Montreal on Bicycles

2nd to 4th July, 2016

We are not going white water rafting like I wanted to, instead we are going cycle around Montreal. I think it’s a fair compromise. I have always wanted to pedal my way through a city. We choose to use Montreal extensive public bicycle sharing system – Bixi, but first some breakfast. Yelp shows us a 5 star rated brunch place around the corner. When we get there, there is a line outside extending almost all the way down the block. Too hungry to wait, we keep walking. Ever since the Canadians told us about Paris Crêpes, crêpes have been on our mind. Montreal is full of cafes and restaurants that serve crêpes. We walk into the first one that comes our way; let me tell you, we are not disappointed. These are by far the best crêpes I’ve ever eaten. Satiated, we go to the nearest bixi stand and hope to figure out the system. It ain’t no rocket science and soon we are on our way to Mont Royal Park. Mont Royal- Montreal..

DSC_0548We cycle through by-lanes and main roads, past what we assumed are the infamous  tam-tams and a short way up the hill. Somewhere near the hospital, we drop our bikes off, knowing that the system allows you to take a bike out for only 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the bike has to be returned and taken out again if you still want one. That, and the fact that the slope ahead is too steep. We walk the rest of the way and up the stairs in the park to the Belvédère Kondiaronk.  A refreshing breeze cools us down as we take in a panoramic view of downtown Montreal.   This scenic overview is named after the Petun chief Kondiaronk, whose influence led to a major peace accord between the French, Iroquois and other First Nations in 1701. There is a  small public piano in the semicircular plaza outside the chalet. Visitors take turns to play and pose.

DSC_0588We walk down to the cemetery, from where we need to take a bus to the Oratory of Saint Joseph. A kind fellow passenger helps us with directions, while the bus driver gives us free tickets that are valid on any public transport for the next two hours. I must have over-hyped the heart at the oratory, because everyone wants to see it. In my defense, it is kinda  creepy to preserve someone’s heart like that! On a side note, while B and J, the husband and I are cycling around the city, Anthea  of Anthea’s Chronicles and Rohan  are attending mass at the Basilica of Notre Dame. The plan is to catch up at some point.

2016-07-08-PHOTO-00001782We use our tickets to ride the subway, to get to Vieux Montreal. From the subway station, we take bikes again and cycle along the old port. We stop here for sunset drinks. We are, after all, on vacation. After wandering around the narrow cobble stoned  streets of Vieux Montreal for a while and picking up souvenirs, it is time head to the Jazz festival for dinner. What better way to work up an appetite than cycling there! We are able to get 3 bikes out, but when B and J try to pull out their second bike, the code doesn’t work. After some trial and error, a phone call to the Bixi people confirms our worst fears, one bike did not get logged back into the system when we returned it.To return a bike, you need to push the front wheel firmly into an empty bike dock and make sure the green light comes on after docking the bike. If not, you start getting fined after the stipulated loan time (30 minutes) is up.  After twenty four hours, the bike is considered stolen and a fee of $1,000 may be charged to your credit card. OUCH!!

We hurry back to the docking station we left our bikes at and frantically try pulling out every bike to find the improperly docked one. Luckily, we had docked close to the end of the line and find the bike in just a few tries.

2016-07-08-PHOTO-00001769While the others a pedaling furiously to beat the rain, I am merrily singing songs in my head and  reminiscing cycle rides in the rain in Rasayani ❤ At our destination, we all  make sure the green light comes on and then double check by pulling the bike. We’ve learnt our lesson. Once inside the Jazz festival, we need to find a place to eat. After some hemming and hawing, we settle on a Thai place. We go in and order. Anthea and Rohan join us. Wherever we go, we seem to find decent ( and occasionally exceptional)Thai food. Through dinner, I’ve also managed to dry my wet shoes with paper towels and the hand drier in the wash room. We are now all set for the Casino. I make a measly $27 profit this time and the husband gambles it ( and more) away. Hey, we are at a casino! The whole point is to gamble!

Montreal Again

2nd to 4th July, 2016

” Why are we going to Montreal when we have a house to set up?”

“..because YOU don’t get too many days off. The house can keep getting set up, we can’t waste the long weekend.”

(how do I love thee, let me count the ways)

Montreal in summer is a very different experience from Montreal in winter. Montreal with 20 friends ( and friends of friends) is an experience in itself. With B&J’s last minute visa and Anthea of antheaschronicles eleventh hour decision to get her own bathroom, our whole trip is balancing on a fine point. As always, everything works out and we are on our way.

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We are going to find you Canadians and give you Big Hugs

Once we reach Montreal, our first task is to find parking. Task 2 – find the Canadians; our Canadians. The bestie and troop are in Montreal too. We have a day’s overlap and are determined to make the most of it.  A few misses later we embarrass them outside a sports bar with our exuberant hugs and loud exclamations. Some might think it nearly impossible to find place for such a large group in the tiny bars of Old Montreal, but the menfolk manage that less than ten minutes. Where there is a game, there there is way!

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Let’s go for a Walk

Some are happy to watch the game; the rest of us are happy to get our drinks, only the drinks take forever to come. Midway through the game, the husband leaves with Rohan and Anthea to get our Air BnBs. The game goes past penalties and somebody finally wins. B & J and I make our way out.  The husband, Anthea and Rohan, with their terrible directions give us an opportunity to explore the city by foot. We walk through leafy lanes, cut through parks and saunter past hippie stores till we eventually find them.

Our Air BnB  is a lovely little apartment with 3 bedrooms, on the first floor of a walk up. Catnap; wake up; yawn; stretch. It’s party night!  We get dressed and head out to where the Canadians are, to pre-drink, and ahem! We are also supposed to meet SS and SM, who are in Montreal separately with their parents. They are at the Jazz festival, we need to cut through it to reach the hotel. We are not allowed to due to the capacious  amount of alcohol we are carry for the Canadians and end up having to walk around the block with it.

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BFFs

We’ll need a bus if all of us have to go to the club together. We don’t have one, so we call multiple Ubers. B & J, the husband and I and denied entry because the boys are in shorts; the husband in military shorts. No amount of pleading gets us in, and the others having paid to get in are in no mood to get out. The four of us hop into the pub next door and the head out grab so grub  close by. We were tired enough to contemplate heading back and would have  if our Canadian Sheth,  Rahul had not come out and coolly walked the husband into the club. Problem, now the bouncer wouldn’t let the rest of us in. Rahul to the rescue again. That is how we clubbed the last 15 minutes of the night in Montreal – boogieing away to 80’s music. Don’t you love it when you know the words ❤

The Kawa Bath

kawa hot bath

Here’s a hot tub I’d love to get into. The water in these supersized cast iron pans is heated and kept hot by a live fire. How relaxing it would be on cool nights, under a sky full of stars; the near perfect way to get ready for bed after a long day hiking or kayaking or just a chilly swim. I wonder if the person who came up with this had read Robinson Crusoe!

These giant vats were originally used to in the sugar making process. The sugar mills have long been abandoned, but the experience is  still sweet.

If I ever happen to be in Philippines, I going to set aside a day for Tabio just for  this.

Bonus- spend the night At night, at one of Kayak Inn’s nipa huts. There’s no electricity – only the wind in the willows ( ok trees), and the song of the river. 

 Kayak Inn is located in Brgy. Tuno, Tibiao, Antique and can be reached using  a habal-habal (or single motorcycle),

Best time to go is from September to February, where the river is usually high, perfect for kayaking. This is also firefly season. Stars in the sky, and all around you. Enjoy the show!

 

* Original Photo here.If this photo belongs to you and you have any objection to my using it, please let me know and I will take it down. If not, thank you for letting me use it.