Monday, October 22, 2012

Love those Canadians!

View from Mont Royal Park
We just spent the better part of a week in Montreal, Quebec.  My husband is a civil engineer and Montreal was the host city for the annual American Society of Civil Engineers conference.  I have wanted to come here since a friend once wrote that it was such a great place for biking and walking, so I was excited that he invited us to join him.  We got lucky and found a room at the Hilton Bonaventure, with a heated OUTDOOR pool, which was in a great location for touring the city.  The cool thing about the pool was that you entered from inside the building and swam outside in the steamy water.  You never had to get out of the water outside and get cold!  It's open all year, even when it snows.
There is simply so much to do in this city, and it doesn't even matter what the weather is like.  As it turned out, the Fall colors were at peak, so we opted to spend most of our time outdoors and never set foot in a museum, but they have many.  Every Canadian we met there was so outgoing and friendly.  They have a charming way of poking fun at themselves that makes them endearing.  I never met a Canadian I didn't really like.
We were here at least once a day!
Mont Tremblant
We rented a car and drove north to 'the mountains' the first day- the Laurentians.  It's only an hour away from the city, but getting out of the city is half the battle.  Lots of traffic, and of course we hadn't thought about how neither of us understand the Canadian traffic signs! I had a year of French in high school but that was a long time ago in a place far away so I don't remember much.  We managed to get there and back safely, but there were times, it would have been better to be at least a bit prepared.  I imagine we could have found a cheat sheet on line or something.  It was a pretty drive.  They have a fairly new highway that takes you right to the heart of the area, which parallels the older highway.  Fewer stops enroute and you get to see everything.  The down side was that this isn't tourist season.  It was past summer and not yet ski season, so nearly everything was closed in the smaller towns.  We had hoped to get in a boat ride but the only thing going was a tour in Japanese and it was booked up with a tour.  There were lots of Japanese tourists all over the region.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Loved the color at the park near the port.  The pond was drained though.
During the summer you can climb this clock tower



This was a pedestrian street- lots of cafes and artists.

















Abdul started his conference the next day, so Omar and I opted for a walking tour of the port and older Montreal.  I brought a stroller and it was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine.  Most people weren't even wearing jackets.  I generally use a website, tripadvisor, to plan our travel.  They even had a guide for Montreal with lots of suggestions so we followed some of their suggestions as far as a route to take. I might mention that breakfast in Montreal includes the flakiest croissants available and crepes in dozens of varieties, so Omar was in heaven!  My personal favorite was the salmon bagels.  We saw artists painting canvases with cobbled streets and old windows with shutters.  We tried maple syrup treats.  We tried to climb the clock tower but it was closed for the season.  Omar did some dancing at the square outside Notre Dame Cathedral to the amusement of the many tourists. Rental bikes were readily available if we'd wanted to have a go.  Most of the older city and port are flat so it would have been a great ride.
Esmerelda the witch 

live spider

The next day it was raining, so we ventured by taxi over to the Botanical Gardens where they were having a pumpkin ball, which included hundreds of decorated pumpkins and even a witch!  Most of the activities were indoors, so it didn't matter about the weather.  Omar even enjoyed watching a play in French with a group of school children.  At the Insectarium they had a live spider doing a show about how they catch prey, etc.  I was impressed at the lengths they were willing to go to make a lesson memorable!  At dusk, they also have a magic of lanterns program in the Chinese garden at this time of year.  There were many of these beautifully lit pieces all over the garden. We were soaked but it was a day well spent.
Chinese lantern display
At the sculpture garden on Mount Royal
 Our final day we hiked to the top of Mont Royal, the highest point in the city.  Let me tell you, this is a challenge pushing a 70 pound child in a stroller up an incline that seems about 45%!  I really worked up  a sweat!  Once we reached the park, we ditched the stroller and took the stairs.  I was surprised that Omar hung in there, in spite of there being HUNDREDS of steps.  Of course, once you were up there, the view was incredible and it was totally worth the effort.  But then I realized there was a parking lot and we could easily have taken a bus.  Ah well, we got our exercise in for the day anyway.  Omar really enjoyed the sculptures as they are all very large stones and most can be climbed if you are a kid and want to give it a try.  There were lots of people in the park but it's a large place so you don't feel crowded.  After an afternoon of hiking, it was back to the room for room service pizza and a swim.  Does life get any better?  Especially when you're 7?  


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