Cooling off and Winding down: Adieu, Montreal

Canada's flag
North America » Canada » Quebec » Montréal
July 7th 2018
Published: July 7th 2018
Edit Blog Post

Time to pack it all up and head back home, I guess. And watch some England-Sweden in the World Cup. I have enjoyed some of my time in Montreal, so I'm glad I made the trip. And I know that the heat wave has obviously affected my experiences, but Montreal has not been my favorite Canadian city. I enjoyed it last time I was here, but it was only for 2 days and with a friend. This time, 5 days and solo travel didn't go as well as I had hoped. All that to say, I will be happy to be back home.

One of the things that I do enjoy about solo travel is being free to make my own plans. And yesterday was a great example of one of those days. In fact, I didn't really know what I was going to do until about 30 minutes before I decided to walk out the door yesterday morning. I knew that my Passeport MTL was set to expire some time around 10:30 AM, so I wanted to use it for the Metro one last time. So I really only had one trip left: do I go to the Old Town, or back to the Botanical Gardens, or somewhere completely new? The weather was perfect, for a change (high of 75 around 10 AM, nice bit of wind, and plenty of clouds), so I decided to try my luck with the Botanical Gardens, since I could also hopefully use the Passeport to get in, if I timed it right.

I did time it right, though I was plenty concerned for a while. The Botanical Gardens are a big draw for families, so I saw this massive line at the ticket counter and thought I had pressed my luck a little too far. But most of that line was grouped into 3s and 4s, so it moved quickly. I got my ticket at 10:36 AM -- not a moment too late. But it really did seem like everybody in Montreal decided it was time to enjoy some outdoor activities after the heat wave (which I'm told this morning has been blamed for 36 deaths in Quebec since last Friday).

A few things to know about the Botanical Gardens: they are nowhere near the main sights for Montreal. They are next to the Olympic Stadium, so I think most people try to combine all that. I would've done it when I was there on Tuesday, but it was too bleeding hot to spend any more time outside. Another thing to know is that the main building with the exhibits is Art Deco! I had no idea, so I was speechless when I turned the corner and looked down the path to the entrance. I knew I had made the right choice. Lastly, the gardens are divided into separate areas with themes: Chinese, Japanese, Rose, First Nations, Alpine, and the Exhibition. And let's not forget the massive Arboretum (a forest with plenty of paths) and the Insectarium, a building full of insects on display (mostly dead ones). You have to buy a separate ticket for the Insectarium, or you can get a combo ticket for the Gardens and the Insectarium and save some money. Luckily, my Passeport got me into both. That brought my total up to $190 worth of stuff with the Passeport for just $100. Definitely worth it.

I had seen pictures of the Chinese Gardens in the park, so I wanted to see that most of all. The first thing you see, though, is the Rose Garden, and there are so many roses of various shapes and colors. You can almost get lost there. And then the Chinese Garden is secluded, with several temple- and pagoda-shaped buildings. Unfortunately, part of it was still under construction, so part was closed off (if I had been here a week earlier, I wouldn't have been able to see this part at all). And of course there were construction sounds, so that took away a little bit from the ambiance. Still, it was one of those places where you have to stop a moment, as soon as you walk through the gate, and appreciate the beauty.

Next up for me was the Japanese Gardens, where they didn't have plants only from Japan, just that the gardens were styled with the Japanese aesthetic in mind. There was a koi pond with lots of BIG fish in there, and the kids' groups that were there went crazy when they saw a big group of the fish. It was pretty tranquil, except for the kids. I took the opportunity to have a little snack and check out the map while I was there. And good thing, too, since the Insectarium was nearby, and I would have to walk all the way back around the park if I didn't check it out while I was close by. So I took the little detour to the Insectarium. There were LOADS of insects here, and quite a few that were rather exotic. They were from all over the world, after all. They had a live demonstration about the importance of ants, and there were other live insects in a few of the glass cases. But most of them were mounted on pins and neatly arranged. As someone who isn't just enamored of insects, I would've probably been a little disappointed if I had paid so much for it. But it was a hit with all the kids there (about 60% of the clientele), so I guess that's the main reason to consider going there.

Back in the Botanical Gardens, the First Nations Garden was a little underwhelming, but I guess they tried. Then there's a couple of ponds that people can sit in front of and enjoy the view (I did) before moving on to the Lily gardens (again, various species and colors of lilies, just like the roses on the opposite side) and then the Alpine Garden. So when they say "Alpine," they don't just mean the Alps. They mean mountainous plants from all over the world. Two things to note here: I found my favorite plants in the whole park (they're bright blue and I have no idea what they're called), and this was the only place in the entire park where I genuinely got lost. Thankfully, they have a path designated on the map as the one for "those with reduced mobility" to follow, and it's marked with stones along the center of that path. So once I found that, I just followed it out of the mountains and into the Exhibition area, where they had all the prized flowers (ones that had literally won competitions). And then I was on my way.

I spent over 3 hours at the Botanical Gardens, so my Passeport had expired by then. This meant I needed to buy a Metro ticket, so I opted for a 24-hour pass since that meant I could use it unlimited until I left Montreal (which would be less than 24 hours from that time). Since I had free rein of the Metro now, I opted to do the one thing I had tried unsuccessfully to do on my first day in town: try some poutine at La Banquise.

I was rewarded for my efforts. No line at the restaurant this time, and I even got to eat outside and enjoy the cool weather. I ordered a large poutine called La Trois Viandes (the three meats--steak, bacon, and pepperoni (which was thick and sliced in strips instead of like what you see on pizza)). It was far too much food. If I had known the size of a large, I would've ordered a regular. It took everything I had to eat it, and even then I gave up on the pepperoni bits at the end. The upshot is that I didn't feel the need to eat again for the rest of the day. But I was stuffed and decided to head back to the hotel for a nap and then take stock of the rest of my time in Montreal.

I realized while back in the hotel that I hadn't really purposefully done any Art Deco sightseeing, so I decided to correct that. The main building of the University of Montreal has a tower that is obscenely Art Deco, and there are some apartment buildings on the same street in that style. And there is a farmer's market in the Atwater area with another Art Deco tower, so I was just going to make a loop around the back side of the Parc Mont-Royal and back through the main part of the city. No big deal. Glad I got that 24-hour Metro ticket for sure.

The two towers were definitely worth the time to go and visit, and I realize that I definitely want to check out that farmer's market next time I'm in town. In fact, I'll look to stay in that area of town when I come back. The apartment buildings near the University were fun to see, and if I actually lived in Montreal, I would consider staying in one of them, too. But most of them were pretty low-key, though certainly in the Art Deco style.

It was getting to be sunset when I finished my Art Deco tour, so I opted to go back through the main city, stop off at my main mall (Centre Eaton) for some final souvenir shopping, and then head back to the hotel. I set another step record for the year on Friday, so that was a surprise, considering I hadn't expected really to do all that much when the day began.

Today I'm heading back to the States. It's a multi-part trip, as always. I've got a train to Ottawa at noon, arriving at 2-ish. Then I have to get to the Ottawa airport for a flight that doesn't leave until 7 PM (if I took a later train from Montreal, I would miss my flight, alas). That flight goes to DC, with a layover around 80 minutes before flying to Atlanta around 10 PM. I get into Atlanta around 11:45 and then my shuttle to Athens leaves at 12:40, so I should be home around 2:00 AM Sunday. Hooray!

I have realized a few times on this trip that I haven't been to the most Canadian of places yet -- Tim Horton's -- and so I try, usually in vain, to find one. I got to one last night, but they were out of any of the good stuff because they were closing in 15 minutes. So I'm determined to get some today, most likely at the train station here in Montreal.

Lastly, that Quebecois accent. Ugh. I speak and understand French pretty well, but sometimes this accent here just gets on my nerves. It's simultaneously lazy (from what I was taught) and innovative. And when I speak French here, everybody knows I'm not from around here. Sometimes they switch to English, maybe because they think I don't know how to speak French properly since I'm not speaking it like them; other times, they keep going in French. And I'll admit to getting lost in hearing the way they pronounce things sometimes, and so I forget to process the meaning behind what they're saying. Kinda like the way most people listen to pop music: enjoying the sounds but not really getting the meaning. So that happens a lot to me here. If I lived here more, I could probably get used to it. But now, when I try to pronounce things like a native, it ends up taking too long and then I forget what I'm actually trying to say sometimes since I focus so much on how to say it. Blah. Anyway, I shouldn't have to deal with it but for a few hours more. Then back to the English side of Canada. Then back to the States, where nobody knows anything but English anyway.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Tot: 0.052s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 8; qc: 23; dbt: 0.0066s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb