Starting Point: Walmart Carpark, Montreal, 5466 Jean-Talon St W, QC, H4P
Finishing Point: Walmart Carpark, Montreal, 5466 Jean-Talon St W, QC, H4P
Distance Travelled: 0km (In terms of driving the campervan, not in terms of how far we travelled around the city)
Today was our wander around Montreal day – and wander we did! We started off with a Tim Horton’s breakfast in order to take advantage of their free wifi so we could work out our plans. Turns out, we chose the PERFECT Walmart to park in – right across the road was a metro station with all-day parking for $7. We parked up the campervan and headed off on the metro – the Montreal system is like ten times simpler than the London system, there are four lines called (appropriately) the orange line, the blue line, the green line, and the yellow line.
We were on the orange line, which took us straight into central beside the tourist information centre which was our first stop. It’s HUGE and really well set up: lots of different brochures and guidebooks for the different areas, maps of the individual quarters of Montreal city and a really friendly man who set us up with a ticket for the help desk, where a woman pulled out a city map and highlighted the different areas we were interested in.
Feeling highly prepared and armed with many maps, we headed down to the old quarter. It’s a really beautiful part of town; the buildings are lovely and really interesting. We wandered inside a basilica which was huge and fully of stunning artwork and statues, saw a memorial garden for a hospital set up by a nurse, listened to some bagpipers, saw statues and fountains and admired all the horse and cart rides – there were a lot (my favourite was a steampunk-themed one – the horse was wearing a bowler hat and glasses!).
Having worked up an appetite, we figured brunch was in order and went in search. In doing so, we came across an absolute GEM of a place: Tutti Frutti, which is all about having some fruit as part of every meal. As luck would have it, they were handing out coupons for 50% off a 2nd meal! I went for a cinnamon bun with bacon, poached egg and a ‘mountain’ of fresh fruit – it was delicious! So delicious in fact, that I didn’t remember to take a picture of it until half way through…
from there we took a wander on down towards the docks. Now, since we’d gotten off the metro, we’d kept seeing people dressed all in white carrying yellow yoga mats. The number of these people increased as we approached the docks, and at the docks we found out why: there’s a yoga festival happening and there was an all-day yoga session happening on one of the piers. It was pretty cool to see that many people doing yoga.
The docks are fantastic, there are loads of fancy yachts and cruises set up, the science museum is there, and at the other end there’s ‘Virus,’ a haunted house experience, as well as a high ropes pirate experience and a watercraft rental like paddle boats and whatnot.
We were in search of the shuttleboat to the island in the middle of the river, ‘Isle de Saint-Helene,’ where there was a biosphere and outdoor exhibitions and other touristy things. There wasn’t another boat for nearly and hour, but we could get the metro so went with that. While on the metro, we noticed there were a LOT of people dressed up in rock and heavy metal gear… please note it was ROASTING that day, the sun was KILLING us, so they must have been boiling! When we got off the metro on the island, we discovered the cause: ‘Heavy Montreal,’ a massive rock festival, was on that weekend. It was kind of funny to hear guitar solos and screaming while wandering around a nature reserve in the scorching sun. We went to the biosphere, admiring the Arctic photography exhibition that was set up along the road.
The biosphere is really impressive – it looks like a giant golfball and inside it is gorgeous and really well set up. The whole point of it is environmental science. They had installed a ‘living wall’ with plants growing vertically on it. We went to the ‘Eco Lab,’ where we got to use the scientific method to investigate ‘which is worse – air or water pollution?’ We got to do experiment and look at different data and whatnot, it was so much fun! We then went to look at ‘One: Outfits from a New Era,’ which was an exhibition of dresses different artists had made, each one from a specific type of material thrown away; lightbulbs, pill canisters, cars, computer parts, soft furnishings, aluminium, plastic, hair and (my favourite) books. At the end we got to cut out a sticker and stick it on a mural, it was brilliant! From there we checked out the renewable energy exhibition: it is BRILLIANT! It had information on all the different types and interactive demos for each one so you could see how it works. And they had a fantastic demo to show the amount of energy needed to run a fan and turn a lightbulb – a giant hamster wheel you could run in! AJ was okay at it but I was FABULOUS! I wish so badly there was something like this back home; I’d love to take my students to see it (though no doubt they wouldn’t be half as enthusiastic about it as I was!) Beside this there was an observation deck where we could sit and rest our feet while surveying the island. We saw an aquatic park so were really annoyed we’d not brought our swim gear with us; that would have been bliss!
We decided that paddle boating would be fun, but couldn’t find any on the island, so wandered back to the mainland. At this stage, we were pretty beaten by the sun and our feet were KILLING (my right foot was fully swollen from the bites on it, and was turning a purpley-red) so AJ suggested grabbing a drink and having a sit down. Thinking she meant alcohol, I said, “Oh yeah, a beer would be great.” She actually had meant a coke, but thought my interpretation was better, so we decided to skip the paddleboats and go in search of a bar. Along the way we came across ‘Under Pressure,’ which seems to be a skateboarding and street art/graffiti festival – all the graffiti in the area was being touched up and there were skateboarding areas set up with lots of stalls around and music playing.
Eventually we came across ‘Jardin Gamelin,’ a really pretty garden with vegetables and flowers growing all around and a bar set up in the middle of it – perfect! We tried Belle Gueule, a local larger, it was pretty nice, and whipped out the maps to figure out where to go for dinner. Being quite far from poutine, and quite close to ‘The Village’ (gay quarter) we decided to try out The Steakhouse there. The Village is highlighted on the map in pink, and is highlighted on the street by pink bunting which runs all along the street through the entire quarter. It’s also full of pretty street art and lots of rainbow flags. The Steakhouse was really nice and the food was good. We wandered further into the Village and came across ‘Cocktail’ which we stopped at for a drink. The woman behind the bar immediately handed us a leaflet for a ‘Dyke March,’ next week to coincide with Pride, kind of annoyed we’ll miss it!
It was getting late so we made our way back to the metro, admiring the city all lit up, and listening to all the music and shouting and talking around us. I have noticed two things about Montreal that surprise me, mainly because it’s not something you hear about: there are a lot of buskars (we saw musicians, sings and circus performers) and a lot of junkies and homeless people.
Tomorrow’s our last full day in the campervan, so sad it’s almost over!