You know, I really don’t enjoy looking for food. I’d much rather someone else provided it to me and I didn’t have to think. Trying to decide on where to go for three meals each day is not my idea of fun. In fact, it’s stressful. And, despite what you might think, the prices here are not cheap. Not when you factor in 13% tax and minimum 15% tip. Consequently, nearly every meal we’ve had in Montreal has been expensive.
We went for breakfast around the corner, where I had an omelette and Glen had two fried eggs with a cinnamon brioche. It was all ok and thankfully it was nearby and we didn’t have to trudge for miles to find anything. Today (Monday) is a public holiday so we’re not yet certain how much is open on public holidays in Canada, not to mention, what is open before 10am.
We caught the train to Pie-IX to go to the Jardin Botanique. It’s right next to the Olympic stadium, which we walked past to get there. Out the front there is a prize-winners podium with the rings. We took some photos and then a couple took some of us as well. The guy is from Philadelphia while the woman is from Leigh-on-Sea. That was trippy. Of all the places in England to come from, she came from there. She’s lived in Philly for 20-something years though so her accent is a little mixed.
When we went through the gates of the Jardin Botanique we went left while everyone went right. We didn’t realise we had to buy tickets and being one of the busiest days of the year for the gardens, there was a queue about half an hour long. We tried to book tickets online while in queue, which the sign said would take five minutes, but due to everyone else trying, it kept timing out and was actually easier to line up.
I’m kind of glad we did because that meant we got to be entertained by their roving actor, dressed like an explorer and doing little skits with people in the queue (either in French or English). He pretended to interview people and asking them how to defend themselves against deadly plants, or had a picnic in the queue with one of the girls and tell her how many children he wanted to have. It was really enjoyable and made the time go faster.
The gardens are huge and stretch on forever. We missed probably half of it (which was basically a forest). The bits we did see were gardens organised along various themes such as rose gardens, Japanese gardens, medicinal plants, orchards etc. There was also an insectarium that we went in. Glen and I made each other’s skin crawl by running our fingers up each other’s necks, pretending there were spiders crawling on us. There were a couple of really big tarantulas which looked almost cuddly.
The real highlight of the visit were 48 topiaries of the Mosaïcultures Internationals Montréal 2013, a three-yearly display that takes place in a different country each year. They were dotted throughout the park and each one was a work of art. Some of them were huge and there were moments where I just stood in awe. My favourites were Mother Earth, A True Story! (girl with cranes), The Man Who Planted Trees (man, dog, sheep, goats and horses) and Planting Plane Trees to Attract the Phoenix. But all of them were stunning for the story they told, the detail they possessed and the skill with which they were created. I was so glad we got to see it and it has been the real highlight of the trip.
After three hours or so, we needed food (again!). We set off down the road to a restaurant that was no longer there. We then walked around the block, in almost a complete circle, before finding a cafe where we could eat and sit down. Our legs were pretty sore by this point and it was nice to rest.
We then went to the Biodome, which is part of the Olympic Stadium. It was originally the velodrome but has been converted into a temperature-controlled, indoor zoo. There are four areas inside (tropical rainforest, maple tree forest, sub-polar regions and gulf of St Laurence). Each one was a masterpiece in indoor plantings with different animals species in each (over 4,500 in total). They were quite impressive mixed exhibits. In the tropical one there was a sloth (which we couldn’t see), Golden Lion Tamarins, Cotton-top Tamarins, a big capybara and macaws. In others there were porcupines, beavers (didn’t see them), penguins, puffins and a bunch of other animals.
Unfortunately, there were so many people there and it’s not that easy to stop and enjoy the space. We only stayed about an hour but that was enough. It was starting to feel a bit like work as I checked out how they presented their interpretation and what the visitor flow was like.
We returned to the hotel for a few hours and then in the evening we headed to Boulevard St-Laurent to find food. Caught a bus to one end of the street and then walked down it, not finding somewhere suitable. We then turned off the street, went to a place called Mia Casa. Food was ok. Service wasn’t all that crash hot. And it was too expensive for what we got. Walked through a park, stopped somewhere for dessert, then ambled back to the hotel.