Thursday, August 12, 2010

Montreal--Day Three

Day three in Montreal once again involved covering lots of ground. I started the day with a four-mile run from my hotel down to the riverfront and along the water to some canal gates. It is nowhere near as humid here as it has been in New Haven, but it still gets hot by mid-day, so I got my run in before the day really got going. Montreal has impressed me with its infrastructure for walkers, runners, and bikers. The city has far more space to work with than Manhattan does, so the municipal government has had an easier time incorporating room for bike path and sidewalks. There is a clear commitment to making cars optional. The subway system is extensive and you can buy an unlimited-rides one-day pass for $7.00. This pass also works on the bus system. I parked the Volvo in the garage when I got here and haven’t needed it once.

After my run I got on the green line Metro and went out to the Olympic Park, which was built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. Much of the complex certainly LOOKS like it was built in the 1970s—it has a retro-futuristic feel to it with lots of curved concrete forms and shapes somehow reminiscent of UFOs. I paid the $15 and went up the Olympic Tower in the funicular. (By the way, if you have never said the word “funicular” out loud, you should.) I absolutely love being way up high and looking out at the lay of things. When I have a window seat on an airplane I spend most of the flight looking down at the world, trying to recognize highways and towns and rivers and geographic features. I have done the same thing here in Montreal, only without the airplane.

I climbed the Clock Tower at the Port, Mount Royal, and now the Olympic Tower. Each time the skies were clear and I was rewarded with some excellent views.

After the Olympic Tower I got back on the train and went in search of the best poutine in Montreal. People I asked told me to go a restaurant called La Banquise, so I did. I had the traditional poutine, pictured below, and a “Detroit hot dog,” which turns out to be a chili dog, sort of. The poutine was good, but I must say that I am partial to the poutine Jason makes at Caseus in New Haven. His is less beefy and the cheese is better.

Once I was done with lunch I decided to walk the two miles back to my hotel. On the way I found a barbershop that was just re-opening after a lunch break. The woman turning the sign from “Fermee” to “Ouvert” smiled at me and that was enough to get me in her chair, explaining my plan for the week. I told her to do whatever she wanted to my hair and she went to town. Of course, even the most skilled artist is limited by the quality of her materials, so in the end, my haircut looks like it always does to me. But it was fun to give up all sense of control. And after four days without any of the daily human touch I get living with Isabel and Erica, it felt good to have someone focus her attention and touch on me, even if it was just a haircut when all was said and done. Is that pathetic?

Late afternoon I went to the Vitrine—the one-stop place to go to find out about any-and-all cultural events going on in Montreal. The woman behind the counter was very patient and friendly. She was the same person who directed me to the production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in one of the large city parks the night before. She told me about a concert at a local cabaret and I took her suggestion. And I was glad I did. It was a small, dark bar and the singer and her band were hanging out with all their friends before the show, drinking and having a great time. When she got up to sing she blew me away. The band was great, too. Her name is Marie Christine Depestre and she has an album coming out soon.

All in all, a GREAT day in Montreal.

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