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Montréal: In Which VanRamblings Travelogues For You

Montréal Science Centre pond

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.

Montréal's Notre Dame Basilica

We'll begin the travelogue portion of this post with the ...

  • Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal: Pictured above, created in 1824, the Notre Dame Basilica has long been considered to be one of the crown jewels in Québec's rich religious heritage. Most famous these days for the several hundred weddings that take place at the Basilique each year (Céline Dion was married here in 1994), sad to say, as there were weddings going on each of the days we visited, we were unable to access the interior of the Basilica. This photo from the web will have to do. Still and all, the Basilique was quite a stunning sight to behold.

  • Rue Saint Catherine: Home to Complexe Desjardins, a skycraper complex; the Place des Arts, a prestigious music venue; and the
    Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
    , Rue Sainte-Catherine is also a shopping mecca where shops like the Gap, Old Navy, Ogilvy and Holt Renfrew may be found. Sainte-Catherine's is also considered to be the gay district of Montréal, and according to the folks at the tourist bureau, it's also 'home' to the homeless. Great to visit during the day, at night the street tends to the unsavoury, with drug dealers and gangs taking over the area. Hordes of people, daylight; avoid at night.

We'll leave writing about Old Montréal and Chinatown til Wednesday, a kind of wrap up post for our stay in Québec. Towards week's end we'll publish a Flickr slideshow of a hundred or so photos of Montréal and Québec City. We've also got some video we'll upload and post over the next 10 days.

Amphi Tours of Montréal

Although VanRamblings was unable to secure a seat on the Hop-On Hop-Off Double Decker Montréal Bus Tour on Sunday, all was not lost when we ran across Montréal's Amphi Tours, which we just stumbled upon when riding our Bixi bike down Rue de la Commune towards Vieux Montréal.

A young man named Sammy (say, 19 ans) was the tremendously engaging host / narrator for the tour, full of fun facts about Vieux Montréal, among them — the old women's prison is now an upscale restaurant; also, founded in 1821, McGill University is named after James McGill, a Montréal fur trader, while McGill Street is named after Peter McGill, a prominent businessman who became Montréal's second mayor (Eastern Canada), the city's first English mayor, who served his term from 1840 - 1842.

What a great delight, too, to dip into the St. Lawrence, as the amphibious vehicle in which we were travelling on passed by Moshe Safdie's famous Expo 67 Habitat 67. For $32, the hour and a half Amphi Tour proved to be fun and educational, and comes highly recommended from these quarters.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at August 15, 2011 9:01 AM in Montréal 2011


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