Sucker for a square and a beer.
Thursday's mammoth coach trip wasn't as bad as we'd thought. It took us through some great scenery and attractive little towns in New Hampshire and Vermont and a pleasant but thorough grilling from the Canadian border control. Quebec, of course, is the predominantly french-speaking part of bilingual Canada and you can't help being struck by how impressively bilingual it is.
Our hostel was only a few blocks from the bus station in the Latin Quarter, the student part of Montreal. The Latin Quarter centres mostly on Rue St. Denis, a very French street laced with very cool bohemian cafes and bars. Perfect. We'd struck gold with the hostel too and wasted no time in getting sorted and heading down to Vieux Montreal, the old and historic part of the city.
The Latin Quarter seems to have a ring of streets around it that are a bit seedy, but after a few minutes or so the area changes dramatically to cobble streets and some very impressive buildings. The streets seemed fairly quiet, but all became clear when we found a bar for food and a beer. Canadians are completely mad about Ice Hockey (although actually calling it anything other than just 'Hockey' renders you an alien) and the Montreal Canadiens are the only Canadian team left in the NFL play-offs. So, the place was packed and very lively. Nevertheless we found a good table, had some food and watched the violence (on-screen of course) ensue. I'd heard alot about Canadian service and we weren't disappointed.
Montreal, from Mont Royal.
On top of that, they manage to do something that they couldn't get quite right in the states, serve a decent pint. After the game (a pretty raucous Canadien victory) we headed further into the Old Town for a few more drinks in a great bar, although neither of us can remember it's name.
Friday morning was exploration time so after our fill of the complimentary continental breakfast we went in search of downtown, where we found some great shopping (we caved in and bought the lonely planet Canada book - which is excellent) and a micro-brewery. Curiously, Montreal has a thriving sub-terrranian network of shops and cafes which link many major buildings with the subway stations. It's a bit bizarre to begin with but born as much out of necessity as anything due to the harsh winters I suppose.
Inside Notre Dame Basilica
The rest of the afternoon was spent mooching around downtown and discovering more of the old town before hitting happy hour on the old town square for an early dinner and happy hour in the blazing sun. Later that evening, after a few hours rest and doing some much needed laundry, we went in search of a few bars. The Latin Quarter was pretty busy and we only had to walk a block before we found a few bars and rounded the night off with a cocktail, where they came served in litre sweet jars!
After heading to the bus station to buy our tickets to Ottawa we got the subway up toward Mont Royal, a huge hill overlooking Montreal.
It took us another hour to walk to the top for some fantastic views of Montreal. We headed back toward Downtown through the historic university buildings and to see the Notre Dame Basilica, a very impressive Cathedral indeed. Then, following a familiar pattern, it was off to the Old Town square for some lunch before a quick walk along the waterfront and heading back to the hostel. Whilst Em had a nap I went around the corner to find Baloo's, a packed bar and the Hockey on a big screen and some friendly Canadians for some banter with about Soccer and the like. It was then back to the hostel to collect a refreshed Em to go out and explore a bit more of the Latin Quarter and another little bar with a range of locally brewed beers and lagers. It seems to be a thriving industry in Canada, and one that I could definitely get used to.