After hearing that Ministry was performing their final tour, and that they would be performing in Montreal, Chris and I decided to take the trek up there and spend a lovely long weekend in our new favorite city.
Here are a few reasons we decided to make the trip to Montreal:
1. It is only a four hour drive for us, and it’s a chance to say we went out of the country!
2. With the crappy weakness of the dollar against the euro, it’s unlikely we’ll get to travel to Europe anytime soon. Montreal gives you a little taste of Europe and a chance to practice French for a lot cheaper!
3. Ministry was playing their FINAL tour, and Chris always wanted to see them.
We arrived in Montreal Friday night and stayed at the Hotel St.-Denis, an excellent choice for both location and price. An entire long weekend’s stay, right in the heart of the city, in a nice, BIG room was less than 200 U.S. dollars (try finding a price like THAT in NYC for even one night!!). It was in the ultra-hip, modern Latin Quarter, right down the street from a million great restaurants and venues, as well as the largest metro station from which all trains ran from (less than half a block from our hotel). The venue at which we were seeing Ministry was half a block away too!
There was nothing skeevy about the hotel, and included in the price was free breakfast at a lovely cafe next door every morning. Instead of the usual stale danish continental breakfast fare, we got to eat yummy eggs benedict, cafe au lait and yogurt parfaits.
We discovered some neat, inexpensive places such as the CineRoboteque. The cineroboteque is a cinema run by the national film board of canada, featuring hundreds of independent films in every genre imaginable. Films ranged from 3 minutes to 3 hours long (most of them under 10 minutes), and you could purchase units of viewing time (at the cheap price 3 dollars per hour, 1 dollar for kids), and view as many films as you wanted in that alloted time. They gave you 15 minutes free viewing time on your first visit, enough to watch a couple short independent films for nothing. The theater was set up as a giant room with several “viewing stations” that seated 2 people at a time. You sat in big comfy chairs that had speakers in the ears, and you could move the speakers close to your ears so you could listen in peace without hearing other people’s films. You purchased units of time up front and they’d set up a viewing station for you. You’d enter a code and from a screen you’d view a robot selecting your choice and loading it into the system. You could view any film in English or French; we saw some really cute animated ones!
We discovered a wonderful vegetarian restaurant right around the corner from the cinema. It was a vegetarian buffet with everything imaginable, ALL organic and ALL stuff we could eat! It didn’t look like your typical scary buffet either, it was clean and classy. We were in heaven, and we liked it so much that we ate there twice over the weekend.
It came as a surprise to us that, for a relatively big city, Montreal really didn’t have much of a city attitude. In the time that we were there, most people smiled at us and made eye contact. On a crowded street, no one shoved each other to get by. On the metro, we witnessed people offering their seats for the elderly or people with children. We remained guarded as when traveling any city, but really we were surprised by the friendliness and warmth of most people. I tried to practice my french as much as possible, but whenever I ran into a roadblock, the person I was speaking to almost always politely offered to speak in English instead to help.
Even the Starbucks staff in Montreal was friendly, no arrogance or impatience!
Even at a crowded and noisy metal concert like Ministry, people excused themselves when passing by each other, chatted amicably with strangers and even gently picked fallen comrades up if they fell in the moshpit.
What is it about Montreal that does this to a person?? And why can’t we borrow some of this attitude in the states? No place is perfect, but Montreal sure seemed a step ahead attitude-wise.
On Saturday morning it was raining something awful, and we read about a place called the Biodome , which sounded like the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon.
The Biodome is an amazing infrastructure that houses wild animals (particularly enangered species), and tries to closely mimic their habitat. There are several ‘climates’ that you can walk through in the Biodome, ranging from rainforest to Polar. It was incredible to see the animals in such an open setting–wild birds flew overhead us and we spotted marmosets climbing trees. There were all kinds of fascinating things to see, from wild plants and bugs, to fruit bats, anacondas and swimming otters.
It looked like a great place to take kids, as there was a ton of activities centered for young ones, with a focus on environmental awareness. The proceeds from admission go to maintaining the sanctuary.
The Biodome was definitely an awesome way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Later that evening we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to the Metropolis to see Ministry. Chris offered to do a writeup about the concert, so he will add that later. All in all it was a wild time and the venue was great. The best part was only having to walk a half a block back to our hotel after the show!
The scariest thing we came across was finding that the streets were flooded with riot police before the show. We wondered why? but then we found out that the Stanley Cup playoffs were happening, and the riot police were stationed at every bar downtown, because if it’s one thing Canadians can go crazy over, it’s their hockey!
They are so die-hard about their hockey that at the Ministry concert, a television played the playoff in between the sets.
We were terrified that we would be in the midst of a massacre, but we were glad to find the streets calm and quiet on our walk home–even though Canada lost!!
Sunday morning, the streets were quiet and rainy (not to mention COLD!). After breakfast we checked out and grabbed coffee and a croissant at an amazing bakery that specializes in food from Lyon, France called “La Brioche Lyonnaise”. It truly was a little taste of Lyon and it brought back memories.
Then we bid a fond “au revior” to Quebec. On the way home we stopped by to visit some good friends who live in the Burlington area–it was great to see them and to catch up.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend, even if the weather didn’t cooperate!
In other news, i’m starting to get a real belly. We’ll be posting pics of our weekend up soon, and you’ll see!