August 18, 2011
Although the Flickr slideshow presentation above is not, as yet, complete, we'll offer somewhere in the neighbourhood of 70+ pictures as an interim photo instalment, covering our glorious, fulfilling 8-day sojourn to Montréal.
In the coming days, we'll add another 30 - 50 photos to the slideshow, so check in early next week for a more expansive presentation.
(For optimal viewing, you may want to take the slideshow full screen).
August 17, 2011
First thing in the morning, all VanRamblings wants is un café and a bit of breakfast. But where to do that cheaply and well in Montréal? Turns out that one can find your not-so-run-of-the-mill greasy spoon breakfast on Rue Milton, west of Avenue du Parc, a charming little bistro called Le Place Milton (a photo of the interior included in tomorrow's Flickr slideshow).
Following a great bacon and eggs petit-dejeuner, we hopped back on our Bixi, planning to head up to Mont Royal, when a thunderous rain storm came out of nowhere and just drenched us. Soaking wet (but warm), we made our way to our residence, changed and shot the following video ...
Soon enough, though, the weather changed back to the expected hot and sunny conditions, and off we were on our Bixi to explore Montréal.
We headed over to Mont Royal (almost all up hill), but thought better of hiking up the mountain to see the sights, so - as our vacation wends to a satisfactory close - we decided to simply spend the late morning / afternoon riding around town, down the backstreets, the neighbourhoods and main thoroughfares, from Mont Royal in the north through to all the streets south to Rue Sherbrooke, from Rue Saint Denis to the quieter Rue Saint Urbain, to the bustling Rue Saint-Laurent, and finally 'home'.
Of course, we stopped off for a cooling raspberry frappé, surfed the 'Net on our iPhone, took in the sights, and enjoyed a momentary rest.
Late afternoon saw VanRamblings headed towards downtown, riding our Bixi south and west towards old Montréal. Early evening found us, once again, at Dunn's Famous, where we supped on a smoked meat sandwich (they're succulent and delicious). The remainder of our day, prior to taking to bed at night, was spent making preparations for our triumphant return to the west coast where, of course, convivial plans are already in the works for VanRamblings to be fêted by our many friends and supporters.
Come on back tomorrow for a preliminary Flickr slideshow presentation, with more than 70 photos, covering everywhere from old Montréal and Chinatown, to Schwarz's Deli and Dunn's Famous, and a great deal more.
August 16, 2011
Even prior to our leaving Vancouver, VanRamblings had set aside Monday, August 15th for our sojourn to Québec City. You'll want to take the Flickr slideshow above to fullscreen mode to truly appreciate the travelogue.
Originally, we'd planned to stay overnight in Québec City, allowing us to roam to our heart's content, but the 'real life' considerations of which we have written previously played into our decision to make it a somewhat leaner visit than had previously been planned. In point of fact, though, we had an exceptionally good time, managing during our brief stay to take in everything we wanted to see, experiencing Québec City to its fullest.
We arose from an all-too-brief slumber at 5 a.m., made our way to the VIA Rail station by 6:30 a.m., boarding the train. By 7:10 a.m. were peacefully rolling on our way to Québec City for a 10:26 a.m. arrival time. The journey by train was uneventful, and relaxing (we just love train travel).
Upon our arrival and after disembarking from the train, we trudged up a very colline escarpée towards Rue Saint-Jean du Vieux Québec, closed off for pedestrians weekday evenings, weekends and holidays (although there were no vehicles on the rue during our midday visit). The warm, exquisite ambiance of the street allows passers-by to enjoy a unique shopping experience, while the many restaurants operate terraces which serve to showcase the 18th-century historical architectural to good advantage.
While exploring Vieux Québec, we overheard a couple planning a bus tour later in the day. Good idea! Next thing we knew, the Chateau Frontenac lay before our very eyes, and we were beckoned to book passage on an altogether comfy and air-conditioned 20-seat tour bus, as our garrulous driver / narrator Roland regaled us with enchanting tales of Vieux Québec.
During the two-hour tour, alighting at stops along the way, we visited l'Avenue Cartier, le Grande-Allée, La Citadel, le Vieux-Port du Québec, the Plains of Abraham, the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the Quartier Petit Champlain, the Parliament Buildings, le Jardin Saint-Roch, le Fontaine de Tourny, le Parc de l'Artillerie, le Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, and more, many more sites! We were thrilled, and had a great time!
As far as possible, we covered most of what we experienced during our stay in Québec City with our Panasonic Lumix FZ-28, the results of which may be found in the Flickr slideshow at the top of today's posting.
August 15, 2011
During our eight day stay in Québec, so as not to disappoint our constant reader, and to get all out of our vacation sojourn that we might, we have packed in as much as possible 'to do' during our time in la belle province.
St. Catherine's Street. Check. Old Montréal. Check. Schwarz's Deli and Dunn's Famous. Check, and double-check. Montréal Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanique de Montréal). Covered that and Saint Denis already.
Basilique Notre-Dame. Well, kind of. Québec City. That's coming today, with a report tomorrow. Mont Royal? Will ride my Bixi bike there on Tuesday. May, or may not, get to St. Joseph's Oratory. Between trips on the Métro all over town and getting off at stations to explore various neighbourhoods, 8 - 10 kilometres of walking each day, bus rides galore, and now riding on my Bixi bike all over creation, for what is in reality a relatively brief stay in Québec, we believe we've covered a great deal and, overall, feel quite satisfied with what our experience of la belle province.
Sunday was the day we'd set aside for the Hop-On Hop-Off Double Decker Montréal Bus Tour, which would assure us that at least we'd get to most sites on our 'must-see' list while visiting in Montréal. Alas it was not to be. We couldn't get hold of the office either Saturday or Sunday, nor could we confirm a reservation online. C'est la vie; sometimes these things happen.
Instead, VanRamblings opted to 'rent' a Bixi bike (you may want to change the language at the top to English on the website) for a 72-hour period. Bixi is a public bicycle sharing system available in Montréal's central core. Users rent a bike employing a 'subscriber key' obtained from a 24-hour a day touchscreen-operated pay station (employing a credit card): $5 for one day, $12 for three days, $28 per month or $78 annually.
A 'no extra charge time period' covers the first 30 minutes on every individual trip. An unlimited number of such included trips are covered per subscription period. A trip that lasts longer than the 'no-charge time period' incurs additional charges, on an increasing price scale: $1.50 for an extra 30 minutes, $3 for 60-90 minutes, and $6 each subsequent 30-minute period (the increasing price scale is intended to keep the bikes in circulation). Given that there are 400+ stations, it doesn't prove too much of an inconvenience to park your bike at a station, and after two minutes, recharge use of the bike for another 30-minute period at no extra charge.
Onto the travelogue portion of this Monday morning VanRamblings post.
August 14, 2011
Saturday was a scorcher all day, with daytime temperatures ranging from 27° C to 32° C, Saturday somewhat more humid than we'd experienced earlier in the week, although a cooling breeze off the St. Lawrence provided some respite from the effects of sun, which beat down relentlessly from early morning through early evening. Still, as 2011 in Vancouver brought about the bummer summer, VanRamblings felt quite alright throughout the day, as we got our first taste of a 'real hot summer', and all that entails.
As in our previous post, we'll address issues in point form. Here goes ...
- PC blues: VanRamblings brought along our 14" Toshiba laptop so that we might post memories of our visit to Montréal. Wouldn't you know it, PC 'glitches' abounded in our first couple of days: 1) we couldn't connect to McGill's computer network, so had to use our iPhone 3G; 2) our video editing software, Windows Live Movie Maker, failed just as we were ready to publish yesterday's video, and because we hadn't saved the video, we lost two hours work; 3) the screen orientation on our PC went kablooey; and, 4) our Movable Type blogging software has proved glitchy, troublesome and unresponsive. Problem 1 was resolved by a visit to McGill Tech Support, at 688 Rue Sherbrooke, Room 285, late Friday morning. We're hoping Problem 2 will be resolved with a download of the latest version of Microsoft's video editing software. Problem 3 was resolved following a Google search. And Problem 4 may be occurring as a consequence of our rather infrequent posting of late, which has caused us (perhaps) to forget some of the lessons we've taught ourself about how MT's html functions best.
On to VanRamblings' glorious, hot and perspiring Saturday, after the jump.
August 13, 2011
Wending our way into a second full day in Montréal, having had two good night's rest, we are once again feeling energized and ready to explore the Québécois city where we will reside for the next six days.
Today's posting will seek to provide cursory impressions gleaned during our first 48 hours in Montréal, glancing observations under the Montréal sun, perhaps not particularly insightful, but not devoid of value, rather a wholly subjective take. Make of what follows what you will. Of course, there may be a bit of the travelogue, words about the Métro and the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, about Dunn's Famous and Royal Victoria College residence.
So, without further ado, let's get today's VanRamblings posting underway, as we tackle Montréal in point form, covering a whole gamut of topics ...
- Royal Victoria College Residence: Call us parsimonious if you will, but when travelling and on vacation, VanRamblings has long made arrangements to reside on a university campus in the city of our destination. Royal Victoria College Residence is but one example. Last year, we spent about a week in total at Dalhousie University's Howe Hall. And, why not? Daily rates are only $45, a comfy bed in a spacious dorm room, wifi at the ready, centrally located, friendly students to serve your every need, professors participating in symposia, and young, energetic and friendly travelling students residing in groups. And, did I mention that there are family rates for family groupings? What's not to like? Inexpensive, fun, if you're not Harrison Ford or Brian Mulroney, residing at a university while on vacation is the way to go!
August 12, 2011
Arising a bit late on our birthday morning, this after getting in late from our 13-hour journey from Vancouver to Montréal, and unpacking and readying ourself for sleep, subsequent to posting yesterday's entry from our McGill Royal Victoria College Residence dorm room, VanRamblings made our way over to Saint-Denis in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood.
According to Wikipedia ...
The Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood takes its name from its location on relatively flat terrain north of Sherbrooke Street and downtown Montréal, and is located just east of Mont-Royal. Formerly a working-class neighbourhood, with the Eastern part being largely Québécois, and the Western part largely Jewish, the neighbourhood was the childhood home of Québec writers Michel Tremblay and Mordecai Richler where both have set stories in the Plateau of the 1950s and 60s.
Characterized by brightly-coloured houses, cafés, book shops, and a laissez-faire attitude, and home to Schwartz's Deli (famous for its Montreal smoked meat), and a weekend street fair during the summer that sees extremely crowded streets, in 1997, Utne Reader rated it one of the 15 "hippest" neighbourhoods in North America.
Due to its proximity to McGill University, in the 1980s the area's bohemian aura attracted gentrification, the area now home to upscale restaurants, nightclubs, and any number of trendy clothing stores that have taken their place along this strip of St-Laurent and St-Denis.
When considering the Plateau Mont-Royal neighourhood along Saint Denis, think Kitsilano's West 4th Avenue, in the area over by Caper's and Brown's Social, mixed with Robson Street, and you won't be far off the mark.
While ambling along Saint-Denis, we stopped in our for birthday Starbucks coffee (free!... a grande caramel frappucino), a breakfast sandwich, and surfed the 'Net on our iPhone. Now rested and sated, we next meandered towards downtown, and finding a nearby Métro station we employed our newly acquired STM card ($16 for unlimited travel for three days, a good idea BC's Translink should implement), landing nearby the gigantic Cinéma Banque Scotia Montréal, where we took in a 3 p.m. screening of The Help, the much buzzed about potential multiple Oscar nominee.
Set in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, The Help, Tate Taylor's adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestseller, tracks the stories of three women (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone), and their contemporaries, each of the three women attempting to come to terms with life in the deeply racist Deep South. An outstanding and emotionally wrenching film, and just the sort of moving, intellectually enlightening film VanRamblings would wish to see on our birthday, The Help's tough historical subject matter is occasionally leavened with humour. By movie's end there wasn't a dry eye in the (surprisingly packed) house, including those of VanRamblings.
VanRamblings is glad that we brought along our handkerchief.
After the film, we wandered around downtown for a bit, finding our way along Rue Sherbrooke, back to our McGill University 'resting place'.
For dinner we walked along Sherbrooke (and took the bus along St. Laurent) to Schwarz's Deli, where we enjoyed a humungous and authentic smoked meat sandwich. After dinner we took the Rachel bus back to Saint Denis, wandering the streets til just after 11 p.m., when we decided to take the Métro to the McGill station on Rue University, after which we made it 'home' by around 11:30 p.m. We were kind of tuckered, so read our Kindle for awhile — we're 24% of the way through New Yorker and Vanity Fair columnist Ken Auletta's altogether tremendous Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, a much-appreciated present from a friend.
By 1 a.m., we were truly ready for bed, and surprisingly, once again, we slept the sleep of angels right through to mid-to-late morning.
August 11, 2011
Thank you to one and all friends for the attendant and hearty Facebook congratulations in celebration of VanRamblings' august 61st birthday. Such warmly expressed salutations are appreciated, as anyone who is familiar with the inimitable and gregarious Mr. Know-It-All has long realized.
Although we've truncated our stay in Montréal — due to pesky real-life, if you will, considerations — this is, after all, our most anticipated celebratory birthday (today!), and despite those 'real-life' considerations we have every intention of enjoying ourselves during our 8-day stay in la belle province.
We will set about to explore Montréal, duly recording our experiences on photo and video (the photos due for a Flickr slideshow presentation mid-week next week). As we have not had our morning coffee, after the jump we will briefly — the term 'briefly' constituting a relative term when it comes to describing VanRamblings' perambulations, he of 'long of wind' and an adherent to the philosophy, "Why employ 100 words when 1000 deliciously exploratory observations will satisfy just nicely, thank you." — relate the events of yesterday, and today's early morning hours.
Steady yourself. Up next, we'll explore our August 10th Montréal flight.
August 10, 2011
If it is 9 a.m. and you are reading this first travel post covering our journey to Montréal, we are somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, aboard WestJet Flight 366 (on a Boeing 737-800, seated near the front of the plane beside a window, in seat 6F), heading towards Toronto, where (the gods willing) we'll arrive at 3:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time, before continuing what will be our Québec adventure. We will arrive in Montréal at 5:10 p.m.
VanRamblings has brought along two cameras: our trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ28 and our somewhat newer Canon Powershot Elph 300 HS, both of which shoot photos and video in glorious HD. Over the course of the next 8 days we hope to record anecdotal photos and video of our experience in la belle province. Yes, we're going to take in the sights: old Montréal; the world famous Schwarz's Deli (hey, VanRamblings is Jewish; oy vey, like we're not going to partake of an authentic smoked meat sandwich); the Notre-Dame Basilica; and ... well, you're just going to have to come back to VanRamblings either later tonight or tomorrow morning for a couple of photos, and maybe, just maybe, a brief, illustrious and spectacular video.