Blog Master G

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Wednesday, February 25th, 2004 · No Comments

Going to Montreal is like visiting Paris for the weekend.

Prior to last week, my Canadian experience was limited only to a quick Niagra Falls visit with my brother Pete in 1999. But Tuesday through Thursday last week, before Jen was to start her new job this week, we took a quick international get-away.

Only a three-hour drive from Saratoga Springs, Montreal is a beautiful city that’s like a blend of San Francisco and Europe. French is the primary language and everyone assumes you speak it. Foreign languages are not my forte, so when faced with a decision of whether I would like light, medium, or dark coffee, all I can do is point to the carafe with the darkest label, shrug, and say, “English?” Many people do speak English — or even the more universal Spanish in some cases — but not everyone does. Though it’s not as comfortable as being in a place where everyone speaks your language, I think it’s important and exciting to step outside the comfort zone.

Before the trip to Montreal, I thought Saratoga Springs was cold. You have not known cold until you’ve taken a winter vacation to Canada. It was great. We were probably the only tourists in eastern Canada last week. The part of the cold that’s always the hardest is the icy wind. I recall stepping outside our hotel each time to be greeted with a mouthful of wind that aims right for the throat and dives forcefully into the mouth. After a momentary loss of breath, I would recover, shiver, and press on.

Hotel Omni Mont-Royal is on Sherbrooke, which is on the southern end of Montreal and is essentially the city’s financial district. We spent most of our time in that vicinity, since we parked the car and didn’t want to worry about it the rest of the time we were there.

On Wednesday we took the underground Metro train, which runs on vibration-free rubber wheels, to Old Montreal on the waterfront. There, we visited Pointe-à-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. It was an incredibly modern museum built on top of the archaeological ruins of the Old City, dating back to Montreal’s founding in 1642. I really liked how the museum blends old with new, preserving the foundations of the old customs building that once stood on the spot where two rivers meet, considered the birthplace of the city.

The rest of the trip we spent soaking in the culture, strolling through the underground labyrinth of a shopping mall, enjoying delicious French cuisine, and hanging out at some local watering holes. We also visited the breathtaking Notre Dame Basilica.

Tuesday we had drinks at Alexander’s and dinner at Bistro Rock Detente, both on Rue Peel. Wednesday we had breakfast at Second Cup on Crescent, lunch at Van Houtte Cafe on Rue St.-Paul, drinks at the Bar@Tapas, and dinner at Pub Claddagh on Crescent. Thursday we were on the road back to the States, with a stop at the Duty-Free Shop just north of the border (much better than the one in New York going into Canada). Though we managed to get by with three bottles of liquor, we learned that the limit is one per person. Unless you’re really suspicious, the border officer won’t actually search your car, so the limit is really only enforced if you’re honest like me and declare that you stopped for some duty-free goodies, at which point the officer will ask to see your receipt.

Next time we plan to visit the Latin quarter, where both former resident E-Dawg and Montreal locals advised us to spend our time. On the must-do list for the next trip are Maison de la culture Mondiale and Club Super Sexe.

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