Monday, April 21, 2008
Wow! What a trip! We had a great time in Montreal. We left early Friday morning and made some stops along the way in Vermont to break up the drive. Our first stop was the Ndakinn Abenaki Indian Museum and Touring Center in Montpelier, Vt. First off, my apologies to all the Vermonters for saying that their Capitol is the ugliest place I've ever seen. Considering that Vermont is so beautiful, you'd think they'd do something about their Capitol City. Unfortunately, the museum was something of a joke. Just goes to show how you can make anything look really nice with a good website. http://www.maplesugarhouse.net/ The "museum" was one tiny room with about 3 pairs of mocassins and a couple of walking sticks. It took us ten minutes to see the whole thing and that included the gift shop! I should have known something was up when I found out it was free to get in. The best part of the place was the fake pond in the corner made out of an old bathtub! We continued on to Burlington, Vt. which is a wonderful place. It's right on Lake Champlain and is just bustling with activity. We had a scrumptious lunch at a little cafe. The food was all homemade and delicious. Then we walked around the downtown a bit. It's all little shops and cobblestone streets. The place was packed because it was an absolutely beautiful day. There were lots of restaurants open with sidewalk tables and some buskers singing and playing instruments. We went into Frog Hollow http://www.froghollow.org/ which is an art gallery where many different artists contribute. There's painters and photographers as well as wood artisans and potters, etc. We stayed in Burlington for a few hours and then were on our way. We continued up and finally made it to the Canadian Border. I've never been out of the country so I was a bit intimidated by the border crossing, but we breezed through with a few questions after showing our IDs and Birth Certificates. After we got across there were miles and miles of open land with real working farms. We finally got across the bridge and into Montreal. It's a bustling city and reminded me a bit of Boston with new building and old buildings standing side by side. There were hundreds and probably thousands of people walking the sidewalks and every street was lined with shops and restaurants. Every restaurant had outdoor tables which were full of people. We found our B and B on a tiny sidestreet lined on both sides with cars and just enough room down the center for one car. Our B and B http://www.bbassin.com/index.htm was literally a tiny house owned by our host Ken. He turned out to be a wonderful man, filled with stories and information about Montreal. He welcomed us and showed us to our room, which was perfect. We talked with him for a while and he advised us that Old Montreal was fun to go to at night so we headed there. There was no question that we were NOT taking our car, so our choices were to walk or take the Metro. We decided to walk so we could see the sights. We walked through Le Parc LaFontaine right at the end of the street and walked about 45 minutes to get to Old Montreal. The walk was all downhill and we decided right then and there to take the Metro back! We got down to the waterfront which was a bit disappointing because you couldn't really get near the river. We found Old Montreal though and it was a lot of fun. All open with brick streets and tons of restaurants, shops and people. All the restaurants had outdoor seating and it was a warm and beautiful night so we walked around checking all the menus. Most places were kind of pricey, but we found one that was reasonable and got a table outside. The atmosphere was wonderful and we had a nice meal. It was funny to try to order in French. The waitress caught on right away and answered us in English! Tag got a crepe filled with ham and cheese....which I've never had before. I only have had crepes with fruit in them. After our dinner we walked around a bit and looked at the sights, then took the Metro home. Saturday we got up and Ken fixed us a most delicious breakfast! He started out with the most delicious croissant I've ever tasted with some papaya. Then we got a bowl filled with yogurt, strawberries and maple syrup. THEN we got an omelet with peppers and onions over some asparagus! He also made us a fruit smoothie. We sat cozily in his kitchen while he prepared our breakfast and chatted with us about the differences between the USA and Canada. After breakfast we walked back down to Old Montreal and went to Notre Dame. The place was so beautiful I was speechless and, I have to admit, it made me cry. There are no words to decribe it....even the pictures (at right) don't do it justice. We spent over an hour inside looking at all the beautiful wood carvings, ornate pictures and sculptures and the beautiful statues and stained glass windows. There's also a separate chapel that was unbelievably gorgeous as well. Afterwards, we tried to find the underground shopping mall that's supposed to be part of the Metro but we couldn't find it and finally got tired of walking. We took the Metro home, and on the way stopped at Frite Alors! http://www.fritealors.com/an/info/info.html Tag's son Kenny had told him to try "poutine" which is french fries covered with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. Apparently it's quite the treat in Montreal because there were several Frite Alors! They seem to be the Canadian McDonalds. Tag loved the dish. I don't care for gravy, so I ordered plain french fries, which took the girl a long time to understand! We finally headed out to the reason for our trip to Montreal, which was Jamie's football game. The field turned out to be a high school field with no bleachers for the visitors. We had chairs but couldn't see if we were sitting down, so we walked up and down the length of the field for the whole game. My poor tired feet! Unfortunately, the Manchester Freedom http://www.manchesterfreedom.com/ lost by two points. Both teams were going out to party together afterwards though! Saturday night we took Ken's advice and went down to Duluth Street which had dozens of restaurants. We found one called Au Vieux Duluth http://www.auvieuxduluth.com/ We had a very delicious meal there. I had filet mignon and shrimp. Tag had Souvlaka. It was funny to be eating while the TVs were showing the Bruins vs. Canadiens playoff hockey game. The entire restaurant would erupt in cheers every time Canada scored. I was too afraid to cheer when the Bruins scored....Canadians take their hockey very seriously! Sunday morning Ken made us another delicious breakfast. We had the croissant and the strawberries with yogurt again but this time he made us a delicious dish of toasted french bread with ham and cheese and tomatoes over it baked in the oven. Mmmm! Then we walked to the Mont Royal plateau area where we bought some bread in a bakery (I felt very Parisian!) and Tag found some old books and records in a couple of the shops. It was time for us to go and we felt like we were leaving an old friend. We told Ken we'd love to come back to Montreal and if we did we'd definitely come stay with him again. Some interesting observations: 1. There were hundreds and thousands of bicyclists. It's the best way to get around in the crowded city. 2. The streets all have parking along the sides, so Montrealers are professional parallel parkers. Every single car was less than an INCH from the curb. 3. There are so many pedestrians, everyone seems very respectful of yellow lights...no one ran through the reds and almost all stopped at the yellows. 4. There were many pandhandlers....some tried to get money by washing your windshield while you stopped at a light or held the door open for you at the metro. One person stopped Tag and said "You look like a man who might like to buy some pot!" 5. The streets are lined with tiny apartment buildings and condos. Most are painted bright colors and all have patios or porches for every apartment. 6. There were hundreds of people enjoying the park. There were always kids making music....not from boom boxes but making their own with guitars and drums. Our host told us the park is enjoyable in the summer because the women walk around without tops. 7. There is a bike path that leads all over the city. You'd best stay off it if you don't want to get run over. 8. Everyone is laid back and in no rush to get anywhere. If you can stop and visit with friends and have a glass of wine, that's what you do. 9. The women were all better dressed than Americans. They looked nice even in jeans, with pretty tops and sexy shoes. No question we'll go back again some day. We both enjoyed it very much.