Montreal hasn’t moved me. In fact, between roadworks and street closures, nobody else seems to be moving either.
As I mentioned in my last post, the good folks at the cruise line are very firm about ejecting all used passengers from the ship nice and early so they can clean up and board the fresh crop of star struck wanderers. So, it’s up at the crack of dawn, fight the crowds for one last go at the ship’s breakfast buffet, then all too soon we’re standing in the drizzling rain waiting for our turn to grab a maxi-cab.
The cab arrives and I show the driver the printout which has the name and address of our boutique hotel. He stares and stares. I’m a little concerned that the place is so obscure that he won’t be able to find it. The good news is that, about thirty minutes later we’re dragging our suitcases up the cobbled drive to the door. To be fair, twenty-five of those thirty minutes were spent in gridlock because the roadwork guys at one intersection were taking a coffee break. (Editor’s note: we later find that our hotel is about 800 metres from the ship as the crow flies, but still way too far to drag all our luggage).
Then, there’s the incident with the bus. As you may have noticed, a couple of our group have a penchant for that wonderful institution the locals call “L’op-on op-off autobus.” Was it a good idea? Well, let’s just say that everyone else in town seemed to know that all the inner-city streets would be shut this afternoon for the big festival – so I’m sort of surprised that we get stranded about a zillion miles from our starting point. And – I didn’t know that one unhappy guide could curse so fluently in so many languages at once! Anyways, I can read maps so we’ll get back somehow.
… Take two. It’s now day two of our Montreal stop and, as people in this French speaking town would say, “Qui vivra verra” (literally – he who lives shall see). We’re definitely alive, so let’s see what a difference a day makes.
Our plans for today are a bit fluid. We can either – go back to some of the spots that sounded interesting on the ill-fated bus tour yesterday – listen in to the conversations of the other people at the nearby breakfast tables and just copy what they’re doing – look at the guidebook and maps. We choose the first two.
“Let’s go and check out that big Oratory building we saw at the top of the mountain – our op-on op-off tickets from yesterday are still valid.”
“But what about that underground pedestrian system?”
“No – those nice people from Philadelphia are going to see the botanic gardens. It’s far away, but they said there’s a visit to the insectarium included in the price!”
Which to choose? As usual we do them all.
We discover that there are three ways to get around Montreal. You can take the overcrowded roads – you can take the Metro – or you can walk. Today, we try all three, and each gives us a difference experience of this quite unique city.
The Metro is fast. It’s efficient. You go through a door, negotiate some turnstiles, get whisked through tunnels at breakneck speed, and emerge at your destination (or, in our case, the station before our destination – but that’s a different story).
The roads are slow, especially if you’re on a jerky red bus that has seen much better days. You see a lot, but don’t experience any. If you’re lucky, there’s a guy with a microphone passing on little bits of information about this building or that statue as you cruise on by.
The walk. The walk is hot. The walk is slow. The walk is tiring – but – you get immersed in the little bit of the world around you – and – you don’t get stopped by roadworks.