The Great Canadian Adventure, Days 4 and 6–Montreal!

I don’t have any pics from Montreal, I’m afraid, so y’all are going to have to just make do with my textual descriptions to cover Days 4 and 6 of the Great Canadian Adventure–which I am combining on account of Memoire et Racines, Day 5, gets its own post!

The bulk of Day 4, really, went to the train trip from Toronto to Montreal. userinfocow saw us safely off to the train station, and once we got safely ensconced on the train, it became readily apparent that why yes, we were about to head into Francophone Canada. There was a Francophone family sitting across from us, and several of the train staff sounded to me like native speakers of French. What with hearing all those folks talk, I pretty much reaffirmed that I still can’t follow French at conversational speeds, but I can at least pick out days of the week!

All in all the train ride from Toronto to Montreal was pleasant. They gave us an excellent lunch, including wine, a tasty chocolate mousse for dessert, and surprise extra chocolates to finish us off. We were slightly disappointed that there was no actual dining car–we ate right at our seats–but this was more of a question of just needing somewhere to get up and wander to, as opposed to eating locale. The trip was long enough that it would have been nice to be able to stretch our legs. That said, though, other than that, it was an excellent train ride all around.

Montreal itself was nice, once we finally got there–not that we got a good look at it, really, until we dropped off our stuff and headed right back out again for our dinner plans for the evening! We stayed at the Hotel Lord Berri, which turned out to be a nice place, and I was a bit surprised to discover that they’d given us a room with two queen-sized beds. Dara made a joke about wondering when the convention was about to get started, given that that room configuration is one we normally have for Norwescon.

Montreal’s Metro system was, well, pretty much a subway system. Not terribly different from any other I’d been on before, with the exception of the stop announcements and the ads in the subway cars being in French. I did amuse myself frequently, though, trying to figure out which signs I could read at first sight.

And dinner, as it happened, turned out to be with none other than userinfolyonesse, along with userinfopywaket! We left the hotel and jumped right back on the metro system we’d just gotten off, and went ahead a few more stops to meet them over at a place called Chez Chose for dinner. If you’re ever in Montreal, Internets, I totally recommend this place. Our waiter was very friendly, and took the time to translate everything on their menu for us as well as chat with us in general. The menu in question wasn’t large, but we wound up trying a good half of the items on it and sharing them around the table. The only reason we didn’t go for dessert is because Vicka recommended a good gelato place nearby, about which we were all very amenable given that we wanted to walk off our excellent dinners.

The gelato turned out to be at Suite 88, and YOU GUYS, this stuff was the fluffiest gelato it has ever been my pleasure to eat. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Gelatiamo here in Seattle, but Suite 88 totally gave them a run for their money–and especially given that they had an amazing chai flavor that damn near made me swoon on the spot. SO TASTY. And we had more pleasant conversation there along with our desserts, and hung out there pretty much until it was time for the place to close.

From there, Vicka and Pywaket walked us back to our hotel–because again, we needed the exercise after our excellent dinners, but also because Dara and I had been on a train for much of the day and we wanted the walk. Fortunately it wasn’t too far of a walk at all, and the parts of Montreal we were walking through were comparable to downtown Seattle in terms of general walkability. We saw a LOT of people walking, too, which was awesome.

Did I mention that both Chez Chose and Suite 88 were on St. Denis, which is apparently the Street With All of the Awesome Things on it? Well, all the awesome things except for the Archambault, the chain music store which happened to have a store right on the same block as our hotel! I’d discovered this place online trying to hunt down places from which I could order Quebecois trad music, and the proximity of one to our hotel was irresistible. So on Sunday morning, after we got back from Memoire et Racines, Dara and I ducked in there to check the place out on our way to heading out for the rest of the day’s amusements.

Me, I scored two albums I wanted to get–the remaining album by Genticorum that I didn’t have yet, which is to say, their first one. AND, an album by Les Frères Brunet, which is to say, André and Réjean, of De Temps Antan and Le Vent du Nord respectively! I’d been wanting one of their albums ever since I discovered they had a couple, so as to give these boys a fighting chance against their bandmates, the bouzouki-playing Beaudrys. (Though going up against the Beaudrys IS a high-stakes endeavor, given my natural bias in favor of that instrument, André IS a podorythmic fiddle-player and that’s just about as awesome!) Dara on the other hand amused herself mightily in the store investigating their second floor where they kept all the instruments–and I do mean ALL the instruments, given that they had enough stuff up there to start a full school orchestra! She was particularly impressed by the bass ukelele they had, and if we’d had any ability to bring that thing home with us, I suspect we would have done!

After that was another place I wanted to hit–the Renaud-Bray bookstore, again on St. Denis! This specific bookstore had come heartily recommended by the redoubtable Cow, so I wanted to raid the place to pick out a couple of books in French to bring home. What books I got are called out in this roundup post, but to that I will add that the staffer at the store was most helpful when I pulled him aside and explained that I was trying to learn French from novels, and that one of the ones I wanted being YA was in fact okay. He said he was doing much the same with English, which was amusing! Dara kept chastising me for not deploying more French than I did, but she was right, I was nervous about it. And at any rate, given that everybody we kept buying things from in Montreal was perfectly capable of English, I didn’t need it much anyway!

Most of Sunday afternoon went to meeting up with Jill, one of my Kickstarter backers, and that was a nice encounter in general. She took us to get bagels from this place, and while they haven’t trumped my and Dara’s beloved Siegel’s in Vancouver, they did nonetheless have a very tasty Everything bagel. And the three of us did in fact wind up meeting up with Vicka again, for more ice cream! Jill and Vicka got to language geek as both of them have linguistics backgrounds–even if that part of the conversation rather left Dara and me in “I LIKE PIE” mode.

It must be said, though, that the ice cream place we stopped at had maple ice cream. With bits of maple sugar in it. And OH. MY. GOD. That was unbelievably tasty. I had to slurp mine down faster than I wanted, since I made the mistake of getting it in a cone prone to ice cream melt! But it was deeply swoonable while it lasted.

From there we had to scamper back to our hotel so we could pick up our bags and head out again for the metro, and our train to Moncton! About which I’ll elaborate in an upcoming post. Of Montreal in general I’ll say that I felt as though I barely saw the place, given that much of the weekend was spent in Joliette. Dara and I both definitely want to come back and see the bits of the city that we didn’t have time to see.

Next post, though: Memoire et Racines! :D :D