Up until now, life has been ridiculously busy. Work exploded with news of the client company deciding to ditch the outsource group and make us do all their work, and so we've been scrambling to pick up the pieces. When I wasn't at work, I had a number of projects that had a hard, fast deadline of June 30th, so I was busy doing those when I wasn't at a band rehearsal. (June is always a busy month for band, as one band ends while two other start up, with two weeks of the three bands overlapping.) I was honestly living for July, because I knew I'd be on a plane early on the 1st and finally able to relax.
I can't really say, though, that Montreal is a relaxing place. They say there are two seasons there: winter and construction. So many streets are being paved and buildings being built or remodeled that it's difficult to get around. When I travel, I usually rely on bus and subway, but the bus routes around my hotel were suspended because the roads were blocked off. I got very lost the first day just trying to figure out the direction towards downtown. Once I figured everything out, I simply had to resign myself to walking five blocks from the hotel to the Metro - after that, I could get anywhere.
Walking, however, was a pain in itself, because Montreal drivers are insane. On a multi-lane highway, they'll drive along straddling the lines; I guess lines are just suggestions. They'll zip a quick left turn in front of oncoming traffic. They'll cut you off as you're crossing the road, and beep to let you know it's your fault. In a way, the construction was good because there were big concrete barriers between me on the sidewalk and the drivers in the street.
The language barrier wasn't too bad. I had a semester of French back in seventh grade, and though I cannot speak the language, I could understand the signs. The guidebooks all say, "Try to speak in the native language, because the natives will appreciate that you're trying and help you along." This doesn't work in Montreal, because most people in Montreal are bilingual (this is not true in Quebec outside of Montreal, though, and they expect you to speak French). They let you know this by greeting you with "Bonjour hi!" This means "I speak both languages, so take your pick on which you want to use." If you say "Bonjour" because you're trying to be polite, the person will take off in French and leave you in the dust.
The city itself? It's an interesting mix of old and new, with many old buildings with modern add-on, as opposed to somewhere like London, where there were ancient buildings between modern skyscrapers, but not amalgams of the two. The city is proud of its French and English heritage and Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as its welcoming, inclusive attitude.
The most interesting thing I stumbled upon was the Rutherford and MacPherson Collections at McGill University, which I learned about at atlasobscura.com. Ernest Rutherford did his Nobel Prize-winning work at McGill, and so the Rutherford Collection displays the actual apparati he built for his experiments. The MacPherson Collection displays other scientific contraptions, mostly for created for demonstrations and student experiments; they are prettier than Rutherford's experiments, but far less useful. You have to make an appointment to see the the collections, and then the curator, Professor Jean Barrette, takes you through them, telling you about Rutherford's life and science.
Another thing I really liked was the Stewart Museum in Parc Jean-Drapeau, on Ile-St.-Helene, one of the two islands in the St. Lawrence River. The island has a fort that served as a munitions depot and then a military prison in the 1800s, but is now a museum of military history. Currently, however, it hosts an exhibition about Expo 67, the World's Fair and scientific expo held in Montreal in 1967. This year is both the 150th anniversary of Canada and the 50th anniversary of Expo 67. The exhibition did a good job of capturing the spirit and atmosphere of the Expo and the 60s, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The other island in the river, Ile Notre Dame, was built for the Expo from the earth removed while building the Montreal Metro, and the Expo is especially known for its geodesic dome, designed by Buckminster Fuller, and Habitat 67, designed by Moshe Safdie.
It was a lucky find, however, because it was difficult to get to Parc Jean-Drapeau, and because the island itself is rather unimpressive. It turns out that there's a Metro stop at the park, but it took me a while to figure the Metro out: the Metro symbol is a white M in a circle on a blue background, but is difficult to see among all the others signs on a street, and the entry doors are plain steel with no labels. It's not at all like the iconic, eye-catching London Underground red circles (and in fact, a white M on a blue background in Montreal may also stand for "museum"). I spent the first couple of days there walking around the block multiple times trying to find Metro stations that were clearly marked on my map but completely invisible to me on the street.
Thus, on my first attempt to get to Parc Jean-Drapeau, I tried the other suggested route, which was to take the ferry from Old Port. I got there and found no trace of a ferry. There were boat tours, but no ferry. There wasn't even a building that looked like a ferry terminal. I ended up walking around Old Port, which is a rather disappointing waterfront. The attractions that were there were mostly for families and children (like a fake tall ship for kids to explore; I wanted a real tall ship!), separated by lots of blank, weedy space. There are about three streets of shops parallel to the river, but they were mostly souvenir shops. (Interestingly, I noticed that many of the souvenir shops had signs in their windows proclaiming, "Souvenirs! Pokemon!")
When I did finally get to Parc Jean-Drapeau, I found that the island had about four attractions separated by a lot of uninteresting space - and of course one of them was closed for construction and a fifth attraction is being built. One of the open attractions was the Biosphere, a set of artificial biomes built within the Expo 67 geodesic sphere, but I didn't go in, as you have to be dressed for it (e.g. in layers of clothing for the polar exhibit). I saw the signs for the Stewart Museum and headed straight there because nothing else seemed interesting.
Beyond that, I visited a number of churches (I just love churches), went up to Mont Royal to look out over the city, shopped a bit, and mostly just wandered. Oh, last bit: St. Hubert's poulet roti is just fantastic!
The best thing about the con was that I met an online friend for the first time, helloprilly on AO3. I spent the entire weekend with her and her husband, two outgoing Doctor Who and Star Wars fans who are active in the 501st Legion of SW costumers. The con would not have been nearly as fun if I hadn't had Prilly to gush over things with.
I will say up front that the Montreal Comiccon was run very well. First, the con people were actually nice to us - unlike the Wizard World people at Raleigh two years ago, who treated us like cattle. They had some great systems set up, such as selling photo ops in groups, so that they controlled how many ops happened within fifteen-minute blocks. This meant that you only had to arrive fifteen minutes before your photo op, rather than wait an hour or more in line. I bought the VIP pass for the con, and that meant that for any photo op or autograph, I was placed in the VIP line, and VIPs went first.
One of the things I made sure to do was meet Tia Carrere. My husband has been a fan of hers since, well, before I knew him, and I wanted to get her autograph for him. There wasn't a line for her, so we started talking, and we have something in common - we're both from Hawaii. So, we chatted about high schools and music and all of that kind of stuff. It was funny - as soon as we established that we were both from Hawaii, our accents shifted just a little to hanabata days. Anyway, it was wonderful.
I also met Nathan Fillion. When you go up to him for an autograph, he goes, "Hello. What's your name?" So you tell him, and he goes, "Nice to meet you! I'm Nathan." And I'm thinking, "No! Really?" I'd missed a chance to meet him a number of years ago, when he came up to our town to attend the unveiling of the Arcimoto, a next-gen energy-saving car designed and manufactured by a friend of mine, and so I told him that, and he said, "Oh, you should keep an eye on that car!" He loves that thing. It's really nice having something to talk to the celebs about.
I made a point to meet Freema Agyeman, because Martha!! I asked her about the possibility of doing Big Finish audios, because I know from the producer of Big Finish that she'd been asked two years ago to do the Tenth Doctor Adventures but she couldn't do it then. She said she'd been working abroad at the time so she had to say no and that she hasn't been approached since, but she does want to do them and hopes they'll come back. At the photo op, I wore my "Journey's End" t-shirt, which is an anime-style drawing of Ten and his three companions and Davros, and when I went up, she pointed at the shirt and squealed, "Oo, there I am!" I'm sure she doesn't get a chance to see herself in fan art very often.
Of course, the main attraction at Comiccon was DT; I certainly would never have gone to the thing if he hadn't been there. The photo op was first, and DT was great (we did a pose based on one of my favorite pieces of Broadchurch fan art), but I'm not posting the photo so there's not much to say about it. Then there was the autograph.
Prilly had her epic fanfic printed and bound and wanted to have DT sign it. I wanted something more Broadchurch-related, so I made a second version of my DI Hardy custom Funko Pop. (This is one of the projects that had a flat deadline of June 30, as I flew to Montreal on July 1.) Prilly went first, and he was impressed that she'd written the novel and had it bound (it's 350k words - the book was 8x10 and weighed about five pounds). She said that she had another copy, if he would like it, and he said yes - he couldn't promise to read the whole thing, but he'd certainly like to look at it. She did it just right, giving him the choice to say yes or no.
Next, it was me. At these tables, you hand the object to be signed to the handler, and the handler lines them up for the celeb. I gave the fig to the handler and said I wanted the signature on the back of the head, so she placed it face down next to DT. When it got to my turn, he picked up the fig and started thinking about how he was going to sign it. I was pretty sure that he was assuming it was just another Tenth Doctor fig, so I said, "There isn't any Broadchurch merchandise, so I made my own." He stopped moving for a moment, then turned it over and did a double-take. "You made this?" I told him that yes, I took parts from other pops, painted them, and stuck them back together. He inspected it, turning it over in his hands a couple of times, and said, "Oh, this is very good." (I bet you can hear that in his voice.)
He then bent over to sign it, saying, "I don't know how to do this," which is pretty much what he said when he signed my cricket ball two years ago. I told him that he signed my cricket ball two years ago with no problem, and he said, "I can sign anything!" When he was done, he straightened up and turned the fig over again to look at it, and I said, "I made a second one for you, if you'd like it?" He replied, "Oh, yes!" I gave him the other figure (actually, the original one I made; the second one was not as well-made as the first), and he just grinned. "I'm going to show this to Olivia Colman and she's going to be so jealous!" I told him that I'm trying to make an Ellie but I'm having trouble because the sculpt is so hard, and he said, "Oh, no! Don't make one of her. Just make more of me!"
And thus, there are two DI Alec Hardy Funko Pops in this world. I own one, and David Tennant owns the other.
Omg. I still cannot get over this. Right after this, Prilly and I were out in the center of the con floor, jumping up and down squealing, "He took the book!" "He took the fig!" We were, well, rather silly for the rest of the day. But I just cannot get over how nice he was, how he took such an interest in my work. I (and Prilly as well - we both mentioned this) wouldn't be surprised if he tossed both the book and the fig as soon as the con was over, as I'm sure he's given tons of stuff by fans every minute, but he made me feel so special, like for a moment, he knew who I was. He is such a sweet person. Thank you, Mr. Tennant.