Published: September 17th 2012September 17th 2012
Wow, I'd forgotten how much I loved Montreal! I'm so glad now that we planned to spend a few days in Montreal on this trip, so I could renew my acquaintance with it. I remind myself that when I came to Canada in 1968, Montreal was my first choice of a place to live – it just wasn't a very practical choice at that time for a non-bilingual person, at least one who wanted to work for a living!
I found myself wanting to spend more time here, just exploring all the nooks and crannies, getting to know more about the history of this city. Everywhere you go there is something to be learned about the past, but at the same time this city seems to be very much part of the 21st century. To cite one of many examples: the Bixi bikes. Montreal has bike stands all over the city. For a small fee you can pick up a bike and ride it to wherever you are going, then leave it for someone else. Our friend Carla has a season pass. As long as you don't keep a bike longer than 45 minutes, you don't pay anything extra. There
was a Bixi stand right outside the hostel, and they are located near many metro stations and other high traffic areas. The season runs approximately May through November, but it depends on the weather. In the winter the bikes and stands are removed to indoor storage; the bikes are reburbished over the winter so they are in good condition for the new season when spring comes.
This morning we needed to vacate our room by 11 am, so we packed up and put our bags into storage at the hostel. Then we went out and walked St. Catherine Street for a bit. I stumbled across one of my most favorite old places to eat, Basha's. Unfortunately we couldn't try it because we were engaged to have lunch with some of Roberta's family who live in the Montreal area. But it's good to know it's still there. John and I and the kids ate there many times back in the 80s when we came to Montreal for weekends. The best Lebanese food I ever ate, at a very reasonable price. Definitely I'm bookmarking this for a return visit at some point when we come back to Montreal.
pm we met some of Roberta's family at Dunn's, a smoked meat place just off St. Catherine's. I haven't had good Montreal smoked meat in more than 15 years and I must say it was a good choice for a couple of tourists. We were joined by some of Roberta's Devoe cousins: Ann, Susan, Louis, Marie-France, and Vince.
The hostel was glad to let us continue to use the facilities after we checked out, so we spent a couple of hours in the dining room there, catching up on our email, before we took a taxi to the train station.
The Montreal train station is definitely a much pleasanter place to be than the Edmonton station! There are many shops and things to do in the Montreal station; Edmonton was just a waiting room, really. The irony was that we didn't have to wait very long in Montreal to board our train, unlike Edmonton! And we got to wait in the sleeping car lounge rather than standing in line – where there were free beverages, newspapers, and comfy seats.
We had heard the train to Halifax was more luxurious than the trans-Canada, and this is definitely the
case. We were offered champagne (free!) when we took a stroll down to the Park Car before dinner. Our cabin is a bit roomier than the one we had from Edmonton, and the little ensuite bathroom includes a shower! I'm definitely going to try this out though I think it may not be as nice as the down the hall shower was on the trans-Canada train. It's kind of like an RV shower: you need to close the toilet and remove anything from the bathroom that could get wet because it's just a fixture on the wall of the WC cubicle. I'll keep you posted on how that goes! There's more storage in the cabin and even a little table (just the right size for a computer).
The train cars on this leg are quite different from the ones we were in on the Edmonton-Toronto leg – for one thing they are less tall! The Club Car is a taller car and they had to connect it to the end of the train using a special connector car that has nothing else in it! We were told these sleeper cars were originally designed for the Chunnel, less tall and
with rounder tops so they would fit in there. But since the Chunnel trip is very short, I'm surmising that people continued traveling in the cars after traversing the channel.
We left Montreal at the perfect time of day, 6:30, when the shadows were getting long and the sky was starting to turn pink. After making several stops in the suburbs, we are now moving along at a good clip around 2 hours after departure. We had a scrumtious dinner in the dining car, and have been advised to set our watches ahead an hour before retiring tonight. When we wake up we'll be on Atlantic time. Breakfast will be served from 7 am to about 10 am.
Some time during the night they will be splitting this train. Half of it will go to Gaspé and the other half to the Maritimes. Part of me wants to see this happen and part of me hopes I'll sleep through it!
There are more photos below