Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm in the capital of Canada!

Hi from Ottawa!

After the longest border crossing into Canada I've ever experienced (no I am not looking for a job in Canada, yes I am unemployed, my car is full because I am on a road-trip and no, I am not looking for a job in Canada), Ashley and I made it to Montreal! I will admit it took me a little while to really like Montreal. I think I was going to be more impressed by it. The original plan was to camp outside Montreal but then thinking about the time and money it would take to get into Montreal and that we were only staying 2 nights, we decided to book a hostel.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and checked into our hostel. I would come back to Montreal just to stay at Montreal Centrale, it was the most amazing hostel I've been to. It was like a hotel, the staff was super friendly and helpful, I met some awesome people, great location... just great! After getting settled and getting the car into the parking garage we decided to go find some dinner. Ashley did a little research on Chowhound and we settled on, of all things, Schwart's, a Jewish deli famous for smoked meat. So we trekked over to pickles and a shared smoked meat sandwich then walked over to Parc Mont-Royal. After hanging out in the sun for a bit we walked down hill, and down to Old Montreal and the waterfront. We had not anticipated being out this long so we were both wearing inappropriate footwear (read: flipflops) and returned to the hotel tired and ready for a drink and some conversation. While Ashley popped in the shower I went to the hostel bar and bought some beer (2/$6!) and went to the "backyard" and sat with the group of boys who were speaking English and had space at their table. That night reminded me how awesome it can be to stay at hosteals (something I haven't done since my travels in Europ 5 years ago). I was up chatting with fellows travelers, from all over the world, until 2am, it was awesome.

Smoked meat, I'm glad we split it cause that whole sandwich would have put me to sleep once we reached the park with its beautiful green grass that I failed to photograph.

We went into a grocery store to check out the chip aisle. The USA does not have a big selection of chips compared to Canada! Today we tried All Dressed, delicious. They have flavors like Hot Dog, Dill pickle, Buffalo Wing and Blue Cheese and even bacon... crazy. I want to try them all!

In the morning we slowly got ready and had some breakfast and chatted with our new roommate, Miguel, from NYC who had just arrived the night before. We were planning to use the bike taxi system, Bixi, and explore more of Montreal with the main goals to see Habitat 67 and Marche Jean-Talon; Miguel joined us and tagged along on our little foodie/architecture tour of Montreal. (I love French btw, and I just want to get an audio track that tells me how to pronounce things, I don't care about speaking it, I just want to be able to read things!) Then when we were heading out we were joined by Sarah, from Winnepeg. So our little group of 4 navigated the amazingly bikeable Montreal. It was awesome, the bike system is pretty sweet for commuting but a bit of a pain for tourists. I should have just ridden my own bike and had my buddies rent bikes (of course then you have to deal with locking it up, but at least you can lock your bike next to where you stop without having to look for parking- it's as bad as driving!)

A Bixi station- awesome... when there is a spot for your bike to park,
or else you can end up walking a lot to find a slot.

Habitat 67 was amazing. We didn't even go inside - we just wandered around the outside. It was warm and breezy on the peninsula where there seemed to be an abnormal number of moths hanging out in the shade. The building is an example of amazing prefabricated concrete architecture. I learned about it about 9 years ago as a freshman in architecture school and it was quite exciting to walk around it. I love architecture :)

Habitat in the distance, it sits on a pier just outside the city; getting there reminded me a little of my trek in Amsterdam to Silodam

Habitat 67 was so cool to walk around!

After we spent a half hour wandering around Habitat we rode back to old montreal and returned our bikes. Then we walked around and ended up in Chinatown where we tried Dragon's beard candy. I didn't think it was that sweet but apparently my tastebuds are messed up cause all 3 of my buddies thought it was super sweet!

Mmmm Dragon's beard - (I'm clearly enjoying it)
this was pre-made stuff; someday I'd like to see it made in person

From there we walked down to Old Montreal and ate at Les 3 Brasseurs, I had the amber beer, brewed on site and pretty good though I've had better. Then we took the amazingly quiet (rubber tires rather than the metal tires of NYC) metro up to the March Jean-Talon, an open air market with beautiful foot laid out in bags and displayed in baskets, ready to be purchased.

Fresh produce at the Jean Talon market

After spending a while wandering the market and drooling over fresh produce we got on the Bixi bikes again and headed back to the hotel. After we started drinking some rum and cokes we headed to La Banquise for my first taste of poutine. I can tell you I was hesitant about poutine- fries, cheese curds and gravy did not sound good to me. Boy was I wrong! It melts in your mouth, so deliciously! The 4 of us shared 3 kinds: Classique, Matty (with bacon, mushroom, onion and green pepper) and Taquise (with tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream). We ate it all!

Poutine is delicious!

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