WT2010 – CANADA – Day 45/46/47/48 – Viva La Montreal!

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on May 1, 2010

Day 45/46/47/48 – Viva La Montreal!
[On the iPOD] Metric / Hole / Brainiac / The Folk Implosion / Thom Yorke / Pulp / Thursday

A short drive to Montreal, less than 6hours but hitting standstill traffic when coming into the city wastes another hour. This is where I had my first interaction with drivers in Montreal. Horns beeping, people ignoring a lanes existence and driving at tight angles to cut you off; leaving you the option to stop or have them drive into you. Lunacy! I immediately thought of the chaos of driving in Paris. It must be a French thing.

The world is a funny place, obviously I knew they speak French in Montreal but it’s just odd when you drive from New York into Canada and go from Imperial to Metric and then English to French. I hadn’t really bothered to learn much, I was told everyone pretty much speaks English as a second language and that was exactly the case. Every store you go into your greeted in French but as soon as you say Hello people will switch to English. It does make you feel like an outsider though.

Much of late Friday night was spent wandering around looking for an ATM most of which were ‘down’ with no Canadian cash at all it’d be hard to get into most places with a door charge, nor buy anything in a bar. So Instead I wandered about getting to know the Mile-End neighbourhood. I’ve probably never seen anything like it, other cities might have certain ‘hipster neighbourhoods’ but to some extent they all seem fake compared to Montreal’s actual grittiness. Sure you’ll find punk kids with mohawks everywhere but in Montreal they’re actually homeless and cleaning car windscreens at a traffic light.

There’s a bit of everything in this part of Montreal, an underlying sort of seedyness but mostly just a string of really cool bars and restaurants. I wandered down a back alley to find some kids laying in the middle of the road drinking and playing guitar, then in passing I find groups of Americans on a weekend away by the sounds of it; a bucks night perhaps. That’s sort of the context you’d want to be in this neighbourhood, with a big group of friends and on a big night out. Needless to say without cash I had neither so after some more wandering to get to know the area I had to call it a night.

Saturday, as it turns out the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) ATMs are the ones to look for because they never fail. I eventually found one inside a small convenience store. The highlight of the day was probably walking into a ‘posh’ Sushi restaurant by mistake and then finding out they actually had all you can eat Sushi for $22. I don’t think I’ve eaten that much food in one sitting in awhile, Homer Simpson eat your heart out.

Montreal clubs love their electro and indie/newwave and alternative. Anything your after you’ll find in the Mile-End area of town. It does get expensive though, with Canada’s tax on everything not listed on the item price. More expensive than America!

On Sunday I headed up Mont Royal, which is a small mountain overlooking Montreal, a mere 6kms or so away from where I was. I considered biking it, Montreal has this brilliant rent-a-bike system throughout the city. Basically theres a long rack of bicycles and you swipe your credit card and it unlocks one and you have it for 30min for $5. Theres many of these ‘stations’ all over town and you can ride from one and leave it at the other. If you go over 30min you get charged $1.50 for every 30min you go over. It’s not that bad if you need to get somewhere quickly that isn’t a direction of the metro. Great for tourists exploring the city especially.

Luckily I decided to drive to Mont Royal however, It seems like a ‘large hill’ when you approach it and I was thinking “Im not going to see much from up there” but as it turns out it’s a rather steep climb and some bikers were struggling.

I parked up at the first lookout and a car was backing out, they stopped and walked over to my car and gave me their parking ticket which still had 25min on it. The view from the lookout is vast but kind of dull in away, mostly urban sprawl.

I decided to walk up the mountain further which lead into a forest trail of sorts. Within a couple of trees there was an open cliff top area, no fencing at all. You could walk right to the edge and just sit on the natural rock face ledge. I started to think about Sydney and Australias recent obsession with over-protective public safety. I couldn’t imagine an open ledge no fence clifftop in the cities main lookout. It seems the French Canadians just don’t give a damn. A kind of oldschool freedom far from the ideals of a nannystate. Or maybe the city just can’t afford to care, the recession in the 90’s is still prevalent in the terrible pot-hole riddled roads.

Whilst snapping photos a guy came over inquiring about my camera and asking what I was shooting, as it turns out he was a fellow Canon DSLR enthusiast. He was a local and showed me the way up the path to a better view of the city and then (although he was there with his girlfriend) he’d show me the way (by car) to the other side of the mountain where theres a lookout over the CBD which is the place to take photos. It’s pretty amazing how I always come across people willing to help me out (the world over)

The view overlooking the CBD was stunning and he even lent me his Canon wide-angle and zoom lenses! hence some of those photos look rather amazing! We bumped into a guy doing a plate-photo 5minute pinhole camera exposure of the scene also, pretty cool.

Amongst sampling restaurants, bars and shops on the last day I figured I’d head to the ‘biodome’ which is on the site of the old Olympic stadium. Parking was $12, the biodome was basically a reconstruction of eco-systems from around the world. For the entry price I thought it was a bit steep, especially since I’d already seen this at the ANHM in New York so I decided instead to wander around the stadium.

The stadium and its surrounds have really ‘let themselves go’ It does seem like a bit of a pariah at least since the Olympics came and went. It’s one big empty desolate concrete jungle, with the tell of being built for the 1976 Olympics, the stadium still looks modern but overall the area is showing its age in a bad way. Interesting for photo ops though.

Between the rudeness of the traffic, the traffic jams themselves and the rundown nature of certain parts of town, Montreal still has an upside (surprisingly) you have to do to some digging to find it though.



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