Alley in old Montreal

Montreal: Land of construction and considerate drivers

Darcy Travel 0 Comments

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The back alleys of Old Montreal

The family and I took a two day trip to Montreal recently and I was reminded that the famous certainties of life are not just death and taxes. I’m quite sure that you can add these two to the list: One can always see a construction cone while standing on any street corner in Montreal and if you leave half a car length of space between you and the car in front of you, it’s an open invitation for other drivers to cut in.

Wait. Let me backup a bit first. My in-laws had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary so my wife and I wanted to treat them to something fun because a) I wasn’t around for their official anniversary and b) they are awesome people. Seriously. If you could ask for the best in-laws in the world, you would use them as your template.

Our gift to them was a short but packed trip in Montreal. My father in-law had spent some there in his earlier days and since it was so close, we thought it would be neat to see some of the places he experienced + take in some of what Montreal had to offer. By some miracle of fate, my family and I loaded the car with a single bag each and were on the road by 8:00am on departure day. I mean this is how I dreamed it would be like to travel with a 6 year old and we are finally there. No more superfluous bags for all those what-if kid scenarios!

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I love punny window art.

We swapped cars at my in-laws when we picked them up (they had a roomier vehicle) and a couple of hours later, we were happily sitting in 10:30am stop-and-go traffic on Montreal’s infamous HWY 50. It had been many years since I’ve driven in Montreal and I had forgotten their style of driving there. I consider myself an assertive driver so I quickly adapted to the “I’m coming into your lane no matter what” attitude that is constantly on display while you drive there.

Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens. The GPS unit was telling us how to get there but of course, two of the roads we are supposed to take were currently 15 feet below street level and filled with backhoes and reflector vest wearing dudes. I ended up performing 3 nimble traffic violations to get where we need to go. I’m was getting the hang of it.

After parking and getting into the gardens, we wandered for a few hours and took in what we could:

  • The Alpine Garden
  • The Aquatic Garden
  • The Japanese Garden
  • The Rose Garden
  • …. I think you get the point.  There are lots of gardens.  Go see them.  The bonsais were really cool.  They have a 275 year old one there that is definitely looking it’s age.

Worthy Quotes

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
William Arthur Ward
You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Wayne Gretzky
Tis a great confidence in a friend to tell him your faults; greater to tell him his.
Benjamin Franklin
Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.
Benjamin Franklin
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Will Rogers
To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.
Abraham Maslow
Well done is better than well said.
Benjamin Franklin
Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
Benjamin Franklin
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
Winston Churchill
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
Robert Frost
You can do anything, but not everything.
David Allen
Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.
Virgil Garnett Thomson
I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
Mark Twain
He that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas.
Benjamin Franklin
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
Mark Twain
Don’t ever wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.
Cale Yarborough
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Benjamin Franklin
Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
Benjamin Franklin
Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Mark Twain
A Man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
Benjamin Franklin
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.
Benjamin Franklin
The manager administers, The leader innovates. The manager maintains, the leader develops. The manager relies on systems, the leader relies on people. The manager counts on controls, the leader counts on trust. The manager does things right, the leader does the right thing.
Forbes Magazine
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Winston Churchill
Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.
Kurt Vonnegut
When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.
Benjamin Franklin
Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.
Kristian Wilson
Nintendo, Inc, 1989
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Mark Twain
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.
Groucho Marx
Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.
Mark Twain
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
Erica Jong
Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened.
Winston Churchill
History is written by the victors.
Winston Churchill
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Mark Twain
Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the men she could have married, and she didn't have to hear about the way his mother cooked.
Kimberley Broyles
When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.
Thomas Szasz
There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
Steven Wright
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
Oscar Wilde
Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
Mark Twain
Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.
Benjamin Franklin
We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.
Robert Wilensky
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
Mark Twain
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.
Mark Twain
The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Mark Twain
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou
If I only had a little humility, I’d be perfect.
Ted Turner
Many people die at twenty five and aren't buried until they are seventy five.
Benjamin Franklin
There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
Mark Twain
To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
Jack Handey
It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.
Benjamin Franklin
Trouble knocked at the door, but, hearing laughter, hurried away
Benjamin Franklin
A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
Winston Churchill
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Benjamin Franklin
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
Plato
We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!
Benjamin Franklin
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Albert Einstein
Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.
Cullen Hightower
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
Harry Truman
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
Plato
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin
If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.
Mark Twain
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
Groucho Marx
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
Benjamin Franklin
If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.
Frank Wilczek
Do, or do not. There is no 'try'.
Yoda
Jedi Master
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.
Native American Proverb
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Gandhi
If the lessons of history teach us anything it is that nobody learns the lessons that history teaches us.
Anonymous
We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we learned the day before was wrong.
Bill Vaughan
Well begun is half done.
Aristotle
We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
Aristotle
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
Zig Ziglar
Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
Alfred A. Montapert
The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.
Mark Twain
Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
Benjamin Franklin
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Benjamin Franklin
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
Albert Einstein
Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.
Franklin P. Jones
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
Ovid
Poet (43 BCE - CE 17)

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Some very cool bansais to be seen.

Still in the gardens, we dropped in to visit the insectarium and that is when I found out that my daughter and I are the only two who are really interested in that stuff.  Lots of posed insects and a really cool Leafcutter ant display. We made an early exit (I’ll be back my creepy-crawly friends!).   Regrouping outside, we decided it was time to enjoy some of the great food that Montreal is known for so we made our way to Old Montreal.   My wife had planned our trip out quite well as she had compiled a list of you-have-to-go-there restaurants and did a lot of research to find the right hotel (which was ace by the way).

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I present: The wall of beetles.

So it takes us about an hour to drive to and find a parking spot in Old Montreal.  The small parking spot that opened up (which I quickly pulled into) was worth every dollar of the 18 we paid for it.  We got out, walked 4 blocks to our desired restaurant and were greete with a line of people waiting outside the place of eating we had chosen.  Hmmm not good I thought.  I noticed another place to eat kitty corner to our current location and when we were told it would be an hour wait at the first restaurant, I was already walking across the street to the other place. I was starting to think about those Snicker commercials where people turn into mean people when they don’t get food into them in a timely manner.  I wasn’t at the typical “I’m going to die if I don’t get food into me” man stage yet but I was getting there.  We ventured into the restaurant (Marché de La Villette) and any plans I had of trying to eat a low carb meal disappeared.

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The Croburger. And salad.

I decided to have the Aznavour Croburger for lunch.  Sure it came with a delicious side salad but I didn’t even touch it because this Burger was overwhelming in size, taste and richness.  I capitalized burger because I respect it that much. I added this guy to my top 5 burgers I’ve ever eaten list.   The bun is made with croissant dough and appears to be fried.  That is your first warning.   They then throw in what I think is a 1/2 pound meat paddy.  It was NOT made with lean beef either.  They then add a hefty amount of smoked meat, Gruyère cheese and drizzle on some kind of onion confit.   To make it healthy, a leaf of lettuce is added.

My father-in-law offered me a piece of his smoked meat sandwich which was decent. I’m sure it would have tasted much better had I not just eaten my burger. It was like eating plain chicken wings after having sampled the most savoury chicken wings you’ve ever had. To finish things off, we split a cronut five ways as we had not yet tried this cultural sensation.   It wasn’t bad but not something I would order again.   That burger though… hmmmmm.

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How does this work in the Winter?

After our late lunch, we walked over to Hotel Nelligan and checked in.  FYI – I would stay there again in a heart beat. Centrally located, beautiful rooms and great service.  My wife chose well.  Leaving the ladies at the hotel, my father-in-law and walked five blocks to pick up our vehicle and then proceeded take 45 minutes to get to the hotel (for the valet parking). Blocked streets, bumbling tourists, construction and a bevy of one way streets contributed to this massive delay.  Needless to say, we weren’t planning to venture out in the car anytime soon after that. Once back at the hotel, the men took afternoon naps while the ladies did some walking and perusing of the many stores in the area.  We had reserved some seats for a 7pm dinner at a bar + pizzeria called BEVO. I highly recommend it as well .   I was torn on what to order.  I was in Quebec but I was also in a place that had a wood pizza oven.  What to do… what to do.

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Making the pizza at Bevo.

The others were ordering pizza so I figured I would be able to sneak a piece off of them so I chose Poutine.   I ordered the braised veal version and like the burger from earlier in the day, it goes onto the top five list.   Wow.  This was a quality over quantity thing and I loved it.  I did get to try the pizza and I have to say it was quite good.  The “Formaggio Di Capra E Spinaci” was what I would order if I was going to eat pizza there.  Just saying.

Afterwards, we walked around for a good 1.5 hours as we made our way to the Old Port and watched people enjoy their evening.  Some screamed while they zip lined in the dark, others raced among the tourists with the 4 person bikes that were everywhere. It was interesting to see a bunch of millennials all sitting on the sidewalk in the park smoking marijuana all the while staring at their phones.  Times change but it was kind of humourous in a dystopian future kind of way.

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Lots to explore around the Old Port.

Back at the hotel, our daughter was tired but she wouldn’t admit it.  The lovely angel from the day turned into the devil when we asked her to brush her teeth before bed time.    Forty whining/crying minutes later, she fell asleep with an Archie comic book in her hand.  I slept amazingly and woke up early so I quickly got ready and took an early morning walk by myself. I wanted to take some photos of the city before it got moving.  As I passed by runners, workers and yoga’ers, I came across some crazed french rapper guy who was performing/yelling on the steps of the Basilica.  He was interesting to watch but from a peripheral vision perspective because he was the type of person you didn’t want to make eye contact with. As I made my way back to the hotel, I took a few detours through some alleys and came across a lone Italian shoe that had been quite the looker at one point. The stories of how it got there and who it belonged to swirled in my head when I saw it and I’m still curious about it. I’m part cat that way.

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The mysterious lone shoe.

As an aside, I’ve been using an old point/shoot camera (Lumix DMC-ZS3) on my recent travel trips as I’ve been finding my DSLR / lens kits a bit too big/cumbersome as of late. I used to get some great shots with my Kodak DX6490 and I was missing the portability factor. Sure the smartphones take decent pictures but it’s a hit/miss thing and once you get them off the phone, they don’t hold up well when you print them or show them on a monitor. That is unless you work the hell out of them (or shove them through an Instagram filter but that’s boring). The results weren’t too bad and I ended up taking a lot more pictures than I would have with my DSLR. Conclusions are being drawn from this little experiment.

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Someone shares my sense of humour.

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Hours of enjoyment for those into architecture.

After a nice hotel breakfast of eggs/bacon/creton, we all wandered the streets to stretch the legs.   We admired the architecture, marveled at how we had to pay money to get into Notre Dame Basilica (maybe they need the money to pay for all the scandals) and watched the locals smoke their first pack of day.   Definitely a cultural thing.

After checking out of the hotel, the ladies were on a food hunt for the best in-category foods (all open to endless debate of course)

In all, this took us 5 hours to do thanks in part to the “amazing” urban planning of Montreal coupled with the endless projects to rip up streets.  Seriously, car GPS systems need to die a horrible death so they can be replaced by Google Maps. Google knows where the hard hats are working and will show you viable alternate routes. I know that Apple and Google are slowly making their way into cars today but I can’t wait for it to happen en masse and displace the Rogers and Bells companies of the car navigation world.  No more having to pay $400 to upgrade your maps anymore. Screw you Garmin! /rant.

The bagel shop is a go-to place for out-of-towners (and in-towners) and they have a wall of accolades on display to prove it.  They run a brisk business as we were in and out in no time even with a steady stream of people coming in.   Many poorly timed stop lights and blocked streets later, we were standing in front of the bakery.  It had the usual assortment of goodies but the almond croissants deserve a shelf all for themselves. Holy smokies! Best. Croissant. Ever.

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I guess they go through a lot of flour.

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People love their treats. Including me.

As we left the city, we were treated to a final driving lesson. To get onto any highway, one must drive in any lane that is empty and abruptly cut in to the on-ramp at the very last second.  Then to show that you are a friendly driver, wave your hand at the twenty people you just cut off. This lesson was repeated to me somewhere between 30 and 40 times.   Even the transport drivers helped out with that lesson.

The drive home was uneventful yet tiring. More so for my passengers as my six year old daughter loves to invent/play games in the car. Sure we could use the tablet to act as a surrogate parent like most people do but we made the decision that while on family car trips, we would interact because hey, family trip. As tiring as it can be, it does create a lot of good memories. As we unpacked the car and settled in for a relaxing evening at home, I sat there and realized that I had missed traveling over the past few years. I’m looking forward to experiencing “the brushing of the teeth trials” with my daughter in different cities as we travel over the next few years.