Saturday, October 11, 2008

Language, Young Man!

I've recently returned from Montreal, where I spent Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year’s, with my cousin.

Holiday in Montreal was uneventful. Great weather, good food etc. One day we went for a sandwich at a place called “Dreams” (great food, btw). When the waiter asked me what I wanted to drink, I’ve answered “ice tea”, to which he replied “we don’t use this language here!” and left.

I sat there with a baffled face, until my cousin explained that the word “esti” is used as an expletive in Quebec. It generally means a flat bread served in church, but used like the word “Damn!”. (I later verified that in the Urban Dictionary). Well, the waiter was just joking and I did get my ice tea in the end - and learned a new word.
Foreign languages are fun :)

And now to justify the “Traveling” in the blog’s title:

I found a direct flight from SFO to YUL on points and decided to try the Caltrain for the first time, to see how that works. Usually, it costs me $80-100 using a taxi to get to SFO. The train ride cost me $12 altogether – so that’s a big plus. The minuses are:

  • The Caltrain takes about an hour to get to SFO, due to all the stops.
  • You don’t actually get to SFO with the Caltrain.
    You disembark at Millbrae, where you take the BART to San Bruno, where you change to the BART line to SFO, where you take the AirTrain to your terminal… All in all, 4 train changes. Why couldn’t they make the train go directly to the airport? Or at least put the San Bruno BART station at the Caltrain terminal, and save one hop?
  • Despite the fact that everyone who goes to the airport, from both directions, takes the same route, no one at Caltrain and BART is smart enough to sell one ticket to the airport.
    Nope – you’ll purchase a Caltrain ticket ($4) at a certain kiosk; disembark at Millbrae and purchase a BART ticket ($1.5) at another machine. This machine has a horrible HORRIBLE user interface. Good luck navigating it - even I needed assistance. To buy a $1.5 ticket, you must insert no more than $5 (if you insert $10, the machine returns no more than $5 change) and then dial the price down to 1.50 in 5 cents increments. Joy!
  • Schedules – why aren’t the Caltrain and the BART synchronized? You wait 10-20 minutes from one to the other, despite the fact everyone who disembarks at Millbrae is definitely going to the airport. Again, massive stupidity on the organizers side.

Bottom line: Caltrain is a cheap option, if you’ve got the time to play the train game. If you have a lot of luggage, or traveling with someone, skip this and take a taxi.

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