Stymied by the weather upon my early afternoon arrival in Montreal my plans went out the window. It was a warm day but a rainy one. I had intended to head down to the largest of the outdoor Markets, Jean Talon, which would have been open but I didn’t have any desire to shop for produce and plants in a downpour. Instead I wandered one of the plethora of indoor city centre shopping malls. Complexe Desjardins has quite a few of my favourite stores, including San Francisco. I window shopped but after my last Montreal layover and Los Angeles spending spree I was on a spending moratorium. This did not stop me from selecting one of my favourite greens from the grocer and some local beer to bring home to stock my fridge with for summer BBQs. This time I chose St. Ambroise, and their Apricot Wheat Beer. I equate apricots to summer and thought it would be a perfect summer flavour for my friends, also wheat beers are very popular at the moment.
I bought fiddleheads too, Tetes de violons or Crosse de fougere as they are known in French, a super yummy fern that has a short harvest season around early spring. The “vegetables” should be cooked and washed properly according to Health Canada Guidelines. I like buying them in Montreal and Ottawa as they are usually cheaper and easier to get than back in Calgary and I find they are fresher. I also stocked up on French magazines. I love the cooking magazine, Ricardo, by local Montreal culinary star Ricardo L’Arrivee. There used to be an English version available but I have always preferred the French copies as it helps me maintain my reading skills.
The rain subsided whilst I was shopping so I decided to wander the Place des Arts and Quartier des Spectacles area of downtown. Recently a friend of mine on Facebook had posted pictures of herself on a giant swing set art installment. Her pictures drove me to seek out the interactive exhibit. I eventually stumbled upon 21 balancoires (21 swings) on Boulevard de Maisonneuve between Rue Jeanne-Mance and Rue Saint-Urbain. The swings are set up in 7 groups of three 3, each of those three swings are different instrument sounds. I am not quite certain what the three instruments used are, other than a harp, possibly a guitar. The gentleman who was in charge of overseeing the safety of the swings could not remember what the instruments where other than that of the harp. He noted that each of the 7 groups has one of each of the 3 instruments and each group is a slightly different tone than the other groups. If all 21 swings are swung in synchronicity a beautiful song is played. Equally if a set of 3 is worked in unison they too create a beautiful piece of music. Part of the fun of this art piece is that it is interactive. It is not children as one would expect on the swings marvelling in the ability to make music with strangers instead it is tourists, locals, business men and women in suits. Watching the adults playing as though they were children at a school playground brought a smile to my lips. The amusement on their faces as they flew through the city skies forgetting the pressures of adult life is unmistakeable. The sheer joy that illuminates their expressions when they realise that the swings are musical and that they are making music is clearly visible. Watching men in ties explore their long lost creative youth as they try and sync their swings up to those of teens and seniors next to them is magical. As is when they discover that if the sets of three move in together you get a beautiful set of notes. There is something fantastically brilliant about an art installment that lets everyone rediscover working together and a second childhood. The swings are on their third showing which is set to close on June 2nd, so if you are in the area I highly recommend them, if not keeping checking the Quartier des Spectacles website as they may make another appearance.
From there I wandered around the Place des Arts people watching and taking in the fresh smell of a recently showered city. I love how the rain makes a city feel clean. I don’t love how the high humidity make wearing a jacket impossible despite a chilling breeze the rain brought. On Rue St Catherine’s I noticed they have a St. Hubert’s Rotisserie. If you are down there and are looking for somewhere to eat I would suggest going in to the mall and getting it as take away and bringing it out to the seating areas of the square. St Hubert’s is known for its chicken and sauce. They have rotisserie chicken on its own, in salads or in sandwiches too. They also feature fries which are best with their special chicken sauce. There is a St. Hubert Express at the airport before you go through security, too if you miss this one. While very popular in Quebec it can be found in certain eastern Canadian provinces.
My mouth watered as I passed the restaurant as it was getting close to dinner time. I had to head back to the hotel to meet up with one of my crew members and go for dinner together. Not feeling the walk back to Place des Arts as it was beginning to rain again, we asked the concierge for a recommendation on healthy eating near our hotel. He wasn’t too sure about healthy choices other than a popular vegetarian restaurant a bit of a walk from our abode. He did however suggest a small Indian place with authentic food about a short distance from where we were. We thought it sounded fantastic and headed out in search of the place he recommended armed with a map. Ten minutes to the concierge and what we considered a short walk were two completely different things. After quite a while, and much farther than we thought, probably only a good 15 minutes, but in our state of hunger it seemed much, much farther we came to our destination. Although I would swear the walk back was only five minutes. We easily found the restaurant, Thali Cuisine Indienne, on Rue St. Marc downtown between Rue St. Catherine’s and Boulevard de Maisonneuve. To say the place was small was an overstatement, it was minuscule. With less than a dozen tables, and food counter the place was cramped. You order first at the till and move down to pick up your food at a display counter. They accept cash, debit and credit but minimum purchase amount are required if you are paying with plastic. We both chose a Thali combo, 2 choices of meat dishes, a vegetable dish, small salad, rice, naan and a poppadum, I added on a tin of pop and it came to $10.51. A great deal for the amount of food we were served.
I had chosen the butter chicken, which came as a disappointingly small portion, chicken curry and palak paneer (a spinach cheese dish) each of the latter two came as hearty helpings. The butter chicken was good but the other two choices were amazingly delicious. With all that food on my metal plate I don’t know why I was disappointed with how much butter chicken I received. I ended up taking half of my food to go anyway as the total portion was huge. We got there at the right time as there were quite a few parties leaving freeing up tables, another 3 minutes and we would have been lined up to the street in the pouring rain. For those patrons there was little choice but to get the food to go as all the tables were packed. The restaurant has a large and diverse clientele but there appeared to be a lot of university age students frequenting the establishment. This should come as no surprise as McGill was nearby as is Crescent Street, a popular road for Montreal nightlife. I was extraordinarily happy with the recommendation we had received about Thali and look forward to eating there again.
The walk back to the hotel seemed a lot briefer as our bellies were full and we had an idea of where we were going now. Passing by one street we came upon a flash mob performance. As we crossed the street we could not really get close to it to see much but it sounded as though it was amusing the quickly amassed crowd. The rest of the walk back to the hotel was uneventful as is more typical.