I am sitting on the floor of a four-star hotel room, sandwiched between a gas fireplace and a king-sized bed, crying my eyes out while desperately try to suck whatever wine I can through a tiny hole in the cork of a $23 bottle of Chateau du Something.
Three weeks earlier my boyfriend and I had broken up and I’d decided a solo trip to a city had I hadn’t visited since childhood was just the remedy for my broken heart.
Everything was going fine until I arrived at my hotel and discovered I’d booked myself into some sort of honeymoon suite. There was a rose on the gigantic bed and two wineglasses nearby with a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.
I looked at the bed, thought of my ex, and immediately started bawling.
When the sobs turned to sniffles I grabbed the wine and opener.
I’d never used a sommelier corkscrew before and it showed. Fifty minutes later I was still trying to get the cork out. When that didn’t work, I tried punching more holes into the cork with the screw thinking if only I made an opening large enough, the wine could pour out.
The more I tried, the more my own thoughts spiralled downward.
“How unsophisticated can one person be? No wonder my ex doesn’t want me. I’m such a loser…”
All of which ended with me trying to suck the wine out of a bottle through a hole the size of a pin while losing it in my expensive hotel suite that was supposed to make me feel better.
Lesson number 1 in how to be miserable when travelling alone?
Don’t ask for help when you need it.
It wasn’t until my final night in Montreal that I summoned the courage to bring my now half-empty bottle of wine to the front desk to see if the staff on duty could open it. No one laughed at me. Instead, the clerk took the bottle to the restaurant next door and within five minutes, voila! the cork was gone.
Lesson number 2? Pay extra for a luxury suite.
There are times you want a fancy room. Those times usually involve some sort of couple activity that big beds are made for. Although I’d thought I’d be pampering myself, in the end I would have been just as comfortable at a budget hotel or even a bed and breakfast where I would have at least had other people to talk to. Speaking of which:
Lesson number 3: Don’t talk to strangers.
I broke this one in Reuben’s Deli where the waitress was smart enough to put me at a table next to another solo diner who was deep into a book. I asked him what he was reading and we struck up a conversation which ended in us going to an Oscar party at a local cinema and correspondence which continues today.
Lesson 4? Always stick to your plans.
I’d had a vision of shopping in quaint boutiques by Quebec designers and recharging in adorable French cafes along the way. So on Saturday morning I set out in search of them down Rue Saint Urbain. My stroll turned into a three hour trudge through the snow and ice past closed restaurants and chain stores.
In the end, I had lunch at an A&W before giving up and retreating to the maze of malls under the office towers downtown. Sure they had more of the national chains but I was surprised to see lots of fashions that we didn’t have at home. The detour turned out to be a major score for my winter wardrobe.
Lesson 5: Wait until your last day of your trip to take a bus tour of the city.
On Sunday, I hopped on a Greyhound tour of Montreal highlights. Not only did I finally get oriented to the city, I also discovered parts of it that I wished I’d had more time to explore (namely the Biodome) but, alas, I had a plane to catch.
This week I head to Dublin, Ireland for another solo vacation.
I’ll be staying in an Air B&B, taking a city bus tour when I arrive, sitting at the bar in pubs to strike up conversation with strangers, and likely breaking some plans.
And, if I do find myself with a bottle and a corkscrew, I guarantee you I’ll be asking someone for help – or better yet, finding someone to drink that bottle with me.