at Place d’Armes and headed in the direction of the Olympic stadium, bound for flying lessons. The twiblings were a little put off by the neighborhood — slightly industrial and a little run down in the few residential parts — but they soon forgot all that upon arriving at the rock-climbing gym, an enormous cavern of a warehouse that’s the largest of its kind I’ve seen. Admittedly, I’ve seen only a few, but I’ve been noticing that Montrealers don’t do things half-assed. From the multi-story laser-tag arena to top-notch meals, most everything we’ve experienced has been above par. Except for one glaring exception this afternoon.
Folllowing a few-minute briefing, the Trapezium staff strapped us into our harnesses so we could climb the 30 some-odd feet into the air where we were to propel ourselves off a platform via a trapeze. The niblings went first in our group, as they’d been giddy with anticipation all morning. Carter soared off into the air and was immediately able to hang upside-down by his knees, landing in the net with the greatest of ease. Micaela also was off to a commendable start, with her belayer continuously commenting on her cuteness. I, however, could barely get my legs up above my head and never made it to the hanging position. The best I could manage was a backflip.
After watching the twins progress, I climbed the ladder a third time. The platform instructor gave me a few pointers, then launched me into space — through which I plummeted face first into the net below. I lay stunned for a moment, then clutched my nose when I felt it grow warm, half expecting blood to start pouring out. My limbs were shaken, and I swear my brain rattled about in my skull at impact, because I felt a headache coming on, and I can count the number of headaches I’ve ever had on both hands. To add injury to more injury, I gashed my foot on a bolt in the floor moments later.
My belayer, Isabelle, brought me to the restroom to wash up and apply cold compresses. But I was miffed. I hadn’t slowed at all during my descent, which meant she hadn’t done her job of belaying. As I reviewed the rope burns on my nose and upper lip, she said, “I didn’t know you were going to fall!” Uh, seriously? Neither did I! But isn’t that why she was there? I completely expected to fall or muff up at some point, but I also expected that the staff was competent enough to be prepared for such mishaps and that they’d employ their skills to help prevent any unnecessary injuries.
Aside from that one half-assed employee, the rest of the staff were phenomenal, and I wouldn’t have let the niblings continue if she’d still been in charge of the belay. But they switched off after that mishap, and the rest of the session went trouble free. In fact, both Micaela and Carter succeeded at performing the full routine, which included a hand-exchange to the “catch” on the other trapeze. Talk about a confidence booster! (See video below.)
Another quick metro ride brought us to the Parc Olympique itself, home of the Biodome, which my friend Stefan (husband to Véro) informed me was the former cycling pavilion for the 1976 Olympics. Quebec should have left it empty. The new, unwitting inhabitants of the eco-sounding Biodome are crammed into exhibits more fitting for hamsters and gerbils than creatures of their size. Otters have what amounts to a bathtub for swimming. A penguin colony of several dozen lives behind glass in a space no bigger than an elementary classroom. And the poor bobcats were so depressed with their abode that they expressed their discontent by pacing in circles as they carried their food in their mouths. Shame on you, Canada. I thought you had more respect for animals than to treat them like this. I was embarrassed that I’d subjected the kids to the experience.
Our next stop was Mont Royal, where we met up with Véro and Stefan, our guides to the local neighborhood for the evening. When Micaela piped up that she wanted to try French food, Carter wrinkled his nose, and I almost gave in since his sister had had her way the night before when we’d gone to Vietnamese. But when Véro announced that she knew of a place that had both French and Carter-friendly cuisine, we decided it would be worth the 10-minute walk, even though we were already quite tired.
Over political and internationally peppered conversation, we enjoyed our eclectic meals, with both Micaela and Carter scarfing down their veal and salmon. The kids enjoyed my and Véro’s stories from way back — hitchhiking in Normandie, barhopping in Westchester, etc. — although I think they got lost when Stefan and I got a little didactic with our Bush bashing. But I’d needed a little adult conversation, and the kids readily complied for their bruised and battered aunt. They’d behaved so well, in fact — no doubt partly due to empathizing with my injuries — that I complimented them on their behavior when we got back to the hotel, and I asked if they could keep it up just a couple more days.
One can only dream.