As the weather warmed up today to a balmy -14C and I needed to escape from the somewhat insalubrious surroundings that is my current abode, I took a walk along the Lachine Canal and into the city.
Frozen and snow covered Lachine Canal
Looking towards Atwater
Aaaah! Poor ducks!
Not many takers for the park benches
Canal in the foreground, city in the distance
The path beside the Canal
Ice and water in the lock
Luckily for the ducks, it wasn’t entirely frozen.
Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to walk along the canal path than on the pavements, which, I gather from television news, have not been cleared adequately of snow and ice and are consequently treacherous to pedestrians.
It is hard to imagine that just a few short months ago, Robyn and I rode bikes all the way along to the end of the canal. There weren’t too many people doing so today!
The day was hot and humid again. Robyn had to work but finished early when she returned home she brought burgers from work for our lunch. These were surprisingly tasty and a lot more appealing than the poutine I had tried the other day. We were somewhat lethargic for the first part of the afternoon, but the weather brightened up slowly and so we decided to go into town.
Having been thwarted by the buses, some of which were not running because it was Labour Day, we caught the metro into Place d’Armes and had a wander around the Old Town and the waterfront. This was most enjoyable, as there were a lot of people about and we chanced upon an Oriental music festival on one of the quays.
Afterwards, we strolled up to the Village in search of a beer. After some indecision, we eventually selected a Mexican cafe where we could sit and observe the passers by. We ordered mojito cocktails, but then felt obliged to eat. They must have been the worst enchilladas in the whole of North America and the service was diabolical. This, in a city that prides itself on its food! The street life was worth watching though.
We caught the metro home feeling very glad that we had raised ourselves out of the lethargy and ventured out.
Robyn actually had a day off today so we started off by going to the Jean Talon market, which is reputedly one of the largest in North Amercia. Not so today, of course, because it was the day after the holiday and a number of the stalls were closed. However, it was still very interesting and I was most impressed with how all the fruit and vegetables were displayed. We immediately bought punnets of raspberries and chinese gooseberries (cerises de terres) and sat down to eat them before strolling further along the aisles.
After a much needed coffee, we purchased lunch supplies from the convenient boulangerie next to the cafe and then a selection of Quebec cheeses from the cheese shop, following the advice of the young cheese man. Then it was off to the nearest park, where we over indulged in the bread and cheese, all of which was excellent.
Suitably restored, we wandered through Little Italy and on towards Plateau Mont Royal. This is apparently one of the ‘posher’ areas of Montreal although it didn’t really seem that way to me.
It was very hot all afternoon and, by the time we reached here, we were very thirsty, so had a beer whilst we decided what to do next. It had clouded over somewhat and was very humid again and neither of us really wanted to walk much further so we elected too catch a bus (or two) to the eastern end of the island.
Unfortunately, the express bus we thought we could catch, wasn’t running as it only went in one direction at peak times and we weren’t going that way (very confusing for the uninitiated). We ended up walking quite a way to the waterfront, from where we could then catch the bus to the east. By this time though, it was rush hour so we had to stand for quite a way before we could get a much needed seat!
When we finally arrived at our destination, the sky was looking decidedly black, so we had a short walk down to the water (just to say we had been there!) and headed back to the bus stop. We made it just in time as the rain came down in torrents as soon as we got on the bus. We managed to get home without getting wet though, which was very surprising, and, once there, Robyn cooked pasta whilst I watched and drank wine. Seemed reasonable to me….!
Robyn was working again today so I pottered around in the morning and then took two buses into the city. The second one, though, was stopped by a student demonstration, so I got off and walked the rest of the way, passing through The Village, where they were taking down the strings of pink balls that had adorned the street for the summer, and onto the old town.
On arrival in Place d’Armes, I went into Notre Dames Basilica, which was quite stunning and well worth visiting. Short tours in English were run regularly, so I firstly joined one of them and then wandered around by myself. There were a number of tour groups in the church but, luckily, it wasn’t too overcrowded.
Afterwards, I continued my meanderings through the old part of the City, admiring the diversity of the buildings, and eventually wended my way down to the waterfront where I bought a coffee and sat and people watched people for a while.
I had arranged to meet Robyn at her work at 5pm and intended to catch a bus but, when I couldn’t find the bus stop, I decided to walk instead. She was ready when I arrived and, as we were to meet a friend for poutine at 7pm, we filled in the time by walking up Mont Royal, from where there is a magnificent view over Montreal. There were lots of people running and walking around the Mont, as there are many tracks, one of which we tried to take down to the Plateau, where we were meeting Robyn’s friend.
Unfortunately, we didn’t go in quite the right direction and then, having decided to catch a bus, none appeared (isn’t that always the way?) and we ended up doing a marathon walk to La Banquise 24th, which reputedly serves the best poutine in Montreal. When we eventually arrived, with aching feet and half an hour late, Marvi, Robyn’s Austrian friend, had done a very valiant job saving the table for us, when there were long queues at the door. We were later also joined by Laura, a German friend.
There was a wide variety of poutines to choose from and I found that replacing mozzarella for the curd cheese and having a tomato and mince sauce, instead of gravy, vastly improved the taste and appeal of this local dish! The restaurant was absolutely packed and the noise was incredible. There were still queues out the door when we left.
By the time we got home, we were both very tired and quite ready for bed!
It was a beautiful day today and Robyn wasn’t working, so we caught the metro to the Lachine Canal, hired bikes and went for a cycle ride along the Canal and back along the river.
Across the canal from the ‘Ma Bicyclette’ hire place, which was part way along the canal, was the Atwater Market, which, naturally, was our first stop. We had brought the remains of the cheese from our last day out with us, so we purchased a baguette and pastries to accompany them for lunch. It was a very tempting market but we decided we had better get started on our ride rather than drool over food.
Robyn hadn’t ridden a bike for years but had no problem. The terrain was flat and we easily reached the Rene-Levesque Park at Lachine, which was about 6kms away.
The park itself bordered the end of the canal on one side and the St Lawrence river on the other. There were sculptures dotted all around it and a biking/walking track circumnavigating it. Needless to say, this was where we stopped for lunch!
Afterwards, we cycled back towards the city along the river, which turned out to be a good choice as it was far more interesting than the canal. Much of the path was through park and we also passed by the St Lawrence rapids, which were a bit of a challenge to ships in the old days.
Today, they were more of a challenge to surfers and kayakers, whom we stopped to watch for quite a while. They seemed to have developed an interesting technique, whereby they drifted backwards into the rapid and then paddled to remain in the same place. A bit of a reversal to the norm!
We also took a short detour onto Heron Island, which is a bird sanctuary, where we ate our cakes, whilst admiring the view of the rapids, which 2 or 3 kayakers were in the process of traversing.
As we didn’t have to return the bikes until nearly 7pm, we continued on towards the city, intending to complete the circuit of the canal. However, I missed a signpost somewhere and we followed a lot of very serious cyclists along the path and onto the wrong side of the river, which meant retracing our steps for some way before getting onto the right track again. By the time we returned to our starting point, we had cycled about 20km, I think, so we didn’t do too badly.
Having dropped off the bikes, we caught the metro back to town, so that I could collect my bus ticket for Ottawa, after which we strolled down to The Village for a much needed beer. Clara, one of Robyn’s friends, wanted to meet us there and we managed to consume an entire pitcher of beer whilst we were waiting. They both wanted to go out to eat but I decided to go back to the flat as I had had enough excitement for one day! I was very glad that I made that decision as it was well after midnight when Robyn returned. I would definitely not have lasted the pace!