Salut de Montreal!

Trip Start May 24, 2009
Trip End Nov 05, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Sunday, September 13, 2009

It was, I have to admit, a slight feeling of apprehension  that I arrived in Montreal, not really knowing quite how much French people really speak and wondering if my rather rusty A Level skills could hold up!  I had been making the effort in Toronto to read the French version of signs and leaflets in order to remind myself, and I'd picked up a French phrasebook in the US, just in case! 

The hostel, Le Sous Bois, is quite unlike any hostel I've stayed in before, mainly because it's a small independent hostel which is set up entirely along environmentally friendly lines.  The bunk beds are made from recycled wood, from the look of them, cut up railway sleepers, and have air mattresses rather than standard beds.  The whole dorm looked rather like a giant tree-house!  Also,the hostel has a terrace area between the original building (which is a hotel rather than hostel) and the dorm areas, which is home to 6 small wooden cabins.  These look a bit like Gypsy caravans but on breeze block stilts and are designed as private rooms for groups of 2.  It was also located right in the middle of Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal)

On Saturday I picked out a few museums to have a look at around the old city, starting off with Pointe de la Calliere, which houses the archaeological remains of some of the original French buildings in Montreal.  The site was originally part of the first French fort built at the site, although is had been home to the Iroquois people before that.  Anyway, following the destruction of the form several later buildings were built on the foundations, up to and including the current museum.  I got to watch a very patriotic multimedia show on the history of the site and Montreal in general before talking a walk down into the archaeological site beneath the building.  The site actually runs underneath the road to another building, which is built on top of the remains of the first public square in Montreal.  You can walk right the way from one to another, a distance of about 100m I guess, including a section of the sewer that was built to house the Petite St Pierre river.  The river originally ran through the city, parallel to the St Lawrence but was covered over to form a sewer and has since dried up (luckily for me!).  It was genuinely interesting to see the physical remains of sites several hundred years old, perhaps not quite on the same scale as something like the Roman Baths at Bath but as old as you get in North America!

With the museum being right on the river front I decided to have a bit in one of the parks set out there, and managed to find a spot filled with deck chairs and a group of musicians setting up.  I'm not quite sure what the occasion was as but I had nice half hour or so sitting in the sunshine listening to some kind of free form jazz!  Next up was a guy doing some kind of spoken word/lyrical poetry/comedy thing, but I couldn't understand enough of the French to really enjoy that; I know that the first bit was something about death though!  Instead I had a look for a cafe to get a bit of lunch.  That afternoon I visited another museum, just a short walk from the first, Le Centre d'Histoire de Montreal (Montreal Historical Centre).  Set up in a converted fire station this is a general collection of artifacts and information on the development of Montreal.  Pretty interesting and I managed to get in for the bargain student price of $4 and get complimented on my French so no complaints there!

Sunday morning looked a little cooler than the previous day, but I decided to venture up to Mount Royal, the mountain after which the city was named.  The mountain has also played a big part in city life and the land was bought by the city in the 19th century to be made into a park for the people of the city.  I managed to navigate the Metro system and found my way to the bottom corner of Mount Royal park.  I had been told that (by Leigh) that on Sunday afternoons the park was a meeting place for hippies and that most weekends you could find a drum circle starting up.  Low and behold, what do I hear as I walk into the park but the sound of multiple bongo drums!  Of course, I'm always up for appearing to be a local so I plonked myself down on the grass to chill out with the great and good and read a bit of my book.  After about an hour I decided to have a wander around a bit and found a path that seemed to follow the general direction up the mountain, without looking like a hiking trail.  After following that for a while I came across a large wooden staircase which I (possibly foolishly) started to climb.  About half way up I really wished that I'd looked at the stairs and thought about it first, as basically this was the quick way to climb the mountain, straight up rather than following the path around!  Having reached the top and realised that I'd just climbed a mountain in flip flops I realised that the path had brought me to the Chalet de Mont Royal.  This is a large public building designed for the public when the park was set out.  Now it just seems to have a gift shop and some vending machines but it's still kept in good repair so I imagine it's hired out for special occasions.  It would certainly made a good venue for a wedding or party as the views are brilliant!  Having (inadvertently) come up the mountain I bought some postcards and sat down overlooking the city to right them.  I didn't manage to find a post office in Montreal to buy stamps so don't hold your breath but a few of you will get postcards in a week or so.

Sunday evening I decided to treat myself to a meal in a restaurant, having spotted a place around the corner from the hostel that sold two of my favorite foods, crepes and fondue!  It was a toss up between the two but seeing as I'd had a virtually free day on Mount Royal I plumped for a cheese fondue, and I throughly enjoyed it!
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missmizon on

Re: Old Shacks
No, you'll be happy to know it paid off well!

Guessing as you're back on the net that you're safely returned to the US of K, will give you a ring tomorrow (today for you - Wednesday)

missmizon on

Re: Ha Ha
Ha ha possibly a bag of rice crackers, I was hungry! Miss you too chick xx

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