We got up Sunday (Dimanche) morning and walked over to the Metro station to find Tim Hortons. It was our first visit ever, and we were pretty excited.
Turns out their coffee, at least with un lait, un sucre, is fine. Dunkin Donuts is better. Take that, Canada.
We hopped in the car and headed south to Chambly. It’s a little town about 20 miles from Montreal on the Richelieu River. It was a gorgeous day (we’d expected rain for basically the entire trip), and the town was adorable. We found free parking at La Fourquet Forchette, stopped in to verify the brunch schedule, and then went to kill some time at the fort next door.
There are rapids right next to the fort. The river seemed especially high.
We appreciated the bilingual signs, even if that meant it allowed us to be jerks much more easily.
After wandering for a while, it was time to head to brunch. On the weekends, La Fourquet Forchette has two timed seatings for a buffet, rather than traditional seating. There was a line out the door about 15 minutes before seating, so we went to get in the queue. We figured the Quebecois probably loved lining up as much as the French do.
Fourquet Forchette is the restaurant run by Unibroue, one of my favorite breweries on earth. (You probably know them as the brewers of La Fin du Monde.) They don’t have a traditional taproom or brewery tour, however – they have this northern-lodge-themed restaurant where they serve their beers, and food made with them. We didn’t love the idea of a brunch buffet (we’d rather just have visited a taproom), but the place did look really amazing, and it was the only place to get the beers fresh from the source.
Brunch was middling (especially for a vegetarian), but we were pretty happy to have the opportunity to visit and see the building anyway. Before heading out of town, we walked over to see the extremely oldtimey, manually-operated set of three locks going into the bay:
We’d also read that you could buy all of the Unibroue offerings, even the undistributed ones, at grocery and liquor stores in Chambly, so we tracked one down with no help from Google and picked up some bottles to bring back with us. Then we got back on the road to Montreal, where we took our souvenirs into the hotel room (and changed, because it had gotten very warm outside), then headed back over to the Metro.
We rode to Jean-Drapeau, the Metro stop on the island in the middle of the river. It was a good day to be on an island: sunny and very warm.
Nearby, we found the Biosphere. Look at it! It’s fantastic. We didn’t want to take the time to go in, but that was fine. I just wanted to see it.
Here’s the St Lawrence River as it flows between Ile Ste-Helene (the island we were on) and Ile Notre-Dame (the island with Montreal Casino and the Formula One track):
We didn’t really know much about what was in the park, but we followed the signs around. It was pretty crowded owing to the good weather, but apparently it was extra-busy because it was free museum day in Montreal. There were buses driving people around the city, and long lines to get into museums. Also, there was something called the Piknic Electronique going on at one end of the park, so we were serenaded with loud dance music much of the time.
We followed the signs to the tower, and ended up climbing up a gigantic hill. We then realized just how warm it was outside. VERY. It was kind of a relief that people were there setting up for a wedding and the tower was closed, because then we didn’t have to make the decision about climbing it.
We walked down the hill on the far side of the island and headed over to Musee Stewart, a military museum near the Pont Jacques-Cartier. There was a long line to get into the fort, but the grounds were open. We went and hung out by the cannons on a couple of Adirondack chairs for a while.
Here’s Pont Jacques-Cartier, one of the main bridges into Montreal.
And the Molson building across the river:
We considered taking a ferry across the river into the city, but apparently they weren’t open yet for the season. (Montreal seems to have a worse winter season than Minneapolis, based on their peak travel times. We were definitely still in the shoulder season over Memorial Day.)
We rode to UQAM-Berri and walked in the direction of Vieux-Montreal. It’s about a mile walk (and hilly at that) from the Metro station, but there’s a lot of scenery along the way.
Here’s Montreal’s version of Notre-Dame!
Vieux Montreal is the touristy part of town (it’s very near the cruise port), but it’s still really attractive. A few of the streets are pedestrian-only, and there are restaurants with patios all over the place.
I thought this was very European-looking until we got to Quebec City. Vieux-Montreal’s got nothing on Vieux-QC.
We did some souvenir shopping, and then walked down by the port. There were approximately a billion people wandering around and since we’d been walking for a while, we decided to stop into a restaurant called Tavern Gaspar and have a drink. It was pointless to try to get a table on a patio at that point, but the inside bar area was totally uncrowded and the staff was friendly. We had beers and watched The Coupe Memorial on TV.
It was getting to be about dinnertime, so we decided to continue the trend of visiting awesome breweries and go to Dieu de Ciel. We walked back to the Metro and rode over to the Plateau neighborhood to find their microbrasserie. It was completely packed, but we managed to grab a little table as a few people left. They had a very extensive beer list and great service, so we were pretty excited about everything at that moment. We ordered some beers, and a while later got some food. They didn’t have full entrees, just appetizer-style offerings.
After a couple beers there, it was dark outside and getting late. We decided to go check out another place in the neighborhood that Matt had read about, because people raved about the fish and chips, and they also had vegetarian food.
We found Comptoir 21 a few blocks away. It was a diner-style setup that wasn’t too crowded – we only had to wait a few minutes to get seats at the counter. Matt ordered fish and chips, and they told him it would have to be a mini-order, since they only had two pieces left. He was fine with having le poisson finale, and the pieces ended up being really sizable anyway. I had a veggie burger, which was appealing after a lot of beer.
A short while later, the cook came up and told Matt that he had an extra piece of fish, and did he want it? Of course he did! He ended up with a full meal after all. (By that point he was already full, but ate it because they were nice.)
After second-dinner, we walked over to the Metro station and rode back to Jean-Drapeau. We’d seen the casino from the river and had read that the building was from the World’s Fair, so we really wanted to see it. We piled off the Metro with a bunch of people who all headed in the same direction, to a bus that was parked nearby – the 777, an express shuttle to the casino on the next island over. (We thought it was a little strange that you had to pay to ride a casino express bus, but we didn’t care that much since we had transit passes.)
The casino was gorgeous.
It was on a par with the newer, fancier casinos in Vegas, kind of like the Cosmopolitan. We used the restroom and then headed to the bar for a cocktail. Since you can legally drink Havana Club there, I ordered it on the rocks. Take that, America.
We set off to wander around the casino. It was four or five floors, so we headed upstairs first. We found ourselves in a high limit tables area first, and since we are not high limit people, we decided to look elsewhere. Near the top of the escalators there’s a separate section called the Z-Zone off the back of the casino that had a weird game-show-style setup with a live emcee and a bunch of people playing on video machines. Most of the casino floor seemed to be slot machines, though.
We decided to head back down to where we’d seen more table games on the second floor. We walked through those and realized that the area we’d seen before was not actually high limit- all the tables had really high minimums. We didn’t see a blackjack table under $25, and I didn’t even bother checking craps. That struck us as kind of ridiculous, so we went to lose $20 on video poker instead.
We stopped at a different bar on the second floor for a cocktail (it was weird having a Manhattan after really only experiencing a lot of beer in Quebec!) and hung out watching music videos on TV. Then it was time to head back, so we went down to the bus stop. We boarded with a group that appeared to be exactly the same people we’d ridden in with an hour earlier, and then all walked back to the Metro together. Matt and I rode one more stop to our hotel, and headed to bed.