Sunday, May 25, 2008

Montreal, Canada!

Saturday, May 17th 2008

For our 2nd anniversary, we wanted to take a trip out of the US that wouldn't break the bank. Last year, we went to Europe but with the Euro kicking the Dollar's ass, that was pretty much not an option. So, Canada, eh? Montreal would be like Europe lite.
It took almost 8 hours to get to our hotel. An hour and half of that just to get out of the city.
Here's how I look after sitting in traffic:
Thankfully, my face didn't get stuck this way.
Hooray! The Canadian border!
For a nano moment I hesitated whipping out the camera. What were they going to do? Arrest me? Ship me to an island, never charge me or give me a trial or let me talk to a lawyer? Well, I'm safe - this border checkpoint was stocked with Canadian agents.
It took a loooong time getting across the border. When we finally drove up to the checkpoint, we were asked why we came to Canada (I pouted until Bryan agreed to tell the agent we came for our anniversary instead of just vacation. Then when we finally talked to an agent, he was all confused when Bryan told him about our anniversary. He was like, yeah, big whoop, just say vacation. HAHAHAHA), if we had weapons, and if we were carrying the equivalant of $10,000 Canadian dollars. Bryan turned to me for this last inquiry. Apparently I'm known to carry this much in Canadian money.

We stayed at Chateau de L'Argoat:
The first night we stayed in a room with two beds (one was in a seperate room with a door. Oooo!) Room 4:
The hotel was perfect. Only 26 rooms, very friendly staff, free breakfast, free internet, old fashioned keys, big bath tubs, chandaliers in each room. Situated right off Rue Saint Denis, a cool yet slightly-gouda-in-a-St-Mark's-sort-of-way part of town, we were in walking distance to Rue Saint Catherine, Rue Saint Lawrent, and Old Montreal. The next two nights we stayed in Room 25.
We got to the hotel around 8:o0pm, checked in and then out to find some yummy food. We didn't have to search far - about a block away we found a vegetarian chinese restaurant, Yuan.
Bryan lapped up the miso soup but was wary of the pink coral topped salad. I took a bite of the pink coral-like vegetation and found it delightfully bland.

Sunday May 18th 2008

Please acknowledge the pretty french door behind us (and no, Bryan did not wear out the oh-so-French scarf).
The day was gorgeous and we decided to walk the 2 miles (what's that in kilometers?) to Jardin Botanique - Botanical Gardens, since the hotel and the gardens are on the same street (hard to get lost that way), even tho the Sherbrooke metro station was right across from the hotel (another plus!). The walk was long but it was cool to walk through Montreal.
Pennisdium de China (can you guess why Bryan wanted to take this photo? Yup, we're that mature):
The Insectarium was our first stop inside the gardens.Coolest exhibit ever - there are millions of ants in this living colony. On one side is a flowering tree that provides food. The ants collect the food, then tightrope across to their nest in the other tree. Absolutely fascinating to watch them work - no glass between us and them!
Bryan met a huge beetle:
Insects rule!
We wandered out into the Japanese Gardens and came across a band of drummers:
The photo below is actually slightly different than the first one!
One day I hope to be in a Sears catalog:
We wandered into the peaceful First Nations Garden to get to. . .
. . .the Chinese Gardens:
We thought this weird spaceship housed the Biodome:
Bryan did not get abducted.
Turns out it had a swimming pool and other sportly adventures inside.
The Biodome was on the other side of it, where we saw. . .
The Biodome was awesome. It had a tropical forest, a laurentian forest (mix of deciduous and coniferous trees), a marine ecosystem, and an arctic/antartic area.
There were beavers and diving birds and bats and large fish and monkeys and parrots and a whole slew of other awesomeness.
We had a long day of walking around so it was time to check out the metro!
I liked the metro in Montreal. Reminded me of D.C. with the simple color coded train lines and the grimy stations and train cars made me feel at home New York-style.
Down on Rue Saint Denis, we ate a few times at Commensal, a yumtastic multi-leveled restaurant serving an entirely vegetarian buffet. They offered just about every cuisine - Asian, Italian, Mexican, soups, salads, Indian, Mid Eastern. Plus a ridiculous dessert bar - chocolate mousse cake, carrot cake, fruit tart, date bars, brownies, cookies, I could go on and on (which apparently I did, judging from the photo below).
This is the second of two meals we had at Commensal in one day (the first was much more impressive with amount of food we had on our plates):Interestingly, Rue Saint Denis had a lot of gutter punks and homeless kids. Bryan said it's kind of a joke how Montreal is supposed to be 6 years behind the U.S. in fashion. Seemed a much bigger gap than that - think mid-90s fashion of the mall punk/neo hippie variety.
We were planning to get champagne to have in our hotel room, but forgot that Sundays outside of New York would be hard to find an open liquor store after 6. So we settled on some fine Quebec ale. We classed it up with champagne glasses:

Monday May 19th 2008

We woke up to pouring rain, which delayed our crepe tour.
When we finally ventured out, the hotel gave us umbrellas - tres utile!

Time to get some money!
Our first stop, Une Crepe?:Oui - une crepe, sil vous plait!
We got one dark chocolate and pear crepe and one apricot crepe.
We decided to wait a while before making out next crepe stop.

To get out of the rain, we dashed into Sucre Bleu, a candy shop. Bryan found New York brand candy cigarettes:
We filled a small bag with gummy coke bottles, sour gum balls, watermelon gum balls and gummy blueberries. We couldn't stop there however.
Soap gum!
The wrapper actually says, "It still tastes like soap!"
And now in French: "Toujours la meme gomme savon!"
Hey look! It stopped raining and we happened to be in front of our favorite spot, Commensal. . .
Thankfully, the rains stopped for good because I really wanted to walk to Old Montreal.
Old Montreal was very pretty with cobblestones and interesting buildings.
Can you spot Bryan in the photo below?
Follow the red arrow. . . there he is!
While Old Montreal had a certain charm, I didn't find it as romantic as all the guidebooks and online reviews say. Mainly because every 5 feet (what's that in meters?) there was a souvenir shop and lots of touristy-looking tourists.
Finally, we got out of Vieux-Montreal and walked a few really neat sidestreets.
This building had a rocket ship blasting off it's corner:
New England representing:
Who needs an art museum when we got the streets?
For dinner we had Chu Chai, where we experienced their appetizer named Love Bags:
Our view from Room 25:
Pont Jaques-Cartier (the bridge on the left) and the Molson brewery!
After many hours, we continued our mini crepe tour at Cafe Creperie:
We ordered the chestnut which tasted much like Nutella. YUM

Tuesday May 20th 2008 - Happy 2nd Anniversary to us!

We walked down Rue Saint Herbert (below) to Rue Saint Cathrine to pick up snacks for the trek home.
We didn't leave the city right away.
We had to check out another veggie joint, Pushap La Faim du Monde, next to Chu Chai on Rue Saint Denis.
Unfortch, they didn't open until noon and we really wanted to hit the road sooner.
Below is the Montreal Dome. Seemed like it hovered toward us as we drove. Creeptastic.

Montage of street signs! Woo!
Canadian lake!
Last stop before we crossed the border:
Crossing over to the U.S. took us only about 20 minutes and our ride home was only about 5 1/2, maybe 6 hours. Pretty nice drive. I'd definitely drive to Canada again.
Perhaps Toronto next time. . . .