Late morning in La Belle province and it was already fabulously warm and humid. I can hardly believe it is May in Canada and that I have already found where spring has been hiding. When I was waking to the airport yesterday from the parking lot it was down right frigid, -12 Celsius, with the windchill. In May. Yes you heard me right, windchill in May. Most places in the US and eastern Canada are concerned with the humidex, what the temperature feels like fracturing in the humidity, but not Calgary. Ugh!! Oh and did I mention it had snowed at home over night? Yup, in May. Thankfully I could leave the dogsled at home as there was just a skiff of snow left dusting the ground by the time I drove to the airport. Now, where was I? Right! humidity in Montreal. Unfortunately, I had washed my hair not two hours ago. I just love how the water actually makes the shampoo foam up like it is SUPPOSED TO in other cities. The water back home is so hard it takes half a bottle of bubble bath to make a few bubbles and you still wouldn’t have enough to cover your naughty bits all Hollywood style if someone burst in on your bath.
Humidity?! Well the unfortunate part of just having washed my hair is that in humidity like this, which is nothing compared to what it is like in the summer, my hair turns in to an unmanageable puff ball. I am akin to a q-tip with legs. Getting my unruly locks in to the required bun for work is pretty much impossible.
The heat had started to make the streets smell like city streets do in the summer, like rubbish. Montreal isn’t the cleanest of Canadian cities either. The sidewalks today were lined with refuse, or déchets as it is called in French, and cigarette butts are dotting the pavement like flowers in a park. I walked down the streets through the throngs of people out enjoying the weather after a particularly awful winter out east. My destination was place des arts. The square that is home to festivals, a water feature and many people enjoying the sun in the summer.
The square is a great place to bring a bite to eat, sit and people watch.
I caught the metro from place des arts on the green line to Atwater. The metro is very easy to use as it is all colour coded like London, England. The only snag I saw was when the person manning the ticket wicket went on break all the signs were in French only, rightfully as it is Quebec. One gentleman was having a hard time figuring out where to buy a ticket as he could not read the sign taped to the window explaining, purchases are to be made at the automated kiosk. It should not deter anyone from using the system as otherwise it is straight forward and all is required is a little observation and situational awareness. Had the man looked around he would have quickly found the line of 15 people buying tickets at the only machine. It was actually the only thing in the entrance way other than the turnstiles and ticket wicket, again all it would have taken was a little observation. The trains were moving quickly and often. There was plenty of room on the metro as it was not a peak time of travel. Instead of changing trains and spending more time underground, I opted to walk straight down Atwater Street to the Market.
The Stanley cup playoffs in hockey have just started. The Montreal Canadiens fans were out en masse to show their support and colours of their fidelity, red, white and blue. Hockey is very important in Montreal. There is a lot of hometown pride for “the Habs” playing the Ottawa Senators. The streets bustled with a youthful vibrancy I find Montreal to be overflowing with. It was about a 10 minute walk to the Atwater Market, one of four markets in the city. The largest and I am told cheapest for veggies and fruit is Jean Talon. Atwater is a little pricier an is known more for it’s selection of meats. Early may isn’t really the best time to be visiting the markets. The makeshift walls had come off signalling an end to winter and the flower stalls that may flowers bring were in the process of being set up. I wandered the permanent store chockablock with cheeses, pastries and chocolate. The smells were divine from the baked goods. Nothing quite like a fresh French croissant to tempt me. The permanent stores are housed in an art deco style building that is a core of this 75 year old market. The clock tower, which has never properly kept time despite numerous attempts at fixing it, is undergoing a facelift. I missed catching it’s splendour on camera as a result. Juxtaposed across from the fresh farmer’s style market is a chain supermarket with it’s rock bottom prices and imported produce. I perused it’s aisle for a few minutes as I was looking for a specific item to bring home, packets of St. Hubert’s sauces. The quebecois fast food chain make really good chicken sauces available in Ontario and Quebec grocers. My next stop was a SLQ, the provincially regulated liquor store. You can buy certain kinds of alcohol, wine and beer primarily, in grocery stores and depanneurs (corner stores). The “harder” alcohols are available in the SLQ stores. I was stopping to grab a few locally brewed beers to add to my collection at home.
Upon feeling the rumble of lunch time I made my way to Rue Notre-Dame Ouest (Notre dame street west). It is reminiscent of a high street in European cities shoppes and eateries side by side. In Calgary it reminds me of the Inglewood or Kensington areas. N-D was filled with sidewalk cafes, restaurants, antique stores and the out if place looking store to buy uniforms. I window shopped and glanced at menus until I found a cafe with an open table at the window. Most of the restaurants downtown have window walls that slide out of place like those in New York eateries. Instant patio seating yet shielded from the rain and breezes should there be one. The cafe I had picked was Toi et Moi Café. It was okay. I wasn’t overly impressed and would probably not go back again. I found the tables dirty, food selection was okay but the delivered product was not well described in either language. The side salad was a cup of lettuce and too much balsamic vinaigrette and the grilled sandwich was overly greasy. Not the best food experience i have had in Montreal. Another irritant is that I came in and spoke only french to the server, sat reading a French novel and he decided halfway through the meal to only address me in English. Very irritating. I have worked very hard my whole life to speak French I was offended.