It was raining on and off when we got up Monday (Lundi) and supposed to rain all day, so we decided to take the car and see how hard it was to get around Montreal. We made hotel coffee and headed off to Mile End to find Fairmount Bagel, supposedly the best bagel shop in Montreal.
The shop was tiny and there was a line of 8 or so people waiting, but it went quickly. Also, they weren’t kidding about the best bagels. Even though I couldn’t have eaten another one, I was sad I didn’t have more.
We ate our bagels in our illegally-parked car, then headed toward Marche Jean-Talon, because we figured it would be mostly covered and out of the rain. There was plenty of parking onsite in the underground parking garage.
I love huge markets like you find in Europe, New York, New Orleans, etc. Minneapolis has its farmers markets, but they’re not really the same. There’s so much more at this style of permanent market.
We loved that you can buy maple syrup in cans in Quebec. It’s cheap, too.
We couldn’t get over the fiddlehead ferns and all the fresh mushrooms, way more than we can find in the midwest. There was also a guy in a booth selling ice cider, which is basically like ice wine but from frozen apples. We picked up some sample bottles to try. Then we stopped at a sandwich stand that had veggie sandwiches, and picked up a couple to go. The guy working there said “sixteen BUCKS!” in an adorable Quebecois accent.
We walked past the macaron stand several times, and it killed me every time. (Look at all of them!) We finally stopped to pick up a couple to take along. We figured if it stopped raining we could have a picnic at Parc Mont-Real.
The rain had other plans for us, apparently. We decided to go see the Parc Olympique, and thankfully we both had our umbrellas along. It was raining steadily.
We found some free parking a few blocks away and walked into the park. Our first stop was in front of the hockey arena, which is named after Maurice Richard. His statue was out front. The arena seemed to be overgrown and in some disrepair, but it appeared to still be in use.
Stade Saputo, home of the Montreal Impact, was nearby. There were soccer players out practicing in the rain. The stadium is pretty new, and really impressive. Maybe someday Minneapolis will get one like this.
We walked over the roof of the planetarium to get to the Olympic tower, which leans over the Olympic Stadium. The Biodome is on the left. If we’d had more time in Montreal, I’d definitely liked to have seen it.
Our destination was the Montreal Tower, which contains a funicular that travels upwards at a 45-degree angle. We’d hoped for nicer weather for the view, but the rain meant the place was pretty empty. (You can see the funicular car near the top in this picture.)
In case you didn’t know, I’m completely obsessed with funiculars. I don’t know why, but I love them. I will go on any and all funiculars, as often as possible. Tickets for this one were $22.50CD, and you can get packages that include Biodome tickets, or a tour of the stadium.
Despite the rain, the views were pretty spectacular. There’s a lot of sports-related stuff going on below that was hard to identify. (Much of it is a skate park.) That’s the stadium directly below, Mont-Real in the upper right corner, and the two islands in the river with Parc Jean Drapeau, the casino, and the F1 circuit.
In the mist across the river is Longueuil, where our hotel was. It’s a very convenient spot if you want to take transit everywhere.
FYI, the Montreal Tower holds the Guinness World Record for ‘tallest manmade leaning tower’. Take that, Pisa.
After descending the funicular, we picked up the requisite souvenirs and then headed off to see what we could see of the Olympic Stadium. We were shocked to find the doors open and people inside. Here’s the Olympic pool, which had people doing practice dives at the far end.
We circled around the stadium looking for the statue of the Olympic rings that Matt had seen a photo of, but couldn’t find them. Through a loading dock and up a set of stairs that were covered in trash (it looked like a popular homeless spot) we found the main entrance to the stadium, but it was in such bad shape we assumed it was unused. (We later learned that’s untrue, which was very surprising.)
We were tired of walking in the rain, and abandoned the plan to have a picnic since it was obviously not going to let up. We decided to go back to our hotel around 3:30 and have some lunch, since we had beers there, and chargers for our phones.
(On the way back, we did find the Olympic rings statue on the only corner of the park we hadn’t seen.)
Our Quebecois lunch spread was amazingly good: les sandwichs on perfect bread (one vegetarian, one not), macarons, a small sample of ice cider, and beers direct from the source in Chambly. Delicious.
While we were finishing, my parents texted, asking where we were. They were on a very long roadtrip with a cruise in the middle, and their plans overlapped with ours by a couple days in Quebec. They were on their way to Montreal, and wanted to know if we wanted to get together for dinner. I told them yes, and that we were headed back into the city and would meet them there somewhere.
We got back on the Metro and rode to Champs de Mars and walked into Vieux Montreal again. We wanted to do some more souvenir shopping and see the port before we left. It was raining harder, so we didn’t have the best views, but we saw everything regardless. This area had been packed full of people on Sunday, but today was nearly deserted.
After much parental confusion about locations and directions, we decided on meeting at Saint Bock in the Latin Quarter, another highly recommended beer bar. My parents, who were driving in their minivan, wanted street directions, and all we knew was the Metro station and the cross streets. We found it pretty easily and got a table for six and some beers, and they finally found us a half an hour or so later. They had my aunt and uncle from Georgia in tow.
We were glad that St Bock had a good dinner menu, too, because then we wouldn’t have to figure out further getting-around logistics. We helped them with the French on the menu, and hung out with some really excellent beers while waiting on food. Here’s my mom’s reaction when I made her try a stout:
Our food was pretty excellent, too. We all compared notes on Montreal, and made plans for the next day. We were getting up early and driving to Quebec City, where we had a hotel right in Vieux-Quebec. They’d head out later, and were staying outside of town. (My aunt and uncle have an RV, and therefore stay at campgrounds way outside of cities.) Then we said goodbye, and they headed out while we stuck around to finish our beers and watch some Coupe Memorial on TV (the Kelowna Rockets vs Oceanic Rimouski, which was Matt’s new favorite team, at least until he met the Quebec Ramparts).
We didn’t want to be quite done with Montreal yet, so we walked around the block to a place called La Distillerie that advertised craft cocktails. They had a small, well-organized menu of really interesting options, including a huge fishbowl drink that Matt ended up with for his second round.
In case you missed him: Bally was indeed there. He’s always there with us.
We finished up there and walked back to the train station. It had finally stopped raining, just in time for us to head to the hotel.
In the Longueuil station, we stopped to get a picture of Bally with his cute pal Moovit. (Moovit was so cute I ended up downloading the app for transit schedules, and still use it regularly.)
Back at the hotel, we watched the end of the Blackhawks-Ducks game in overtime, had a beer, finished packing, and went to bed.