Montreal 16-18 August 2016

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August 18th 2016
Published: August 20th 2016
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Montreal 16-18 August 2016

After leaving the 1000 Islands region we drove along the northern side of the very long St Lawrence River. It was a beautiful drive but the rain was certainly following us …. All the way to Montreal. The roads are fantastic in Canada so driving was easy.

From time to time we stopped and as we got closer to Montreal the traffic was bumper-to-bumper. Road works were everywhere. We guessed they try to do as much as possible while there is no snow around.

We found our next accommodation which was with AirBNB. A quaint little home owned by Jonathan, a web developer who lived next door. It was a 3BR, totally renovated and we were the first people to stay. It was very close to the 1976 Olympic Stadium and a 15 minute drive into Downtown.

We were close to the district called The Plateau which is a large, trendy district north of downtown and east of Parc du Mont-Royal noted for its quaint architecture, diverse mixture of cultures and languages, parks, music venues, theatres, restaurants, pedestrian streets, and the location of many summer festivals. Its attractions include Parc Lafontaine, the Main (Saint Laurent Blvd) with its many hotspots, St-Denis and Mont-Royal for shopping, eating and drinking. The Plateau includes several distinct neighbourhoods, including Mile End.

Mile End is where the legendary Fairmount and St. Viateur bagel shops, Dieu du Ciel brewery, trendy restaurants and cafés, bookstores, thrift shops, espresso and soccer bars, the Rialto Theatre, St Michael and St. Andrew's church, boutiques and hipsters are all found.

The bagels are to ‘die for’. We had read about them and though “what are they talking about?”. While we were eating them we found out what they were talking about. The texture and flavour was different to what we get in Australia.

We saw them being baked which happens 24/7. We also bought some roasted capsicum yoghurt spread to put on them along with green and white asparagus and a few other bits and pieces. We ate this while sipping cold crisp white wine. Very pleasant!

The night we arrived, it was pelting down with rain. Jonathon our host gave us directions into the food area of The Plateau. After getting very wet whilst jumping in and out of the car and into shops, we decided to buy food for dinner and breakfast to have at home. It was a nice change. That night, Sheryl thrashed us at game of euka.

Just a bit about Montreal. As many of you know, the city is the metropolis of the province of Quebec. Quebec City is the political capital but Montreal is the cultural and economic capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. The second largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris. The population of Montreal is about 1.9 million, with 4 million in the metro area. Montreal is sometimes referred to as The Paris of Canada.

The next day we drove into downtown and found a park (there were plenty of them). We then walked to the Old Montreal which has the vast majority of historical buildings, most dating from the 17th - 19th century, and many museums.

We found many cobbled-stone roads and several malls. Some were full of galleries and others full of restaurants and pubs. We have noticed a lot more women drink beer in Canada rather than wine. They have many boutique beers available.

The first special building we visited was the Notre-Dame Basilica. The chapel was particularly beautiful with the blue sky and sun effect (see photos). Sheryl lit a candle for Brian which was special.xx

In one street we stopped to watch a French-speaking couple sing to each other while a couple of people were waltzing. It was a beautiful day so there was a reasonable crowd watching the performance which was also being filmed.

We wandered along the Harbourside watching a substantial zipline in action. There were plenty of people riding bikes, some of which supported 3 people. For lunch we stopped at the Bulldog Pub near the Harbourside. We had read about a special dish called Poutine. Jonathan had also told us about it. The young ones eat it after a ‘heavy night’.

No visit to Montreal is complete without at least one plate of poutine they told us. This unique dish is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme — adding chicken, beef, vegetables, or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato sauce (poutine italienne). Every Montrealer has their favourite poutine restaurant where it says that you can get "the real stuff". It wasn’t too bad but I guess it is an acquired taste, just like a pie floater we have in South Australia (meat pie floating in mushy peas for those non-Australian readers!!)

Another aspect we have noticed in Canada is that separate bills (l'addition or "facture" in French) are common and you may be asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?). It was really good and a real change from Australia.

Before leaving Old Montreal we went to a site where the foundations of the old wall of the city remained. Old Montreal was a walled city from its time of establishment as it was so close to USA.

We then went Downtownto see the skyscrapers, a few more churches, and museums. Several blocks are connected by 30 Km of underground arcades and malls, allowing comfortable walking and shopping when the weather is foul.

After our long day of walking, we drove up to Parc de Mont Royal, a massive park which provided a high point to look over the city.

Before we left Montreal the next day we visited Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which is the district which offered the Olympic Stadium, Insectarium, Jardin Botanique, and Biodôme. They offered tours of the stadium but we decided not to take the couple of hours it would have taken. The Biodome was the velodrome during the 1976 Olympic Games and has been converted into a very popular area for a lot of natural science displays.

It was another beautiful day so we headed off towards Quebec City.

Additional photos below
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