Friday dawned crisp and beautiful in Montreal, but the weather forecast promised rain beginning Saturday afternoon. So Keith and I set out to accomplish 2 days worth of outdoor exploring in 1, what turned out to be 10.3 miles of walking and 30,000 steps! After eating our slightly less fresh (but still delicious) bagels from St. Viateur, we set off to conquer Mont Royal, the “mountain” (really a large hill) in the center of the city for which Montreal is named. We hoofed it up sloping city streets reminiscent of San Francisco, and entered the city park. We meandered through trails leading to the Lac aux Castors (Beaver Lake), though its namesakes were nowhere to be found. Similarly, elsewhere in Montreal there is a Lac des Dauphons (Dolphin Lake) with no dolphins, Mare au Diable (Devil’s Pond) with no devils, and Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake), which may go off-trend and actually have swans…. to be investigated. The best part about Mont-Royal, apart from beaver-less lakes, is the Chalet and its overlook, with a magnificent view of Montreal.
After soaking in the view, we took the lazy way down the mountain – the #11 bus – and explored the Boulevard Saint Laurent with its cool shops and many restaurants, leading up to our highly-recommended lunch destination: Schwartz’s Deli. Their smoked meat is famous, and there was a line out the door about 40 people deep waiting to be seated. So we opted for take-out, ordering 2 smoked meat sandwiches and poutine with (you guessed it!) more smoked meat. After all that hiking, we were famished… but I’m afraid our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We settled down in a nearby park to attempt our lunches… Keith succeeded, but I only got through half of my sandwich. We agreed we thought we’d reached our poutine limit at 2 servings, but the meat really was fantastic – similar to pastrami, with a tangy sweet mustard, and bread that was really only serving to hold the meat together. A definite must for anyone traveling to Montreal. Although afterwards I felt like curling up on a park bench and taking a nap.
Next, determined to see the sights before rain threatened, we headed down to Old Montreal and followed Frommer’s suggested walk of all the sights, from the Basilica Notre Dame to the Vieux Port and everything in between. Several of the architectural spots on the tour were reminiscent of buildings in NYC, even sharing the same architect or founding company – the Empire State Building and the Edifice Aldred; the NY Stock Exchange and the Centaur Theatre. And, when we were in the park in the morning, we walked for a while on the Chemin Olmsted, as in Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the designer/achitects of Central Park. It made me wonder what other parallels exist between the two cities… now I am on the lookout. One thing that is most certainly different is the graffiti – it must be decriminalized in Quebec, because it is everywhere, and I have seen some truly awesome pieces.
After the tour, we meandered over to St. Denis street, and ended the evening properly with scotch and food. Keith had heard of a scotch bar called L’Ile Noire that boasted over 140 scotches on their menu. Keith tried a few scotches, I nursed a Quebec beer, and we watched life go by on the street below our 2nd story balcony perch. The most noticeable happening was group after group of college-aged kids in costumes, possibly on some sort of scavenger hunt or beer crawl. Perhaps an Orientation week thing for McGill? Whatever it was was amusing but also a little obnoxious, so we steered clear of them as much as we could on our way to our final spot – dinner, at Aux Dernieres Humaines, an unassuming restaurant recommended by our friend Steve.
Heading back to the apartment, I felt like an old lady. My legs killed, and my feet – don’t even get me started! When I checked the stats on my Fitbit I understood why – 10.3 miles and over 30,000 steps! Oh la la. I think Saturday will be a little calmer, but at least we know now rain won’t keep us from seeing what we wanted to see!