Saturday, 16 July 2011

Canada Part 2 - Friends, Food and Flour Mills

5 July
Dianne arrived safely the next day, now there was only one more person, Debbi, coming tomorrow.  Did a lot of catching up with Dianne, we hadn't seen her for two years, then we went out shopping.  It was another very hot day and I was wondering if I would be able to cope with the heat during this trip.  

My main at Le Plaza

That evening we went to a local restaurant Marie-Anne had recommended, Le Plaza.  It was just five minutes away on the Rue St-Hubert.  The restaurant was elegant, very brown and had large, sliding doors open onto the street.  We sat on one of the tables by the doors, it was cool there and we could feel the ambiance of the area as life went on outside.  I had beef with bourguignon sauce, haricot verte and a baked potato with sour cream and crab.  It looked gorgeous and tasted divine! 

We shared a dessert recommended by the waitress, yankee toast, something I'd never heard of.  It was a thick slice of bread that seemed to be soaked in something then fried until brown.  Over this was poured some kind of syrup (maple maybe) and topped with vanilla ice cream.  It was lovely, but very sweet, my third was more than enough!  We spent the rest of the evening drinking a lovely red wine and chatting, it was very enjoyable and relaxing and we felt back to normal once more.

6 July
Notre Dame Basilica
It was a bit cooler and overcast today which was a relief!  Dianne, Julie and I got the Metro from Beaubien to Peel in the city centre.  We booked ourselves onto a hop on hop off tour of Montreal.  The tours were in old London red double decker buses with the roofs taken off, ours was from 1967, they were certainly built to last.  We were given blue, plastic ponchos just in case it started to rain, little did we know that these ponchos would be a godsend a couple of days later!

The first stop was the Notre-Dame Basilica in the Old Town area.  A stone church has stood on this site since around 1672, initial construction of the present basilica was between 1824 - 1829.  The architect was an Irishman called James O'Donnell who lived in new York but moved to Montreal to oversee the work.  He died in 1830 just after the inauguration and was buried beneath the floor of the building.

There were fabulous paintings all around, many depicting First Nation people, which made it different from any European church. There were wonderful carvings too.  All in all an amazing building. It was a beautiful church, very dark inside (the huge stained glass window behind the altar had to be removed and replaced by a painted, blue-lit wall as it was south facing and so churchgoers were often blinded by the sun). All around were racks of remembrance night lights in red, white, green, blue, yellow and purple holders, these looked beautiful flickering in the darkness. 
Notre Dame Basilica
We passed the Montreal Science Center into the docklands.  Montreal is 1000 miles from the sea but it was a major port because of the mighty St Lawrence River.  The docklands was very rundown and I'm surprised we we taken there, the guide even pointed out a flour mill as if it was something special!

The next stop was the Casino, a strange building that, to me, looked unfinished.  Then it was onto a stop in the designer shopping area of the city, we gave that a miss!  
Then we started to climb Mont-Royal and stopped at St Joseph's Oratory, which was a stunning building.  We didn't get off as there were millions of steps up to it and we were not in the mood to climb them (and saving our energy for the U2 gigs, got to pace ourselves nowadays!)  

St Joseph's Oratory
The bus continued up to the park a-top Mont-Real and we got off here.  It was a peaceful oasis far above the bustle of the city below.  The rain that had threatened all day came down, there was a cafe called Maison Smith nearby and we had a delicious sandwich there. When we had finished and left the rain had stopped.  We got the next bus back into the city, the last stop was unavailable due to roadworks and that was it.

On the way back to our starting point I noticed two circling birds of prey reflected in one of the skyscrapers, whatever they were, they were huge.

I must say I was pretty underwhelmed by what I saw of Montreal on this trip.  These tours usually take you to the most interesting places in a city so when they are showing you rundown docks, flour mills and a casino you wonder about the place.  Even the Old Town was very small.  I may be doing the city a dis-service but what I saw of it on the tour wasn't that exciting.

Debbi was arriving that evening and we were also getting a visitor, my friend Michelle from New York who just happened to be in town for a couple of gigs by  a certain band LOL!  I met Michelle at the Metro station and we walked back to the apartment.  It was good to see her again.  Shortly afterwards Debbi arrived in a taxi and at last our group was complete.

I made a simple meal of pasta Alfredo and garlic bread and we finished with a slice of mango cake that Michelle had brought along, it was lovely.  Then we sat outside in the balmy night drinking our favourite wine (Errazuriz Merlot) and chatting. At 11pm Debbi and I walked Michelle back to the Metro.  We'd had a lovely evening, sometimes the simple things are best.

Michelle, Dianne, Julie, Debbi

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