page one of three
Tracey, Joshua and I had our summer holiday in Montreal, Canada, taking in the year's annual world science fiction convention. This page has pictures from our holiday. The second page has pictures from the convention itself. The third page is my beer drinking diary. Links to the other two pages are at the bottom.
31 July-16 August 2009
Tracey, Joshua and I arrived safely in Montreal last night, though the journey was a bit mixed. Getting to London on the train was OK but then the tube journey was horrible. It was packed, hot and sweaty, which didn't put us in a good mood when we got to Terminal Five. I've never been to T5 before, and I wasn't impressed. Sure, it was bright and spacious, but it was also noisy and crowded. After a couple of abortive attempts, we found a table with a comfy chair and proceeded to have beer, coke and tea. We met a nice Belgian woman who was happy to play Connect 4 with Joshua.
The plane journey was much as you'd expect apart from when we booked our seats on line we chose the back row so there would be nobody behind us to disturb us, but even though our seat numbers were right, an extra row had appeared behind us. In front of us were a couple of kids who kept pushing their seat right back and then bouncing around.
It is a long time since I've flown British Airways, and the food has improved a lot since then. No complaints at all on that score. They even had Fullers London Pride, albeit in cans. The back-of-seat inflight entertainment was dated in that everything still had fixed start times rather than the ones were you can start them at will, as on many planes. The choice was also very limited, and the games channel didn't work at all; apparently that's for business class and above.
We arrived at Montreal airport on time, but then the queue for immigration was unbelievable, followed by smaller queues for customs and the taxis. From plane landing to us being in a taxi took over two hours.
We got to our hotel quite late and then were upset to find that the beds hadn't been made up. These things happen sometimes, but it was frustrating because we were all very tired and just wanted to settle down. It took them about half an hour to sort that all out and then Joshua was hungry, so I phoned room service to get him some chips but found the restaurant had closed ten minutes earlier. However, after a bit of pleading, they agreed to make him a plate of chips.
Wireless internet was Cd$4.95 for 24 hours, so not a ripoff.
We decided to have our first explore of Montreal by walking from our hotel to where the Worldcon will be held later in the week to see how far it was. We stopped off at a cafe on the way and Joshua had his first ever croissant.
We also looked round an Eskimo souvenir shop.
And we passed this statue:
The convention venue is almost exactly a mile from the hotel, which is fine. There seemed to be something going on there as there were a lot of people wearing manga type costumes. The venue is just north of the Montreal old town, which is where we went next. There are some lovely old streets crammed with shops and restaurants. We headed for the water side and had another break at the intriguingly named Cafe Arsenik, outside of which was a strange sculpture.
The same area had a park with a small lake. This is a picture of Tracey and Joshua on the bridge over the lake:
We then went in search of a bar I'd read about on the internet called La Petit Moulinsart, but it was closed. Apparently it doesn't open till 5.30pm, so we decided to leave that for another day, but we never did get back to it.
Our next stop in the old town was an excellent goth shop (La Table Ronde, 122 Rue St-Paul Ouest), with costumes, and ornaments and mirrors and so on. We were taken by a skull water feature but it would weigh too much to take back with us. While walking round the old town, I took this picture catching our reflections in a window and the following one of an odd looking statue:
We also spotted people travelling by horse and cart:
So we decided to finish our first visit to the old town with a tour by horse and cart. Our driver was a real nutter, telling us lots of improbable stories about the places we passed. He even told us had Robert de Niro had been in the back of his cart.
Below is a picture of Place Jacques-Cartier, the main square in the old town:
We then went back to the hotel and spent an hour playing in the hotel's rooftop swimming pool.
After a rest in the hotel, the plan for the evening was to visit some of the bars that I planned to include in Wednesday night's pre-convention pub crawl. However, the combination of having 13-year-old Joshua with us and the Saturday night busieness meant that the bars were not really suitable, so that plan was abandoned for the night. Instead, we got Joshua something to eat in a Subway and then the three of us headed for Montreal's rather small Chinatown so Tracey and I could eat.
We found a really nice downstairs Chinese restaurant, which is also quite close to the convention centre. The restaurant is called Le Pavillon Nanpic, and the address is 75 La Gauchetiere West. The food was lovely and the staff were really friendly. It did though mean that my first beer in Canada was the Chinese beer TsingTao. Joshua made this man called Fred out of the paper used to wrap the chopsticks:
Once fed, we spent an hour or so wandering around the old town and along one of the piers before catching a taxi back to the hotel. In the old town, there was a jazz band playing in the street and I bought one of their CDs.
The CD is Nature Boy by Denis Chang & Fleche D'Or. When we got back, Joshua was a bit over tired so Tracey suggested I let her settle him down while I go and have a drink, which I did in the hotel bar, more of which on page three (see link at bottom of page).
Day two in Montreal, and it rained. The weather forecast promised scattered thunderstorms, but instead we have had constant, steady hard rain. We thus decided to explore Montreal Below. Many of the shops have shopping areas below ground and these are linked by tunnels so you can actually walk for miles around the city without going above ground. So that is what we did.
Joshua bought a basic and extension pack of Werewolves cards, in French.
As it was still raining, the three of us ate that night at the hotel restaurant.
Joshua has chicken wings, which were a little too hot and spicy for his tastes, and Tracey had a milder chicken dish. I went for a giant cheeseburger.
Tracey and Joshua then went to bed but I was too awake so I went for a night cap at Peel Pub at 1196 Peel Street, more of which on page three (see link at bottom of page).
The day started with a walk to 1,000,000 Comics, a comic shop on Rue Pierre. While they had a lot of comics, I don't think they were anywhere near a million. It is quite a small shop with comics in boxes in the middle and action figures hanging from the walls. Joshua used his daily allowance on two action figures, one from Family Guy and a really cool dragon thing from World of Warcraft.
We saw this mural on the way back:
We also noticed that Montreal seemed to have a lot of fire engines.
We then went to see the hotel about upgrading our room. We felt a bit cramped in the room we were in, but there was nothing we could do over the weekend because the hotel was full but yesterday they managed to find us a bigger room with two separate bedrooms, so we enjoyed the extra space.
In the afternoon, we went for a walk down to the dockside.
Tracey was a bit tired in the early evening so she went for a lie down. I used the opportunity to walk the pub crawl I'm organising on Wednesday evening to see how far it is between the pubs. I have a five-pub crawl planned and I popped into three of them for a swift half.
This morning, we took the metro down to the dockside and had breakfast - pancakes and maple syrup, it had to be done.
We then went on the Amphi-Bus. This is a bus and a boat. The tour starts round old Montreal with the tour guide pointing out historical sites and then drives into the water and sails up the river with the guide pointing out other sites. It takes just over an hour and is a nice way to see some of the city.
Tracey wasn't feeling too well in the afternoon, so she had a lie down and then we went for something to eat in the hotel restaurant. The food was quite good, and Tracey cheered up as we all played charades in the hotel bar, much to the amusement of some other guests. We witnessed a little bit of drama as a bunch of Americans argued loudly with the bar manager and then the hotel manager about some cock up with their reservation. Later, we asked the barman what it was all about and apparently they thought they'd reserved the comfy seats we were sitting in and the barman refused to throw us out of them so they could sit down.
Tracey was much cheered up and went to bed early, tired but happy. I went out for a beer. I returned to the hotel to find Tracey distressed because of noisy teenagers in the next room keeping her awake.
This part of Montreal had a power cut this morning from 8am to 10am. Tracey and Joshua were still asleep so they missed not having electricity.
We went shopping for supplies as the plan for the evening was Tracey and Joshua were having a night in playing games, watching videos and eating while I went on the pre-convention eve pub crawl, that I was organising.
The first day of the convention started with me nursing a hangover following last night's pub crawl. Tracey made me a coffee, fed me two paracetamols and took Joshua to the hotel swimming while I lay in bed recovering. An hour or so later and I was ready to face the world. We headed for the convention and managed to get our badges.
You can find out more about our adventures at the convention on the second page of this set. The link is at the bottom.
These days were spent doing convention things
(see next page).
After a combined breakfast and lunch early afternoon, we headed again to the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel to have a last drink with Rita, John and Eddie before they flew back to England. I had a draught Leffe Blonde.
Afterwards, Tracey, Joshua and I headed down to the harbour and the archaeological museum. This is built on the foundations of one of Montreal's oldest buildings, which itself was built on the foundations of another building which in turn was built on a small cemetery. Underneath the museum you can see evidence of all the previous buildings and walk round the foundations. Even the cemetery is there but not all of that has been excavated - our guide told us they stopped when they found some of the graves still occupied.
The museum also had a temporary pirate exhibition going, which was fun.
An afternoon meal of steak and chips and a walk to the Metro via the Champ de Mars gardens.
This was followed by relaxing in the room and then the hotel bar. This was one of the pictures on the wall in our hotel room:
Today was our day to go up the mountain. Well, actually it is a hill but the locals call it a mountain. Called Mont Royal, it is to the north of Montreal's downtown and it towers over the city mainly because of a law that forbids people from building skyscrapers that are taller than it. First we went to what looks like a glorified village hall. It is called Chalet and in front is a large patio with gorgeous views over the city.
A short walk later past some odd sculptures and we were at Maison Smith, where we ate in the small cafe before progressing to Lac aux Castors.
Joshua and I went out onto the lake in a paddle boat while Tracey took the easier option of watching us from a park bench.
On our map of the area, we spotted a peak called Summit Westmount, which we thought looked like it would have a good view over the giant twin cemeteries. This part of our expedition proved to be a bit of a mistake as it involved leaving the main park, navigating a busy road and then walking a long way up in the heat only to discover that the trees were so large that you couldn't actually see anything.
We were now in the middle of nowhere and feeling tired, with no immediate hope of finding a taxi. We thus headed for the landmark we could see, the giant dome of the Oratoire Saint-Joseph. This was an impressive church that Tracey had read about. She said that people make pilgrimages here.
After a brief look round, we caught a cab back to our hotel and then stripped off and took the elevator to the roof for a dip in the rooftop pool.
That night, we decided to return to Le Pavillon Nanpic (75 La Gauchetiere West), the nice Chinese restaurant we'd found earlier in the holiday. We then went for a drink at the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel, where we were joined by Charlie and Feorag. I am claiming the honour of drinking the bar dry of Unibroue Maudite. OK, the whole convention had a few bottles between them in the past week, but I had the last one.
I also tried the Sleeman Honey Brown, Boreale Rousse and Blanche de Chambly. Joshua was a bit tired by the end of the evening.
As Joshua had such a hectic day on Wednesday, when Tracey and I got up yesterday morning we decided to leave him in bed while we went to buy a few things we were after. First we went to a wool shop we'd heard about so Tracey could get some wool for tribble knitting on the plane home. The shop had some strange mannequins.
Then we headed for a supermarket that I'd heard about that has a wide range of microbrewery beer, which is where I bought my selection for bringing back with me.
We got back to the hotel to find Joshua had developed stomach ache. He was determined to shake it off though as he wanted to go to a games shop he'd heard about at the convention to buy a card game called Spooks that he'd played at the convention. After a bit of a rest and some TLC he seemed fit enough for the journey, so we headed for the games shop.
Sadly, they had sold out of Spooks, so he bought a game from the same company - Steve Jackson Games - called Munchkin, and we are still trying to figure out how to play it. We will have to try to buy Spooks online when we get home.
Tracey and Joshua decided to have a quality time night in so I could go on a pub crawl with Feorag and Charlie as it was their last night in Montreal.
Friday was our last full day in Montreal and swimming was on the agenda. Tracey, Joshua and I took the subway to the western part of the city and a large open air swimming pool called Natatorium (6500 La Salle Boulevard). This was Quebec's first outdoor pool and was built in 1920 on the banks of the St Lawrence River.
It is in fact three pools. The largest is only 1.2m deep. The middle pool is deeper to allow for diving. Both of these also have a small slide. The final pool was a paddling pool with various water based fun things. Joshua particular liked the bucket thing. This was a pole with three buckets attached. These slowly filled with water and then tipped up over whoever was underneath them. Great fun. Even I tried it.
The temperature was very hot, about 30degC, and sunny. We also spotted an odd looking tree near the pool.
After freshening up at the hotel following our swim, the three of us headed for the old town. We had hoped to look round the Basilique Notre-Dame but visiting hours ended at 4.30pm and we'd just missed it.
We then had a meal of steak and chips in a restaurant on St-Paul before a visit to the St-Paul branch of Les Trois Brasseurs. I was still determined to try La Belle Province, the bottled beer that had been unavailable at two of the five pubs in this chain that are in Montreal. Here I struck gold.
La Belle Province is a 7% bottle conditioned beer. It comes in 75cl bottles and maple syrup is used in the fermentation. The result is a light red coloured Belgian style blonde beer with a slight sweet taste. Very nice too. Joshua took a shine to one of the bar staff.
As Tracey had polished off a bottle of wine at the restaurant and I had that beer inside me, we then had a stagger round the souvenir shops buying presents for people. We also discovered a food fair by the river.
As we had an evening flight, we arranged a late check-out with the hotel and then went to visit the mountain again. This time, Tracey accompanied Joshua on the paddle boat while I watched from the side.
A sandwich and a drink at Maison Smith followed. We were planning on going back up to the vista point, but the sun was too hot so we got a cab back to the hotel and had a dip in the hotel pool to cool off.
We then had fun (not) packing. We had to buy an extra case as we have much more stuff coming back with us.
The airport had Le Cheval Blanc Blanche, so I was happy.
One of the things I unpacked was a set of postcards that I never got round to writing never mind sending. So apologies to anyone who expected a postcard.
Links to the other two pages:
Beer in Montreal
Go to top of the page