The Good Boy Says…

A blog about life, sports, music, politics, and the world in general

Parlez-Vous Montreal?

The following is a not-so-brief account of my trip (with Erin) to the fantastic (and fantastically nearby – 6 hour drive) city of Montreal, Canada. It is like visiting a European city, but one that’s within driving distance – and without that pesky Euro! Erin and I had a blast. Here’s our trip, in words and pictures.

Departure – Saturday, August 19, 2006 @ 6:00 a.m.
With the best of intentions, we set the alarm clock for 4:15 a.m. (!), but really only woke at 5-something.

Arrived in Montreal about 12:30. It was too early to check in, so we found a cute little spot for brunch, Cafe Cherrier. We had only been in Montreal for about 20 minutes when Erin thanked our waitress with a confident “Grazie.” Guess she thought we were in Venice or something.

Still too early to check in, we then sat in Square Saint Louis. At 3:00 p.m., we checked into our hotel, Hotel Kutuma. NAP TIME!

Dinner @ Bieres et Compagnie. This place was fantastic. They offered steamed mussels in 30 different preparations, and well over 100 beers. E and I sampled some fantastic Unibroue beers. My two favorites were Don de Dieu and Maudite. E was partial to Ephemere Framboise. A little more than tipsy, we decided it was a great idea (we’re on vacation, afterall) to get MORE beers at the corner store. Mmmm…8-9% alcohol.

Bed.

Day Two – Sunday, August 20th

Slept in. This was the only sub-par day for us, weather-wise. It was cool and rainy. A couple of Advil curbed my Maudite-inspired headache, and we finally got moving a little after noon. We bought three day Touriste Metro passes, took the train to Centre Ville. There, we explored the frequently confusing Underground City and mall. There’s no real master plan to this sprawling refuge from the harsh Montreal winters – or, as in our case, rainy Montreal summer days. We walked around a bit. Then Erin convinced me that I could buy (and wear) a light purple shirt. So I did. Best of all, it was only $15 – in Canadian! (That became a popular phrase for us.)

Dinner that night was at this great Plateau-area place we found called Fonduementale. It was, in a word, fantastic! For $45/person (Canadian!), we ate cheese and herb fondue, as well as filet mignon, terriyaki pork, Duck (Erin’s least favorite) and Caribou (!). With dinner, we had a great bottle of Grenache/Syrah blend. Of course, the dessert course was a very rich chocolat fondue. Despite my occasional lack of a sweet tooth, this was pretty fabulous.

After a slow-ish walk to our hotel, we headed back to our favorite corner store/deli for more wine and Maudite. When the term “lush” came to mind, it was quickly scattered with the retort, “Hey! We’re on vacation!”

Day Three – Monday, August 21st

Went on a self-guided walking tour of Vieux Montreal. Beginning at Place d’Armes, where Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal, is said to have met the Iriquois in battle, we ambled down cobblestone streets and took a few photos. Our walk brought us to the banks of St. Lawrence River and the Montreal harbor. Pretty fantastic. Erin and I discovered an interesting tidbit about me – I get a little cranky if I go too long without eating. I should really consider carrying granola or something.

The evening plan was to visit Casino de Montreal. We expertly rode the Metro to the appropriate station and then, not-so-expertly got on the wrong bus. Luckily, it was a short route. We went for a little ride, came back where we started, and got on the Casino bus.

As I learned in February 2004 at Aaron Schmidt’s bachelor event in Vegas, I get a little nutsy whilst gambling. I rocked out the ATM (or ATB, at they are called in Montreal), and withdrew $100 (Canadian!). We found the gaming tables, and I became immediately intimidated by the prospect of playing Blackjack or Craps in French. So, the goal was then to find the easiest way to gamble when you don’t know the language, and don’t feel like playing slots. Enter the fantastic game of La Battaile. (If this were Vegas, Big Jay would have called it CASINO WAR!!!). Sitting down, I immediately lost $60. Not a good start.

I started to feel a little cranky. But rather than assume it was because I just dropped $60 in less than 15 minutes, maybe I was hungry? That MUST be it!

Wanting to avoid the Casino Buffet, we found this (crappy) Italian joint where we both had the “Spaghettini and Pizza” (All Dressed!) combo. Unremarkable, but filling. Then it was time for more gambling. (You may recall, dear reader, that I withdrew $100 from the ABT/ATM. This was burning a hole in my pocket.)

Erin, being the more sensible of the pair, decided to wager only $20. Much like a some slot machine Mystic, she sought out the perfect $.50 slot machine into which she deposit her bill. Turns out, she IS pretty damn lucky. With about $10 left in the machine (20 credits), the machine spun on 777. Bells started going off. Coins started dropping into the bin. E just won $250! Jackpot!!!

Emboldened by Erin’s lucky streak, I went back to La Battaile. I guess her luck rubbed off on me, as I quickly won back my $60 lost, and then some. I walked away, reluctantly – I wanted to keep playing. Erin is, as you may recall, much more sensible than I. Better to walk, up $50, then lose it all. She’s so smart.

Great night.

Day Four – Tuesday, August 22nd

This was our active day. We for a bike ride, starting out in Vieux Montreal, and then down the canal along the St. Lawrence. The omnipresent hunger crankiness set it, so we stopped for sandwiches. We then found a pretty amazing farmers market, which had some really beautiful produce. According to our guide book, they also have Quebec’s own Maple Syrup Whisky – but we must have missed that.

Doing our best Tour de France impression, it was time to head up some big ass hills to the Parc Mont-Royal, or the “mountain,” as the locals call it.

After the downhill descent, we thought to ride out to the Parc Olympique. A wasp/bee/black fly/Kamikaze pilot decided to take a liking to Erin’s ankle. Riding along, I heard cries of intense pain from behind me. Thinking the worst – ruptured Achilles/gunshot wound, I was heartened (only slightly) to hear it was a bug bite/sting. But E was in obvious pain. Luckily, we stopped right in front of a medical supplies shop. A very nice patron buying medical supplies brought out an antiseptic swab and a band-aid. The ankle swelled up pretty badly, though. So we canceled the ride to Parc Olympique, and went for beers instead. (Mmmm, beer!) We drank Borreale Blonde and shelled peanuts at a local tavern, The Tap Room.

Dinner that night was the one that I was really looking forward to. Brunoise, according to their website, offers french market-based cuisine paired with a thoughtfully selected wine list. And Zagat gives it a 28 for food. The meal was amazing. Bottle of 2005 Bordeaux. Beet root salad for Erin’s appetizer. Smoked scallops for me. Entrees: Erin had Filet and Veal Cheeks. Brian Rabbit Confit, topped with foie gras. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Return – Wednesday, August 23rd

Woke up at around 11:00 a.m. Packed to the dulcid tones of Bob Barker on The Price is Right. Watched some chick really screw up playing Plinko. Checked out of hotel, drove to Parc Olympique.

Said “au revoir” to Montreal at around 1:30.

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August 24, 2006 - Posted by | Entertainment, Erin, Food & Wine, Life in general, Travel

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