Basilicas, cemeteries and hot noodle soup

I had an early breakfast this morning as Diane had an appointment. However, it was still fairly lengthy as she is a very enthusiastic talker and was keen to tell me, with a lot of hand gestures and conversation punctuated by “wow”, about her latest e-commerce multilevel marketing business venture. She already has a business selling high end infra saunas. Hence the posters in the hallway that I had noticed on the first night.

Plastic tunnel outside a church
Plastic tunnel outside a church

Afterwards, I read for a while before setting off to catch the bus to Cote de Neiges to visit St Joseph’s Oratory, which is perched high on the side of Mont Royal and is the highest point in Montreal. It is also renowned for Father Andre (now a Saint) and the miracles he performed in healing the sick, who ascended the multitude of steps on their knees to be blessed by him.

The bus took me through areas that I haven’t been before, which is a big advantage of travelling by bus. As I neared my destination I was intrigued by the number of houses that had plastic canopies over their front steps and driveways, presumably to protect the cars and people from the icy conditions in the winter. It did look a little strange…

St Joseph's Oratory
St Joseph’s Oratory
The organ in St Joseph's Oratory
The organ in St Joseph’s Oratory

It was about a 10 minute walk up to the Oratory from the bus stop and, as I caught my first view, it was certainly very impressive. Climbing the many steps to reach the basilica was definitely worth the effort. The interior is very elegant and minimal and not at all as I expected and I spent some time sitting and admiring the architecture to the accompanying sound of the cleaner vacuuming!

Afterwards, I walked to the city through the absolutely vast Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery. Indeed, I had not realised how big it was until I started walking, following my sense of direction and just hoping I was heading in the right direction for downtown. There were a number of areas for different nationalities, including Chinese, which I don’t think I have ever encountered before.

I eventually arrived at the Chalet on Mont Royal and, consequently, familiar territory. I was freezing and, for some time, the thought of hot soup had been keeping me going so I made my way to the food court in the Eton Centre and had an enormous bowl of noodle and vegetable soup, which was just what I needed and extremely filling!

Whilst intending to catch buses back, I was so warm by this stage that I couldn’t face going out into the cold again, so got the metro instead, which is conveniently located right in the shops. At this time of day, of course, it was packed but at least I was out of the cold wind.

Tea (without cake) was the order of the day on my return.

A beautiful winter’s day

Rue Saint Hubert
Rue Saint Hubert

My room is on the top floor of the building, is very light and has its own personal roof terrace. It was wonderful to wake up this morning and be able to look out over all the roofs on a beautiful sunny, blue sky day and with the city just waiting to be walked!

Street art in Montreal
Street art in Montreal

But first I had to have breakfast. This was served by Diane in the kitchen and I was presented with delicious French toast, made with country bread that didn’t go soggy, (as my French toast is wont to do) and a topping of maple syrup. What an excellent way to start the day, particularly when you don’t have to cook it yourself!

As soon as I had finished, I set off with no particular destination in mind. Whilst sunny, I soon discovered it wasn’t very warm so tried to keep on the sunny side of the streets wherever possible. I wandered through La Petite Patrie, the area I am staying in, Mile End and then over towards Mont Royal, wiggling my way through the streets with their rows of terraced houses, most of which have the typical iron staircases that give access to front doors on the upper floors, and bicycles on their balconies.

Flower, birdcages and pumpkins!
Flower, birdcages and pumpkins in a shop in Montreal

I decided I would go up to the Chalet at Mont Royal and admire the wintery view of the City. It was a lovely walk up, through the trees that have now mostly shed their leaves and which are lying in heaps on the ground all over the park.

City view from Mont Royal
City view from Mont Royal
Typical Montreal street
Typical Montreal street
Steps down from Mont Royal
Steps down from Mont Royal

As usual, there were a myriad of joggers and walkers running up and down the steps and I was almost bowled over at one point as a jogger and a walker, who was certainly not paying attention, both tried to get past me at the same time. They obviously bumped each other and a little ‘discussion’ ensued between the two but luckily it didn’t come to fisticuffs! I just kept walking….

I headed down to the Information Centre and, after picking up some brochures, walked along towards Rue Saint Laurent to catch a bus back, stopping to admire the Cathedral along the way. My feet and legs were now feeling a little weary (understatement) and it was quite a relief to sit down. Unfortunately, as is becoming my habit, I got off the bus a little too early and had to walk quite a way back.

Winter at Mont Royal
Winter at Mont Royal

Apart from soup, I was also looking for a supermarket and after trudging the length of Rue Saint Hubert, I eventually found one near the Jean Talon market. The street is full of clothing shops and if I had wanted a wedding dress or a pair of boots I would have had no problem at all. Typically, on my return back down the street, I spotted an IGA supermarket around the corner from the apartment.

On my return, Diane provided me with a teapot full of hot water and I retired to my perch above the city to recuperate from my exertions and admire the sunset. It is probably true to say that I scarcely stirred from the rocking chair for the rest of the evening!

Exploring Montreal

 

Montreal

1 September

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.

Place d'Armes
Place d’Armes
Marche de Bonsecours and
Marche de Bonsecours and “Fear” Depot!
Old shipping warehouse
Old shipping warehouse
Tutankhamen exhibition in one of the old warehouses
Tutankhamen exhibition in one of the old warehouses

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.

On the quay on the waterfront
On the quay on the waterfront
The Waterfront
The Waterfront
Oriental Music Festival
Oriental Music Festival
The St Lawrence River
The St Lawrence River
Quai d'Horloge (Clock Quay)
Quai d’Horloge (Clock Quay)

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.

The Biosphere
The Biosphere
Side of the Hotel de Ville
Side of the Hotel de Ville
Fountain in the evening sun
Fountain in the evening sun
Dome of Marche de Bonsecours
Dome of Marche de Bonsecours

We caught the metro home feeling very glad that we had raised ourselves out of the lethargy and ventured out.

Montreal

2 September

Broccoli anyone?
Broccoli anyone?

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.

Raspberries and 'Cerises de Terres' in the market
Raspberries and ‘Cerises de Terres’ (or, what I would call, Chinese Gooseberries) in the market
Variety of aurbergines in the market
Variety of aurbergines in the market
Lots of maple syrup for sale in the market
Lots of maple syrup for sale in the market
An oldie but a goodie! Sign in the market cafe
An oldie but a goodie! Sign in the market cafe

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.

Lunch!
Lunch!
Robyn and our picnic in the park
Robyn and our picnic in the park
No walking on the water!
No walking on the water! Sign by the lake
Lunch time park
Lunch time park
'Bixi' stands are all over Montreal
‘Bixi’ stands are all over Montreal

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.

Petite Italie in flowers
Petite Italie (Little Italy) in flowers
Driving school in the 'Plateau'
Driving school in the ‘Plateau’
This, after all, is Montreal!
This, after all, is Montreal!

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!

St Lawrence at the end of Montreal Island
St Lawrence at the end of Montreal Island
Didn't look quite like this when we were there!
Didn’t look quite like this when we were there!
Very black sky!
Very black sky!

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….!

Montreal

3 September

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.

Demonstration by University students
Demonstration by University students
A very grand building!
A very grand building!
Strings of pink balls in The Village
Strings of pink balls in The Village
Lots of staircases like this in Montreal
Lots of staircases like this in Montreal (but not all red!)
Unusual porch roof
Unusual porch roof
Unusual doorway in Montreal
Unusual doorway in Montreal
Bikes and scooters!
Bikes and scooters!
No parking on this third floor balcony!
No parking on this third floor balcony!
On a restaurant in The Village
On a restaurant in The Village

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.

Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame Basilica
Roof in Place d'Armes
Roof in Place d’Armes
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Pillars and balconies in Notre Dame
Pillars and balconies in Notre Dame

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.

Sunflowers outside a restaurant
Sunflowers outside a restaurant
'The English Pug and the French Poodle'
‘The English Pug and the French Poodle’ (and, no, I didn’t get that the wrong way round!)
Near the Lachine Canal
Near the Lachine Canal
Lock on Lachine Canal
Lock on Lachine Canal
A splash of orange in the City!
A splash of orange in the City!
Reflections
Reflections
The City from Mont Royal
The City from Mont Royal

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.

First successful selfie!!
First successful selfie!!
On Mont Royal
On Mont Royal

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.

Restaurant sign
Restaurant sign

By the time we got home, we were both very tired and quite ready for bed!

Montreal

4 September

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.

Atwater market
Atwater market
Derelict building on the canal
Derelict building on the canal
Starting off on the cycle ride
Starting off on the cycle ride

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.

Lachine Canal
Lachine Canal
Hairpin bend on the cycle path!
Hairpin bend on the cycle path!
Bike (and roller blade) path along the Canal
Bike (and roller blade) path along the Canal
A lock on the Lachine Canal
A lock on the Lachine Canal
The Lachine Canal
The Lachine Canal

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!

Sculpture in the Rene-Levesque park
Sculpture in the Rene-Levesque park
Artwork in Rene-Levesque Park
Artwork in Rene-Levesque Park
Rene-Levesque Park
Rene-Levesque Park
Siesta time!
Siesta time!
Eating again!
Eating again!

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.

Bridge over the St Lawrence
Bridge over the St Lawrence
Windmill by the river
Windmill by the river
The start of the rapids in the St Lawrence
The start of the rapids in the St Lawrence
In the rapids!
In the rapids!

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!

'Surfing' the rapids
‘Surfing’ the rapids

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.

Risk of drowning?! Surely not?
Risk of drowning?! Surely not?
Heron Island in the river
Heron Island in the river

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.

Cycling on the wrong side of the river!
Cycling on the wrong side of the river!

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!