Saturday, August 06, 2005

The wonders of Montreal

Its a fantastic city. Its somewhere I had always wanted to go to, but it surpassed all expectations. Its a place of great contrasts, a North American city with a European feel, where French remains the main language used, where within half an hour one can be in the glorious wine-region countryside, or the resort area of the Laurentians, both of which we visited. Quebec's bog-standard still wine is nothing special, but they produce wonderful ice wines and ice ciders from frozen grapes and apples, and I tasted plenty of them and brought some home.

Some of the highlights.

Meeting up with Vincent and Lis again. Vincent is an old mate from University days. He's a great bloke, sceptical and principled, proud to have never voted in his life ( and has no intention of ever doing so .... I think he subscribes to the view that no matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in). He works overseas for the UN so has plenty of interesting and revealing tales. Lis is French-Canadian, a Montrealer, and they were spending some time on home leave, so it was a great opportunity to get together after some 11 years.

The Biodome. This is based in one of the old Olympic buildings (the 1976 Olympics, which Montrealers are paying for until next year - London, be warned!) - the cycle track, I think. It consists of four climatic region reconstructions under cover, including a rainforest and the Antarctic, complete with penguins. I do like penguins! The sort of place where you can be a big kid and get away with it.

C.R.A.Z.Y. I always like to see a film whilst I am away , and we were fortunate enough to find a cinema where this French language Quebecois was being shown with subtitles. Its excellent - well worth seeing. I'm not sure if it is due a British release or not.

The Biosphere. A museum about water - another big kid delight, and built on the 1967 EXPO site

Food! Montreal is a real foodie city, and we had some excellent meals. We would particularly recommend le Poisson Rouge, an informal French bistro which is a BYOW - bring your own wine - restaurant. Fish on the menu, very fresh and well cooked. On the more upmarket front, we liked le Chronique, Raza, and Brunoise. An occasion was the seafood platter at Au Pied de Cochon. To say it was large would be an understatement. Two tiers, including lobster, 2 sorts of crab, whelks, cockles, oysters, softshell crab tempura, winkles, mussels, huge clams - quite impressive to say the least. Their house special pud is a Quebec speciality 'pouding chomeur' - its the sweetest thing ever and quite divine.

Gay Pride. We visited during Gay Pride week, and attended the parade and the community fair. Both were great fun - though there seems to be something of a linguistic divide between the groups simply dependent upon what language they use in the group.

More still, but its getting late....

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