Cc-cc-cc-ooold! The temperatures got down to -32F (with wind chill) on Sunday night when I got into town. Freezing weather didn’t keep me in though! I was celebrating my birthday. By myself. In a foreign country. Why do I do these things??? Hell if I know… but I do know, It’s a new year, a newer than last year me… let’s see where this adventure called life takes me.
So, Montréal. Yes, Canada and French Canada at that. Many people may cringe at that statement… there’s a bad stereo-type out about these French Canadians. (At least across the boarder in the USA.) Honestly, I have yet to have a bad experience. Sure when speak English or try a word or two in French (No formal training here.) I get an inquisitive look, but most people just start talking to me in English. (If they spoke Spanish up here, it’d be a different story… that I can do.) So, no snootiness or bad service; just good people, willing to help and answer questions that they can.
Back to the cold birthday night. I follow the Twitter feed of @5BestThings and just so happened they had a list on Montréal bars and a list on Montréal restaurants. I found a place called Thursday’s that sounded promising. A pub type place with a French restaurant upstairs and a dance club downstairs. Sounds promising, so I hop into a cab and head down to Thursday’s The place is huge… two main bars on the first floor with lots of seating. I’ll leave few details right now on this place and do a full review in a few days. The steak and foie gras was an amazing dish. So this place was practically empty, except few regulars and a handful of random drinkers avoiding the cold. My bartender said that Sunday nights around 11 it tends to pick up as college kids hit the dance club, by 11:30 two groups of friends had appeared, like 5 or 6 each group and headed downstairs. Within minutes one group and then the next walked back up and out the door. Curious I headed downstairs and ordered another drink. Talking to the waitress, she doubted anybody would brave the cold for a Sunday night in a dance club. I finished my drink and headed down the street to Dundee’s. I had drinks at this bar on a business trip to Montréal back in May. Bar, nothing fancy, but the staff were entertaining and talkative. Only two other people were there, so I ordered a drink and finished it within 15 minutes. Feeling tipsy, I decided to call it a night. In my state, I thought, it’s a 30 min walk back to my hotel, I’ll just hoof it. Wow! Dumb idea. I made it back but not without frozen snot hanging from my beard and my pant legs frozen stiff! Despite the late hour and the cold 6 or 7 other people hustled past me to the metro stations, which run under Montréal … I’m sure it is a bit warmer down there with the trains. BTW, the city has a top rated subway (metro) system.
I spent all day my second day wandering the streets of Montréal. From the university area I walked down to Old Town and marveled at the vast array architectural wonders. Montreal is known for it’s many ornate and beautiful churches. Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal (Our Lady of Montreal Basilica) is an amazing building. Construction of the basilica began in 1823; the original parish church on the grounds was built in 1672. I wish I had a chance to see their “And Then There Was Light” production, a multimedia light and sound show. Next time I’m in Montréal, I’m putting it on my to do list. I walked for several hours around the Old (Vieux) Montréal just soaking in the cold, beautiful landscape and architecture. As cold as it was, around -14F in the morning and not much warmer in the afternoon, I spent the whole day just wandering the city. I walked around the Bell Center, an area I am familiar with after working on two UFC fights in the city. Under the Bell Center is an entrance to the subway. It is a really experience down there. The occasional homeless person, and some graffiti, but the tunnels are lined with brick, and several minutes of walking down, down, down, and then a few stairs until you are deposited into the belly of the subway bustling with life and trains. I didn’t ride the subway, as I was planning on continuing my hike through the city. After a great lunch at Les Rôtisseries St-Hubert’s, I made my way towards Mont Royal, north of the downtown area. I didn’t go up the “mountain” (actually more of a tall hill), but instead walked along the base of the mount. This area of town has a lot of buildings associated with the McGill University. There are many old houses and buildings to look at.
My last day in Montréal was spent enjoying the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (Museum of Contemporary Art). The normal entrance fee is $10 CAD. Only two exhibits were opened for the season, so it was only a $5 entry fee. The museum will open more exhibits during the beginning of February, so that would be a perfect time to go to see some new exhibits that are about to open. The exhibit I really enjoyed was “Blue”… all about the color blue. The exhibit had many refreshing pieces of art from all over Canada and the US. The museum is huge and is adjacent to La Place des Arts (Arts Place) were a wide variety of art, music, and dance classes are offered.
Montréal has so many things to look at and do, shopping on St. Catherine Street, a Six Flags theme park, ice-skating in the port on Fleuve St. Laurent (winter-time), and lots of nightlife. There is a huge Jazz Festival every year, a Comedy Festival, and I am told they have the best fireworks display in North America during Canada Day celebrations. I definitely enjoyed my stay in Montréal and look forward to returning for more wanderings… in the warmer months of the summer, though.