A Twenty Hour Tour
I spent twenty hours last week in Montreal. It takes ten hours to drive from Washington, D.C. to Montreal (a little more, actually, depending on customs), which left us twenty hours in the city—just long enough to realize that Montreal deserves at least a week of proper exploring.
We stayed at Le Simone, a gite (bed and breakfast) near Le National theatre, nestled in a residential area that my sister Katrina’s boyfriend Reid had booked.
We walked Rue Saint-Davis that night toward the restos (restaurants) and I highly recommend L’Express for the Montreal bistro experience. Stay for dessert and order ile flottante au caramel and the chocolate tart. (L’Express, 3927 Saint-Denis, 514.845.5333, sign in sidewalk) Katrina is mostly vegan; she suggests visiting a wine shop before Thai restaurant Chu Chai since they don’t have a liquor license. (4088 Saint-Denis, 514.843.4194)
Montreal, we discovered, is a city that speaks English and French; most of the commercial signage is in both languages.
My favorite signage, though, is the blinking image that beckons you to cross streets; doesn’t this figure encourage you to stride with purpose across Montreal thoroughfares? Whereas American signs feature a hunched amputee, these jaunty little men made me smile and skip as we crossed.
And, in this case, genuflected, as this blinking man is outside the basilica, which we visited in the morning after Katrina pondered how best to spend our few precious hours.
We passed statues lounging on buildings,
beautiful aquamarine rust on tops of buildings,
sides of buildings that looked like sneaker inserts,
and a MadVac, the official vehicle for street cleaning (these careen the streets flailing Ghostbuster suction hoses)
before the basilica, which was in the middle of a new carpet installation.
Emerging from the basilica, we were disoriented by this quartet.
My colleague Eric Song, a Miltonist who has been known to teach in an ascot, recently considered purchasing a pair of cropped trousers. This shot is an example of how not to wear man capris; the entire group here seems fond of them (note that these are clearly tourists—Montrealers largely have enviable style).
Shaking off the awful man capri/sock/sandal ensemble, we journeyed onward to excellent chocolatines at Olive et Gourmando, where we ordered the Valhrona brioche and chocolatines. (351 Saint-Paul Ouest, 514.350.1083, cash only)
We bought extra chocolatines and chocolate brioche for the road, spending every bit of Canadian and American cash we had. That is, after all, Katrina’s hand above claiming an entire chocolatine while I took a picture. Reid may have ordered a lovely apple pastry with caramel on the bottom; Katrina did not register any item on the table sans cacao.
We sisters hail from a long, proud matriarchal line of chocolate devotees; we know the best way to improve chocolate is to wrap it in the traditional hundred folds of buttery, ethereal croissant pastry.
Riding a chocolate buzz out of this wonderful city, we were comforted by the small bakery bag in the trunk filled with sandwiches and chocolate pastry, perfect road food that did not last so far down the road. We’ll be back.