(Need to catch up? Start with part 1.)
On Sunday morning over breakfast my husband poured over a map of Montreal to find a bike route that I would agree to. We were renting Bixi bikes, which don’t come with helmets, so I insisted we take the safest route possible (yes, I’m ounces of fun on a trip). Once he’d convinced me to within a reasonable degree that I wasn’t going to die, we walked to a Bixi bike station (they’re everywhere) and picked out our bikes.
This is a great system. We each paid $7 for a day of bike access, and if we had kept each ride to under 30 minutes, we wouldn’t have had to pay anything else (it gets even cheaper the longer you sign up for). You can drop your bike off at any Bixi station that has an empty spot, and pick up again at the same spot, or a different one. The stations in more popular areas have slots for dozens of bikes.
We rode to the Botanical Gardens (there was a Bixi station right outside) and spent a couple hours there.
If you like that sort of thing, it was absolutely gorgeous. Afterwards we rode to the waterfront and dropped our bikes back off at another Bixi station. I really can’t say enough about this system. The bikes are simple but sturdy, three speeds, with a place in front to put a purse or bag. And for the brief moments I managed to forget that I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I had a great time. Next time I visit Montreal, though, I’ll be packing a helmet. (It’s worth noting that The Fairmont, where we stayed, has a complimentary two-hour bike and helmet loaner program for Gold Level guests.)
Our next stop was the Star Wars: Identities exhibit at the Science Center. (Get your tickets early if you can, just make sure you can print them out.) I was not excited about this, but if you’re at all a Star Wars fan you’ll probably geek out as much as my husband did (he listed this as his favorite thing out of everything we did in Montreal).
I did like the way the exhibit worked: you wear a bracelet that you can use to identify yourself at the different stations. You also wear a pendant around your next attached to an earphone, which automatically plays the appropriate commentary when you’re in front of an exhibit.
It was neat to see a lot of the original costumes, models, and drawings from the Star Wars movies, although as my husband pointed out, it would have been better had it not included the three more recent movies.
The actual “Identities” part of the exhibit was a stretch – they were tying different aspects of the characters’ personality traits into science-y explanations, as an excuse to put a bunch of Star Wars artifacts in a science museum and move tickets. I doubt if anyone was actually there for the science. But nobody seemed to care.
Our last excursion was a subway trip in search of Poutineville. Our concierge recommended this as a place to find vegetarian poutine, since you can do the whole thing a la carte if you want to, picking and choosing each and every thing you want on top of your fries.
I chose to get cheese curds, mozzarella, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes in my poutine. My husband had brisket on his. I have to say that it was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten in my life. I finished every bit.
However, despite our server’s insistence that the gravy was vegetarian, I got it on the side, and was glad I did: my husband said it tasted like regular old beef gravy. I’m amazed at how many people told me that poutine was vegetarian, only to backtrack when I reminded them that the gravy wasn’t. It’s something that meat eaters just don’t seem to think about.
Incidentally, after we’d already visited Poutineville, a Montreal resident tweeted the following:
@selfishmom La Banquise (corner Rachel/Parc Lafontaine) and Comptoir 21 (21 St-Viateur St.) have 100% veggie sauce poutine.
— Gregory McKenzie (@gregomck23) July 23, 2012
I’ll keep that in mind for next time, although I have no problem going back to Poutineville for another delicious gravy-free meal.
If you take the subway to the Ontario Street location of Poutineville, and it’s one of the warmer months, you will likely emerge from the metro into this:
It was fabulous. It was the West Village on steroids. It was a happy, party atmosphere, and while nobody seemed to care too much that we were there, it’s definitely not a touristy area. It was a lot of fun, especially watching a drag queen hit on a couple of cops who obviously weren’t new to that beat and weren’t phased (at least, I’m assuming they were real cops, and not part of a Village People outreach program; one of them did have a mustache…).
We stopped yet again for dessert, and it was the perfect way to end our trip. We left for home the next day, and it was amazing how easy a trip it was: we left our hotel at 1:15pm, , and were back home by 5:45. It was a great trip, and we’ll definitely be back. In the meantime, I think I’ll be practicing making my own poutine, to hold me over.
Want to see all of my pictures from the trip, with captions? Watch the slideshow!
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