Montreal, QC

Baba, aka my mother-in-law, invited beta child on a lightning trip to Montreal as a Christmas present.  Three days, two nights.  I was invited to attend as well.*

Baba had two requirements.  One was seeing the Notre-Dame Basilica.  The other was eating in a French restaurant.  Beta’s sole requirement: shopping.  (I had no additional requirements besides going on a road trip.  I love road trips for themselves, so anything else is gravy.)

So off we go for a 300-mile drive.

looking down the highway in Vermont
Beta child’s view from the backseat as we cruised through Vermont

There’s an interesting bit of geography: the border between Vermont and Canada coincides with a geographical border between mountains and plains.  Shortly after crossing the border we were struck by the immediate change from hills and trees to flat plains and farms.  A few hills, including Montreal, stick up from the ground in anomalous fashion.

Montreal in January is not a popular tourist choice.  It’s cold.  Being from New England, we’re used to cold, but Montreal is still pretty cold.

Montreal is like NYC and Boston had a baby city.  Medium-sized office buildings.  One-way streets in a grid pattern with lots of potholes.  Mostly clean, but homeless people scattered around.  Not many people on the streets in the middle of night, but still 24-hour businesses.  Mostly new, but a mid-16th-century section.

We found a French restaurant for dinner on our first night: Modavie.  Baba ordered an appetizer called “Normandy Sweetbreads”, but she didn’t know that sweetbreads are actually organ meat.  Not knowing what it was, she thought it was delicious.  She had second thoughts the next day, however, when she found out they were probably made with a calf’s pancreas.  We also had charcuterie (Beta) and salad (me).  Entrees were seafood pasta (Beta), salmon filet (me), and Filet Mignon (Baba).  The food was excellent.

The next morning was crisp and cold.  Our first stop: the bus stop.  I had procured some 24-hour bus passes (unlimited rides for 24 hours) so we could get around town and have a cheap bus tour of the city.  It seemed wiser, as well as more environmentally responsible, than pulling the car in and out of the small parking garage by the hotel for each trip.  Waiting for the bus was a cold experience, however.  Beta child under-dressed for the occasion despite my warnings, and was visibly cold.

st denis bus stop with ferris wheel in background
Standing at the bus stop by our hotel. We didn’t visit the Ferris wheel on this trip – too cold.

The Basilica was worth the cold.

interior view of notre-dame basilica, montreal
The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. The pulpit is to the left. Stained glass windows and paintings adorn the outer walls.

After a quick lunch at a bakery near the Basilica, and a pit-stop back at the hotel for Beta to change into warmer clothes, we paid a visit to The Underground City.  Baba took a breather in a food court near our entry point, while Beta and I took off to see the malls.

After the mall we killed the remaining hour of daylight by riding the bus home from one end of the line to the other.  We went through neighborhoods we never would have seen otherwise.  The driver’s confusion when we didn’t immediately disembark at the end of the line was palpable.  “Where are you going?”

We ended the day with takeout dinner from a restaurant next to the hotel called “The Pastaman”, and talking about life for a couple of hours.

Coming home was uneventful, except the border crossing.  The guard asked us some off-the-wall questions, like “where have you been? – not just today.”  “Why did you go to Jordan?”  I think they try to ask unexpected questions to throw people off balance a little and shake loose anyone who may be concealing something.  I’ve only been out of the country a couple of times, but it happened each time.

* After some indecision on how to get there, because the train required 24 hours each way (due to an overnight stop in NYC) and neither wanting to drive a car for that long, I suggested that I could drive them.  They readily accepted my offer.  I very much appreciated the chance to join the trip, and I had a great time!

Author: H Walker Jones, Esq

A professional programmer with a sordid past involving sysadmin, tech support, and cooking.

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