24.9.06

I guess I'm a little late in blogging about this, but better late than never.

J & I drove up to Canada last weekend for my birthday.
Montreal, Quebec
Or to be more specific, we went to Quebec, which is/is not Canada.
Montreal, Quebec
It's a very interesting switch going from the Northern US into Southern Quebec. In northern Vermont (which I just realized on this trip is French for Green Mountian), it's all wooded and hilly and untouched by the hands of men and so on and then you cross the border and it looks like you've somehow been magically transported to southern Minnesota corn country, but with French signs.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Montreal, which by my count is the fifth biggest city in eastern continental North America* at a little over one million in the city proper. Socially, it's probably one of the most interesting places I've ever been. The language issue alone is fascinating. I don't know how many times I heard conversations where one person was speaking English and one person was speaking French and it all was completely natural. It's also (like Boston) a very young city, though there were definitely more young families in Montreal. No one in Boston ever has kids.

We spent a good portion of our time shopping and eating, both of which are quite fun (and not super expensive).
Montreal, Quebec
I'm an especially big fan of the Poutine, which is french fries covered with gravy and cheese curds. mmmmm.

Architecturally, Montreal has some beautiful turn of the century townhouses (like most of the east coast). Part of what I find really interesting however, is that Montreal, as a French city ruled by the English, used mostly French residential architectural styles instead of the British (mostly Victorian) architecture that you see in other North American cities from the same period.
Montreal, Quebec
Some of the neighborhoods also use really tall iron-railed outdoor staircases on their townhouses which have a lot of character, but must be killer (literally) in the winter.
Montreal, Quebec
Besides the turn of the century, the other big period of prosperity that added a lot of building must have come during that unfortunate architectural period from the late 60's to the early 70's. The Tour de Montreal, for example, was built for the 76 Olympics.
Montreal, Quebec
It's an interesting enough building (tallest sloping tower in the world) but it's set in the middle of a giant moonscape of concrete that felt uncomfortable, to say the least.

The transit was really good all around. As a walker, I sometimes forget that one of the best arguments for good integrated transit is that it reduces congestion for everyone. Driving was noticeably not stressful, despite the size of the city and the subway was good (and quiet, since they use rubber tires on the trains). They also had really great bikepaths.
Section Plan - Montreal Bikepaths
Instead of making the bikes ride on the streetside of parked cars, the path was on the sidewalk side with the parked cars blocking the moving cars from the bikers. It seemed like a nice solution that will keep bikers safe from cars and cars safe from bikers.

We went to the Biodome, which was also a building from the 76 Olympics that has been converted to a zoo.
Montreal, Quebec
We climbed to the top of Parc du Mont Royal, which is a park that was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted (Central Park, the Emerald Necklace, ect) that sits on the top of a mountain that is right in the middle of town. It's got great views, and it's pretty remarkable how much you feel you are in the wilderness right in the middle of the city.
Montreal, Quebec
We also went to a few museums, including The McCord museum of Canadian History (which was good) and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (which was a little disappointing, since the only exhibit at the time was on a building in Boston).

So yeah, I guess that's about all I have to say right now. Here's a few more pictures. I'll probably get the rest uploaded over the next few days.
Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

* New York, Chicago, Toronto, Philadephia Montreal. If you include non-continental North America, Havana and Santo Domingo are also larger, they both fall between Toronto and Philadephia

4 comments:

Rad 10:03 AM  

Your photography is noticably improving with practice, Z. Really good shots of Montreal.

I love Montreal. I would live there in a heartbeat, if only for the beer festival that features amazing quebecoise beer like "La fin du monde" (made by unibroue, which could sound like uni-brow if you say it like Americans say loewenbrau).

Jesness and I also went to the olylmpic park and rode to the top of the fin-like thingie. We kept quoting lines from the Biodome episode of the Simpsons because of the condition it was in... little did I know there was a true biodome in Montreal.

Poutine!!!!!!!!!!! Glorious Poutine.

zkorb 8:29 PM  

Great post. Thanks for the report and intro to the city!

Brother James 3:45 PM  

I have to say, poutine is the greatest dish to come out of Canada since maple syrup....with the possible exception of that maple whiskey they make. Oh, wow, that stuff is awesome.

onetenchelsea 8:57 PM  

dude, maple whiskey? i'm going to need to be getting back to canada soon!

There was this great resturant in Berlin called Tim's Canadian Deli. It was awesome. There's lots of good canadian food

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