I flew into Montreal on Tuesday afternoon before making my way downtown to my hostel. My journey downtown was uneventful and I got left at the bus station which is conveniently located over the main metro station Berri Uqam. There I got my weeks metro pass and headed to my hostel. The Montréal metro is pretty good with frequent trains and (at many stations) has signs telling you when the next train is coming.
On my first day in Montréal I though I should suss out the city and I was worried I wouldn’t find enough to do in the 5 days I was spending in the city. So first thing I headed to the tourist information office. There I booked a tour run by Stagecoach to see the Laurentian mountains. After that I headed down to Vieux-Montreal which is the old part of the city. There I had lunch before trying to find the Notre Dame church which I then failed to find quickly as I tried to navigate to the church by the sun. Unfortunately the grid isn’t actually north/south but at an angle of 45 degrees and coupled with me being unsure of the sun time (many countries put themselves in the “wrong” timezone to get permanent daylight savings time or for administrative purposes – for example China is all one timezone and Spain, which is west of London is one timezone east of London.) this meant I ended up going “West” instead of “South”. After a while I gave up trying to find it so I could have a wander around the streets and headed to the Montreal history museum. This museum covered the history of the city and was generally pretty good – there seemed to be some detail missed out especially over the Canadians relations with the natives. Then again the British museums don’t cover the empire in any depth. So maybe we follow the losing face rules like oriental culture too!
After visiting the museum I headed up to the square with the church but by that time it was closed so I headed back to my hostel.
The next day I did a bit more. First I went to the Olympic stadium where Montreal hosted the 1976 olympics (and for which they are still paying for.) and had a look at the view from the top of the tower over the stadium after which I headed to the Biosphere which was built in the Olympic cycling velodome. The biosphere is essentially a zoo with different zones for different climates (tropical, laurentian forest, polar and Canadian maritime.) and with the audio tour as well it was excellent. The best such example I have seen in the world. After lunch I headed over to the Notre Dame church where I got a guided tour of and which was awesomely beautiful. There was also a chapel behind the church which was also nice and because it was burnt down about 40 years ago in a fire it is done in a nice modern style. After that I headed to the museum of modern art which was OK but half their galleries were shut and the art they had there wasn’t particularly exciting.
The next day I went for my tour of the Laurentian mountains which let me see the beginnings of the autumn colour and a boat trip on lake which wasn’t bad and generally lots of trees – which is obviously very exciting. The main bad problem with being owned by stagecoach comes into play here. They can’t play good DVD’s as they’d have to get a group licence for them.
On the way back I asked to be dropped at the first metro station we came to so that I wouldn’t have to do an extensive tour of the hotels before returning to my hostel and because after my extensive travels I have a degree in public transport use. In the end as we didn’t stop at the first metro station we passed I asked to get dropped off at the park so I could climb the fairly small hill the Montréalians like to call “the Mountain” or Mont Royal just after getting off the bus I was offered drugs (which I declined) before I wound my way to the top of the mountain which offered some trees to look at as well as awesome views of the city. It was well worth coming up and not dangerous at all – lots of women were out running on their own. I guess if the drug dealers did anything worse than selling drugs the police would get involved.
On the way back I caught a bus successfully to the metro station. This worked as I asked the driver where the stop was and he was friendy and spoke English as well as French and told me were it was.
The next day I headed over to the Biodome another environmental museum – this one aimed at what you can do to save the environment like leaving the lights on, leaving your electric chargers plugged in and on, not using environmentally friendly lightbulbs, using plastic bags (which are apparently banned in China – must be why I always seemed to get posh looking paper bags from the big stores.), flying and not using public transport (though apparently a hybrid is as efficient as a North American school bus – maybe the buses need to be recycled and replaced – though to be honest public transport seems to suck over here. The return bus fare from Montreal and Quebec city is C$80 and is actually slightly higher than going on a coach tour. Montreal’s interal transport system seems to be pretty good however.). The eco-house was excellent as was the guided tour I took of it. Unfortunately the museum was mostly aimed at kids though it did have quite a lot of interesting information.
The other interesting thing raised was that the US and Canadians still don’t appear to have energy efficiency stickers on their white goods like even the Peruvians and Argentinians seem to have these days, that is a sad day for environmental awareness in both countries.
In the afternoon I had a late lunch at a rough guide recommeded cafe though the service was really rather slow but the food was great after that I headed to look at a local church which was very beautiful but I only had a brief look as they were having choir practice. After that I headed to the port to try and do some jet boating but it was shut. I then headed to the fine art museum but it was shut when I arrived. A brief look in the shop made it clear I was missing out.
On the bus to Quebec we got some more environmental “propaganda” as we were told that the New York Times uses 17000 trees to make each daily issue. Damn that’s a lot of trees – maybe we’d be better off reading the content on our mobile phones! I’ll cover that trip in more detail in a later post.