I enjoyed Montréal just as much as I enjoyed Toronto. My first day I sought out Mont Royal park, intending on a nice, calm, and beautiful view. Annoyingly, I'd developed a monster blister on one foot, meaning that, despite finding and applying blister plaster to affected area, I had to walk around on the back of my shoe all day. Alongside this, I'd cricked my neck carrying all my bits around and so my view was either to my right or just the peripherals to my left. Certainly not up. Neither of these conditions are entirely ideal in a place full of trees, where the point is to look at the trees.
A day or two later I came across this, the Parade of 1000 Umbrellas. There was no one around to explain what it was, it wasn't until that evening that I discovered it is the charities on Montréal marching through the streets...or something? It was fun to watch, the were lots of drummers and things, and I was given some tickets to go and watch a college football game.
I'd been on my way to find this sandwich when I was waylaid by the umbrellas. A friend of my mum had told her I should get a sandwich from Schwartz, so I did. Upon arrival I found a queue out of the door...it must be good. Lucky for me, I pay attention, and there was another entrance marked for takeaways. Trending carefully, lest I be somehow ignoring the queue and pushing in (in which case I would have had to give up my British citizenship), I walked in and found out the others were Queueing to sit down (phew) and I was served straight away. While I waited I noticed a musical had been made about this place. Bizarre.
Sandwich in hand, I walked off to find a spot in a park to eat it. There are some beautiful parks in the places I've been to in Canada, but they all seem to contain a huge proportion more homeless people, and nothing compared to the streets. I have never seen so many people on the streets as I have here in Canada, Toronto has been the worst so far. Anyway, because there are a lot more people sleeping on benches etc., it is harder to find a spot in these parks that feels like a nice place to sit and eat or read or whatever. Where back home I would know which parks were no go zones, here I have to be much more careful and really suss out a place before committing to a sit. I found myself a bench next to the football stadium and, seeing a couple here and there or students doing the same as me, I plonked myself down. After a short time staring at the monster in my hand, attempting angles of attack, I managed to get a bite down me. It was pretty delicious. I had expected it to be saltier, like pastrami or salt beef, but it was spicier I think. It was lovely, though there were some fatty chunks in there that put me off a little. I would absolutely recommend it if you're in Montréal and less of a pansy than me.
One of the things I had been waiting to try since arriving was Poutine. I had seen it all over the internet as something I simply had to try if I was going to Canada, and Montréal was supposed to have some amazing places. The best is, I am informed, La Banquise but this was a bit further than my stomach wanted to walk, so I found the second on the lists of many 'Frites Alors', a name I had enjoyed in passing several times already.
I got classic poutine, aka just fries, cheese curds, and gravy. There are a whole load of other options: pulled pork, sausage, bacon, roast beef (not actual roast beef, weird slices of pink stuff that looks more like ham), but I decided to stay with the traditional before venturing any further. It's nice. It's a bit salty, it's incredibly heavy, absolutely a meal in itself. I've tried it from other places since, and that first one was definitely the best I've had so far.
Over the next couple of nights I met some fun new people at the trivia night and bar crawl. I managed to find another girl, Elizabeth, to come with me to the football, yay! The night before the football we went on a tour of Old Montréal with the hostel, very interesting. Above is a fountain in the World Trade Centre, I think it's called Mirror Pond, I'm sure you can figure out why. Below is a section from the Berlin Wall, sent to the city in 1992 as a gift. It is placed on the East/West divide and is intended as a reminder from Berlin to not go as far as they did. The split between francophones and anglophones is along the same divide you see...good eh?
After our tour, Elizabeth and I got some things to cook dinner, a rather spectacular sausages and mash. Whilst we ate we noticed a girl come into the bar on her own...after a sly glance at what language the guide book she was carrying was in and seeing it was English, we asked if she wanted to join us...and before long, Jo was heading out with us to the football.
Now, we all know that as far as sports go, I am not your girl. Rugby, I love, but that's it. Football (real football, as in, the game where you use your foot to hit the ball) annoys the living hell out of me, cricket baffles me, only Rugby draws me in. Bearing this in mind I didn't hold out much hope for American (though we think this was Canadian) football. I thought maybe I would enjoy it's similarities, but alas.
My diagnosis - it would be infinitely better if they didn't faff around so much. Good grief. The longest we saw of consecutive play was 11 seconds. They stopped constantly, never just got on with the game. We stayed until just after half time, and that was over two hours after we got there. Poor show North America.
I enjoyed watching the cheerleaders, because every single time they did one of these fancies, one of them would fall down early. I'm not sure how good they were at this stuff, but they certainly could stand very still with heir hands behind their backs.
Disappointed in the football, we sought out an Irish pub we'd heard had a band on, and that turned around the evening for me. The band, Salty Dog, were great, they were fun and they played songs you couldn't help but clap and thump along to. We didn't get our favourites, but we managed a "what shall we do with a drunken sailor?" So I was happy enough. Not 'Fields of Athenry' happy, but it would do.
Next day, Elizabeth and I set off back to Old Montréal to have lunch in a place called Olive + Gourmando, another place you HAVE to go if you're there. It's packed, it's tiny, there's no sign, but the sandwich I had made my life happy. Go there.
After lunch we got on the metro and went out to see the Olymipic Park. This was distinctly eerie, particularly as we're so not long past having the games ourselves. Montréal had them in 1976, and this is the state of the place now. It's rather bizarre, half seems to be still used, but this part was covered in dust and frozen in time.
Outside, we had great fun trying to set up a timer photo. Not being used to my new camera yet, I couldn't get the timer to last longer than two seconds, so we had to settle for taking 10 photos over 10 seconds, hoping we'd get one good one. We did. We also got some amusing ones. Yay!
Finally on our way back to the hostel, we passed a frozen yoghurt stand after talking about how full we'd still were from lunch. So, naturally, went in and bought all of it.
My last night was spent with Jo, Elizabeth, and a lovely French optician, Emilie, making dinner and playing jungle speed. We attracted all sorts to the table, I've never explained the rules so many times.
Wow...I did a lot in Montréal. Who knew?