We checked out of the bedbugs hotel (yay!) hopefully leaving the insects behind (RIP dead bug on white sheets… I still have your picture!). The plan was to explore McGill University and its famous campus but we got sidetracked.
For some reasons, we always have a hard time “mastering” Montreal. It should be easy: it’s a first-world city, a blend of North American and French influences, it’s close to Ottawa… and yet, we always seem to run into minor annoyances—which doesn’t happen to us when we travel to, let’s say, Toronto.
Our first evening in the city had started off pretty well. After checking in at the “hotel from hell” (which, at that point, was just a regular bed bugs-free hotel as far as we knew), we decided to make the most of the remaining daylight. We headed to Mont Royal, the hill west of downtown Montreal, to which it gave its name.
I’ve seen bed bugs before, mostly in dirty hostels in Australia—I remember being eaten alive a couple of times in Melbourne. But I kind of expected it. I mean, hostels are… well, hostels. When the twelve guys in your sixteen-bed dorms haven’t showered or done laundry in days and when they store food on their beds… you know it’s a bed bug hostel. But I certainly wasn’t expecting a place like a Travellodge Hotel (not fancy but decent) to have bed bugs.
The Old Montreal, Hochelaga and The Village were great spots for street photography. Here is a sample of the “People of Montreal”!
That Sunday, we decided to check out the Olympic Park—I had seen it from afar but I had never been up close. The Park is located in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a quiet working class residential neighborhood favoured by newcomers and students. We spotted a few families having breakfast on their balconies, and people doing their morning “beer run” at the local convenience store—unlike in Ontario, booze is sold everywhere in Quebec.
It was hot and sunny, and there were a lot of tourists and locals in the streets. People were generally in a good mood, thanks to the weather and to the perspective of a long weekend. Suddenly, I didn’t mind being in the heart of a tourist district I usually find tacky—yes, I’m a snob. Suddenly, I didn’t mind being part of the crowd and playing the game.
Diapers? Checked. Bottle? Checked. Formula? Checked. Twenty-thousands things we probably won’t need but might need? Checked. Baby screaming in car seat, waiting for parents? (Sound) checked.
We loaded the car and left to Montreal. A spontaneous Victoria Day weekend trip—we had only booked the hotel the night before.
Montreal’s Chinatown (蒙特利尔唐人街) is quite small: it’s mostly one pedestrian street with an arch and many little shops and restaurants along the narrow alley, parallel to the René Levesque boulevard. It seemed to be a tight-knit community: I saw many posters advertising for activities, as well as a few associations headquarters.
The “vieux Montréal”, the old Montreal, definitely has a European feeling to it. Far from the tall buildings and the endless boulevards that stretches across the “other Montreal”, the area nearby the old port feels homey and historic.
The temperature has since gone way up (it was 25°C over the week-end) but last week was still bitterly and unexpectedly cold in Montreal. I was caught by surprised and had left my winter coat in Ottawa – I had to buy a long scarf in a desperate attempt to at least block the wind.
Rue St-Catherine is the primary commercial artery of downtown Montreal. The endless street that stretches over the city crosses the central business district from West to East. It is home to many flagship stores, such as Apple, Roots, Chapters, Future Shop etc. It also features some of Montreal’s prominent department stores, including Hudson’s Bay Company and Complexe Les Ailes.
On Saturday morning, I escape from work for an hour to go visit a church I had noticed the night before, as I was pacing St Catherine street up and down looking for food. St-James United Church is a national historic site of Canada and a Quebec religious heritage building. The church was hidden behind commercial buildings for 70 years before they were finally demolished in 2006. The church was thereafter opened to St Catherine, in the heart of Montreal, and came to life again.
Little Italy was our last stop in Montréal. I wanted to go back to the famous marché Jean Talon, a farmer’s market located in this area.
The open air market is occupied by about 300 vendors, selling fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat etc. There are many other food businesses in the area, including bakeries, fish and meat stores and restaurants.
Like I was saying last time, Montréal is not just the cute European-style city a lot of people imagine. There is the old Montréal… and the modern downtown, which is just like any other American city.
Right after arriving in Canada for the first time in 2002, Feng and I took a road trip. We had landed in Toronto, went through Ottawa, and then Montréal, Québéc city and the surroundings. It was February and it was cold, brutally cold, especially considering that we were coming from Brazil, had no winter clothes and that I had never seen snow before.
On Saturday, on an impulse, Feng and I decided to drive to Montréal to attend The Killers’ concert. Initially sold out, the show had been moved to a bigger venue at the last minute: the Bell Center.
We hadn’t been the Montréal since the very muddy Radiohead concert last year. This time, the weather was gorgeous… but we were indoor.
Radiohead was playing in Montreal and we drove the 400 km there and back to attend the show. By the time we got through the security, we were soaked. The park where the concert was held was extremely muddy — let’s just say I hadn’t been that dirty since I was 5 and loved to jump in poodles of water.