I was ticked off by Leslie yesterday for not having written any updates for a while. It's been a busy week! Surely you were able to entertain yourself elsewhere on the internet during the interval?
Here's my overdue report on my Montréal trip. After an uneventful four hour train ride from Toronto on Friday evening, I was met at the station by Nicole and Raymond. It was a very strange thing to be in the company of both of them simultaneously. Nic is a friend from high school in Waterloo while Raymond was my kendo senpai at the University of Toronto. In Montréal, the two of them met and became friends completely independently of me. To spend time with them together was to have worlds colliding. In a good way.
As soon as Raymond had me parallel park his van at Nic's place (is that really such a rare skill?), we set off on a walking tour of Le Plateau. We found refreshment and I met some of Nicole's friends at Sofa Bar on Rachel Est. Later, after a wander along busy St. Denis, we had a midnight snack at Yoy/Merveille Vietnam. I feel that my life would be much improved if a branch of this café would open close to my office in Toronto.
Saturday was spent savouring desserts from dawn 'til dusk. First thing that morning, Nicole escorted me to her favourite patisserie. That hot-from-the-oven banana chocolate croissant set the tone for the day. That morning, we also visited le Marché Jean-Talon (strawberry Nutella crepe), we walked through the St. Viateur area (chocolat chaud and fancy truffles at Le Cigali) and then we strolled down lovely Laurier (hybrid donut-muffin things from La Gascone).
That afternoon Nicole took me on a grand promenade across town, down hills, through parks, up slopes, around many neighbourhoods. I especially liked checking out all the pretty apartment buildings with their unique staircases and balconies. We concluded our walk at the very serene Camellia Sinensis tea house (oolong tea and matcha cheesecake). Our final dessert of the day was at Juliette et Chocolat on St. Denis where I had the world's richest hot chocolate, almost too thick to be poured. I believe that beverage gave me chocolate poisoning: I started hallucinating halfway though the jug.
On Sunday, I got the touristy look, as opposed to the local view. Nicole took me around Viex Montréal, the archaeology museum and the downtown. The slow-moving crowds of tourists clogging up the narrow cobblestone streets sent me into flashback mode. I remembered what it was like to live in London in the summer and how I decided that I hate people. Needless to say, I prefer the regular Montréal neighbourhoods to the city centre. At 5pm, I hopped on the train for the trip home.
It's shameful how unfamiliar I am with Montréal considering the proximity to Toronto and the ease of getting there by train. I had only been to the city three times previously: as a kid on a family trip in 1990 or so, for the big unity rally in 1995 and for a Kendo tournament in 2001. I really didn't have any sense of what the city was like from those brief visits. Now I see that it would be a very livable place, broadly similar to Toronto but with cuter apartments and more restaurants. I'm not rushing to get myself there but it shall be added to that mental list, "places I'd be cool with moving to".
The rest of the Montréal photos can be seen here.