Royal Bank screwed me again

Royal Bank screwed me again. I lugged about 15 pounds of loonies to work today, with the intention of hauling them over to the nearest Royal Bank before noon, and exchanging them for some AMEX traveller’s cheques and a deposit to my bank account. Some guy from AMEX told me I’d be better off getting the cheques in Euros instead of Canucks or Francs, and that I should phone the bank first to make sure they had some in stock.

So I did.

I called at 11:30 and the guy at the bank said they had traveller’s cheques in Euros, so off I went at 11:45, beating the noontime rush.

At the bank I stopped at the info desk to ask if I should go to a regular teller for this transaction. She called someone deeper in the bowels of the bank and then announced they had no cheques in Euros.


So she sent me to the huge main branch at Place Ville Marie. By the time I got there, with my sore arm from lugging the coins, it was after 12:00, so there were a million people in line. It took about 40 minutes to get through, only to find out they didn’t have any Euros either. So I got them in Francs.

At this point, I don’t give a rat’s ass. One way or another, 60 hours from now my jet-lagged butt will be in a cafe in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a croissant in one hand and a cafe noir in the other.

I so rock…

I got feedback tonight from my Creative Nonfiction Workshop friends on my travel piece Shaken and Stirred in Siena. Of course it’s not perfect; in fact it suffers mostly from being two stories trying to fit into one, but the feedback was very, very positive. Most importantly, people told me that I have a gift for describing place, which is my goal – that’s what I want to be good at!

Another excerpt:

Inside the hotel, the man at the desk is formal and erect and could pass for an English butler if not for his accent and indifference. I announce myself and he offers the room key–a large steel skeleton key attached to a heavy pendulum–so I can inspect the room. He shows me to the elevator, not much bigger than a phone booth, but encircled with a helix of stairs, like something out of an old French movie. I go up to the fifth floor and find my room a few doors down the hall. It’s adjacent to the shared bath and toilet, which is damp and stony but seems to be clean and smells reasonably fresh. My room is small, with a single iron bed pushed into a corner and bolted to the floor. There’s an armoire, a sink, a bidet, a television with a screen so small I can cover it with one hand, and a window that I have to climb two marble stairs to see out of. I adore it.

I’m getting psyched for…

…my trip to Paris. Among my inspirations:Paris is a city that might well be spoken of in the plural, as the Greeks used to speak of Athens, for there are many Parises, and the tourists’ Paris is only superficially related to the Paris of the Parisians. The foreigner driving through Paris from one museum to another is quite oblivious to the presence of a world he brushes past without seeing. Until you have wasted time in a city, you cannot pretend to know it well. The soul of a big city is not to be grasped so easily; in order to make contact with it, you have to have been bored, you have to have suffered a bit in those places that contain it. Anyone can get hold of a guide and tick off all the monuments, but within the very confines of of Paris there is another city as difficult to access as Timbuktu once was.
–Julian Green, Paris

More “Shaken and Stirred in Siena”

(Note: the “blue whale” is my large blue backpack.)I can’t find my destination. Centuries ago, when these narrow and winding streets were set down, no one had heard of using a grid. Things were more organic then, with streets following contours of the land and established footpaths around tall trees and large rocks. Also, there was planned chaos–streets were arranged in confusing patterns to help foil invaders.

With the guidebook as my sword and the blue whale as my shield, I search an area about the size of a Wal-Mart for ten minutes before I unravel the secret code that leads me to the Cannon d’Oro, which my guide book describes as “A stylish 30-room two star hotel tucked down an alleyway� Friendly and immaculately maintained, this is the best choice among the central low-cost hotels”.

They’re full.