We started our trip to Montréal with our quickest train journey so far, just under 2 hours from Ottawa, and we arrived into Gare Centrale at lunchtime on Sunday. A quick bite to eat and then a short walk to check in at the Grey Nun’s Residence at Concordia University. It definitely reminded us of our time at St. Peter’s (Katy) and Linksfield (Craig) halls at RGU. The communal toilets and showers were definitely not the highlight of the stay but we survived and we both managed to shower without forgetting to take anything with us! With a busy few days to follow we decided to stay local and had a lovely Italian meal at the nearby Wientein & Gavino’s and then, for a bit of fun, we went to Putting Edge. A fair 18 holes were played by both at the futuristic style crazy golf on Guy Street however neither of us were below par (53) although Craig did win by 2 strokes (not that he is competitive about it at all!) Our stay in the super cheap university accommodation meant that sadly we did not have the luxury of air conditioning for our stay and we feel we are able to relate to the UK at the moment as we struggled to sleep with only a fan and open windows in 25C nighttime temperatures.
On Monday we participated in a 2 part walking tour of Old Montréal that would allow us to explore the east side in the morning and the west side in the afternoon. We booked our trip through Guidatour Private Tours and we joined 16 others with our tour guide Catherine for both the morning and afternoon trip. We started the tour outside the Notre-Dame Basilica Montréal before going inside to view the fantastic artwork and architecture. From here we were given an in-depth lesson on history of Montréal from the founding of the city, it’s growth, the grapple of French and British tradition to the economy of today as we were shown lots of significant landmarks around the city. We both agreed we have been lucky with our tour guides so far and Catherine was another addition to the ever expanding group. She was very knowledgeable about the area, passionate about her city and tremendously funny. During our hour long lunch break we stopped at Maison Bagatelle for some fantastic crepes, with Craig trying the savoury (weirdo!) and Katy going for the classic sweet. Craig also discovered that when people greet you with Bonjour Hello, you are meant to reply in the language you prefer to speak, don’t try to be ‘more local’ and say bonjour only to return a vacant look when you no longer follow the French conversation.
As the afternoon temperatures increased we decided to head back to the room for a break before this evenings entertainment, Upstairs Jazz Bar + Grill. Montréal is famous for its International Jazz Festival (as popularised during prohibition) which sadly runs earlier in the year however there are many jazz clubs in Montréal and this was one of them, and handily, local to where we were staying. We enjoyed a lovely meal here before settling down to some drinks and this evenings entertainment, Jam Sessions with Jim Doxas and special guests. To be honest, neither of us were massive jazz fans and didn’t recognise any of the arrangements played (they didn’t play Baker Street) however we both had a fantastic time and we were truly in awe of the skill and talent of the musicians. The only down side was we weren’t offered dessert after dinner, and although we didn’t need one, all 6 options on the menu had looked fantastic, so instead Katy had another cocktail and Craig a whisky.
As we’d had a relatively late night we decided to have a lazier morning (to quote Katy - she was "completely scunnered") on Tuesday before tackling Mont Royal around midday to reach the observation deck on top. The mountain had been named prior to settlement by the explorer Jacques Cartier in the 16th century and the city of Montréal is believed to have derived its name from the mountain in the mid 17th century. We had fantastic views of the city looking eastward and also discovered that no skyscraper in Montreal is allowed to be higher than Mont Royal.
With thunder and rain forecast for the rest of the afternoon we headed to the cinema and (with fingers crossed it would be in English) we saw Toy Story 4. We both enjoyed the film however, felt the series should have perhaps finished after the 3rd movie. When the film had finished, thunder storm avoided (or it had never come in the first place) we headed out for our final meal in Montréal, their answer to Paesano pizza, Bacaro. Another delicious meal, and it was time to head back to pack our rucksacks again before watching some Friends and then bed for the 6am alarm.