Montreal – Not what I expected

It was a short taxi ride to the train station in Ottawa.  I figured due to the fact that it was Remembrance Day I’d check out early and make my way to the station in case there were any roads blocked off or traffic was a nightmare.  As it turns out traffic was normal and I arrived with plenty of time to spare.  I didn’t know what to expect of Montreal but I was pleasantly optimistic having enjoyed my stay in Ottawa.

Having found my seat on the train I was organising myself and had my tote sitting on the seat next to me.  Five minutes later a man approached and he said “Hi” and stood there.  So I replied “Hi’ back and looked at him wondering what he’d wanted.  Now because my brain wasn’t working entirely one would correctly deduce that my bag was on his seat and he wanted me to move it, but instead of just saying this is my seat he said “Did you think I was hitting on you, that’s my seat?”.  I was confused thinking why would someone jump to that conclusion, but he turned out to be a pleasant sort of fellow even if he seemed to be surrounded in a aura of weird.

The remainder of the trip passed by with relative ease.  I arrived to Union Station a few minutes behind schedule, but managed to find a free tourist map intent on walking to my hotel located close to Chinatown.  This was the first time I began to feel outside of my comfort zone because everything is in French.  The signs, directions and worse I exited the train station to a mind chilling cold.  Ottawa gave me frozen ears, but Montreal froze me all over.  A good thing that I had my puffer jacket with me!

The streets were empty, there were the occasional people that I passed as I headed off in the wrong direction.  Seriously I have the worse sense of direction and I even had a map!  Four blocks later realising the street names didn’t seem to be matching what I was looking for I realised I’d turned the wrong way. I bloody hate wasting my own time and grumbled my way back to my starting point at Union Station.  Though I will concede it wasn’t entirely wasteful because there are some beautiful buildings to be revered.

Taking my time slowly I came across the St Patricks Basilica and it was very beautiful sitting majestically on a little steep hill.  The park at the bottom was stunning (I just love the Autumn colours) and there were tons of squirrels scurrying around.  But these weren’t the jittery ones I’d encountered in New York, they were psycho squirrels who came right up to you as if to say “Bonjour” and found myself shooing the little buggers away.

Climbing the stairs to where the Basilica presided I decided to check out the inside.  It literally took my breath away.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was inside, having never come across anything like this yet.  I managed to take a few fuzzy pictures before I walked back out into the mind juddering cold.

Navigating the streets I came across Chinatown which you couldn’t really call a town, it was two street blocks, but I hobbled my way to my hotel.  I was sick, tired and freezing by the time I arrived at my hotel 20 minutes later.  The Hotel Roberval on Berry Street.  This hotel was again a studio type room, with a bath and free continental breakfast daily.  It was basic but a good stay and great value.  I desperately wanted to rest because I wasn’t feeling very good at all and I thought with an early night I would be well rested to explore the very next day.

I had a steaming hot bath, ate the fruit and muesli bars I had picked up then turned on the television to be met by French television.  It was an experience to watch Thor in French but it’s the kind of movie watched for the great effects not dialogue and I really enjoyed the movie.  Then I drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

The following morning I was starving and looking forward to my continental breakfast.  I headed on down as soon as it was available and gave my ticket to the cook.  I piled my plate with pastries, fruit salad, cream cheese and a coffee.  The pastries were standard, the fruit salad was disgustingly sweet and I couldn’t finish it, but the coffee was the worst thing I’d ever had.  It was terrible.  Thinking it couldn’t possibly be that bad I stupidly took another sip and almost vomited up my meal.  What was I thinking?  Breakfast was a bust, and me without coffee in the morning meant a sluggish start.

I mapped out my travels for the day and decided on visiting Old Montreal.

Taking my time I found myself marvelling at the beauty of the city.  Beautiful old buildings, quaint streets filled with gaudy tourist shops, and I found the Notre Dame Cathedral also.  I didn’t actually go inside however just managing to snap pictures from the outside because it was a $5 fee to enter.  Having viewed the St Patricks Basilica I figure churches all look the same inside really.   Some are just bigger than most.

The remainder of the day was then spent navigating through the city, and I realised the reason why the streets seem empty is because there is a whole network of shops and malls below ground along with Montreals subway system.  Maybe in warmer weather people venture out onto the streets but it was absolutely freezing if you didn’t have the right cover.

Though I thought Montreal was beautiful I still hold a certain dislike for it.  I think it maybe because of a few factors being that I was sick, there were many vagrants, it was cold, and I’d just been in Ottawa which was by far prettier.  I couldn’t actually wait to leave so I ended up heading to the International Airport four hours before I was due to fly out.  I really wished I had stayed in Ottawa longer and taken more time to explore.

 

It was a $10 bus ride, the stop right outside the Berri UQAM (subway) a block from where I was staying, and it took me all the way to the Pierre-Trudeau Airport.  The bus was 40 minutes travel time.  Then, though I didn’t realise it at the time I actually went through USA customs in Canada.  Very quick and efficient, it puts Australian/NZ immigration to shame.

Then it was a quick flight back to NYC my second favourite US city to cap off the end of my vacation!

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