After the excitement of Niagara Falls, Wednesday’s train ride to Montreal was very tame by comparison.
We caught a trolley car (identical to a Melbourne tram but newer) to Union Station. For anyone else visiting Toronto, the trolley was simple as long as you had the exact change - $3.25
The VIA train was also easy to catch. The only close hiccup was when they weighed our bags. Mine seems to have suddenly put on weight even though we’ve only been here 3 days! Might have to go on a shopping diet for the rest of the trip. Luckily, it was exactly the 50lbs allowed – I claim this as a superior packing effort!
We shared the carriage with a group of four, vacuous, early 30 somethings who talked, non stop, very loudly, about absolutely nothing of any consequence, for the entire 5 hours from Toronto to Montreal. To complete their stereotype, I sincerely hope they were American.
Having set a precedent in Toronto, there was no question of a taxi from the station. With our screen captured map in hand we hoofed it through the city to our hotel. So far I am two for two on satirical hotel names. The Super 8 was anything but Super and the Comfort Suites is neither comfortable or a suite. Unfortunately a pervious valued customer had spilt water on the card machine so we have no room key but have to wait for someone from reception to come with us every time we want to enter our room. And the promised air conditioning is really more of a boxed in fan, circulating the hot air of Montreal’s warmest summer day around the room. Still, we’re in Canada and that trumps any minor inconvenience.
We set off downtown – again on foot. I was keen to see some of the Montreal Jazz Festival - until we got there. It was only when I was hot and bothered and totally exhausted that I remembered I don’t like crowds of people or expensive beer and I actually don’t like jazz.
The upside was that we found an IGA supermarket on the long walk home. Taine was most impressed (that it was an IGA) and so was I…they had six packs of cold beer for the same price as one cup at the jazz festival. We also found a park with squirrels. Free entertainment.
Today we tried a later start and didn’t get down to breakfast till 7.30. Comfort Suites redeemed themselves somewhat by including bacon in their breakfast bar and a bowl of fruit available to take away for snacks. We walked down to the closest Metro and bought a day ticket each for $10, an excellent deal.
First stop was Old Montreal where we collected some more share bikes, $5 per bike per day. This is such an excellent way to move quickly around the quieter streets of the city and, like Toronto, there are plenty of designated bike lanes.
Old Montreal and the Port area are very pretty, with a very French feel and lots of lovely old buildings. Having survived the bike riding, I managed to trip on the pavement and fall flat on my face (and knees). Luckily there was no real damage and plenty of lovely Quebecois to fuss over me and check that I was ok.
Back on the subway we headed to Olympic Park to see where the ‘76 Olympics were held. This area is kind of under construction as they attempt to bring the stadium and surrounds back to its former glory. You can tell that it must have been state of the art 40 years ago but now it’s a bit of a white elephant. There’s a crazy, leaning tower beside the stadium that was designed for the Olympics but not finished until 1985. You get to the top via a funicular type elevator. I guess they’re still trying to make up the 40 yr debt because it was a very pricey exercise – we decided we’d get the same view from the plane so we grabbed some more bikes, meandered around the park and botanical gardens area and then hopped back on the subway to Ile Saint Helene.
The island is man made, created for the World Expo in 1967. There were lots of signs to promising activities but nothing actually open that we could see, apart from the golf course and a giant mesh dome. The dome, called a biosphere, looked intriguing, so we went there. Taine conned us into forking over $30 to enter because it looked vaguely educational. It wasn’t. And it had interactive games. It didn’t. The people running it were lovely but it was seriously boring. If you come to Montreal, don’t go there.
We rode the subway back downtown and took an afternoon siesta. Remembering the weather we left at home, I hesitate to complain about the heat but 30C here is very hot (and did I mention our air con is useless?).
After a little bit of afternoon shopping we rode another few stops on the subway, just for the hell of it. And then we grabbed some more bikes to ride back, just because.
To date I have walked 86,406 steps in the 4 days since we landed.Luckily there’s still cold Milson beer in the fridge so we can lay around and watch Thursday night baseball on the tv.