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The Wilds Within Montreal: Parks, books and bars

It was the first full day that was fully sunny all day long. I was pretty excited about that fact, and I decided it was perfect day to go around to the larger parks.

Breakfast with Squirrels

I grabbed a croissant and juice at the local Java U and headed off to my first park, Parc la Fontaine. As I walked around, I figured I ought to document the architecture along the way, especially because it was so beautiful. I could describe it to you, but that’s what the link at the end of this post is for. However, there’s more story here.

When I got to the park, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was on the map. I looked around and found some benches not far away. I decided to sit down and eat. Of course, the ubiquitous debris of fallen branches in variable sizes reminded me of Irene’s long distance relationship with Montreal from the previous day. I sat down on the bench and chowed down. Only moments later did a squirrel appear. Not only that, it wasn’t long before a second one appeared. And a third. And a fourth.

My little breakfast time gang turned into little beggars. I was only a third of the way done, when one of them jumped up onto the bench and started sniffing about my open backpack. I kept nibbling away to slowly consume their motivation to be around me. Yet, I felt small tugs of happiness that they were around preventing me from devouring my meal entirely in one fell swoop. I decided to photograph the interaction instead. The one bold squirrel got so close to me, it sniffed the lens of my camera. Again, see the link below for pictures.

The Path to the Fountain

After I finished my breakfast, I walked around the park, taking one path to the sports fields first. Along the way, I helped a woman pushing a stroller by clearing away a larger branch from the asphalt walkway. She thanked me, and I went about my merry way.

I consulted the map I had taken from the summer guide to gay Montreal. I reoriented myself and found the right path to go toward the lake where there was a lot more to see. There were a few statues/sculptures around the park honoring different explorers and leaders from the past. The lake was fairly sizeable and at the northwest end, there was an octogonal fountain that shot many streams of water up into the air.  The water fell back into the bowl of the fountain and then slipped over the curved edge down into the vast body below. I sat there for a short while soaking in the calmness of flowing water.

About midway between the northwest and southeast ends of the lake, there was a bridge that lead to a lakeside amphitheater. It was locked up, but I could see the fairly large stage, ample seating and moderate “moat” that separated them. There wasn’t ever an opportunity to see it in action, but maybe next time I will get to watch a performance there. Water run underneath the bridge and fell into the lower level southeast portion of the lake. It also sounded soothing, but I was ready to move on to more.

The High Point: Parc du Mont-Royal

I walked down Rue Rachel toward the much larger Parc du Mont-Royal with even more statues, water and sights to see. It was a bit of a walk, but the sun made it worth the while. Along the way, a woman started talking to me as she passed me on the left. I didn’t understand a single thing she said, but she pointed to my bright, neon green shirt and made hand gestures to mimick a shirt giving off light. I thanked her assuming she was complimenting me. She asked me what time it was, and it took me nearly 45 seconds to tell her it was 10:30. I am quite certain she figured out I didn’t speak French as a first language.

I made it to the park and “hiked” my way up to the top. It had plenty of more gradual paths, but I took the steeper ones to get to the top faster. About halfway up, there was even a wooden staircase that I took to acend even more quickly. Along the way, I saw several people in exercise wear, jogging, hiking, walking, chatting, litening to music and so on. It was a very lively and active park, especially considering it was 10:30 on Monday.

At the top of my climb there was a large terrace at one end of which visitors could look over South and East Montreal. It made a lovely view. There was also a château with a large ballroom area, models of the park using lego like pieces, café seating and a small “snackbar” setup of vending machines. The interior design made it look like it was made for modestly sized weddings, which was a lovely romantic thought.

My First Poutine

I walked around a bit more and I talke very briefly to a man who asked me in French where a specific street entrance. I understood him completely, but it took me a while to formulate a response. He started to ask me again in English where it was, but I finally told him it was not far away. I wanted to tell him it was about a quarter kilometer away, but I couldn’t get that sentence together.

I descended the mountain and returned to Rue Rachel where I had found a restaurant called Frites Alors. It is a chain restaurant with several locations in Montreal (and perhaps elsewhere). What’s more, they serve several kinds of poutine (pronounced “pooh-teen”), a fantastically salty and fatty dish made from fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I ordered the poutine Frites Alors, which had mushrooms, a small amount of diced peppers and a few sauteed onions in addition to the basic poutine mix. It was a wonderful mix of yum that travelled across the field of delighted and thankful taste buds right down into my satisfied tummy.

Turning a Page

I returned to the hotel to rest for a while, but then I trekked back out to find a bookstore. I wanted to see what I might buy that would be interesting to read. I perused many a cover and ended up buying Sans Lois Ni Dieux (without laws or gods). It seems like an interesting story with death, politics and sex. Yay! Of course, it’s in French.

I went back to my room, freshened up a bit and then went out to dinner. Later that night, I went to one of the bars, Complexe Sky, and had some white wine on tap. I had never seen such a thing before, but it was cool. I didn’t really talk to anyone (apart from the bartender). It was pretty dead, and I still felt quite shy about trying to talk to anyone in French. Afterward, it was off to bed, wondering what the next day might hold, as I planned to venture in a different direction toward downtown.

See the Java U website
See the Frites Alors! website
Read about Sans Lois ni Dieux on Amazon
Boogie down on the Complexe Sky website

View the pictures of the day on Picasa

Lets mots du jour: pour apporter (getting something “to go”), renaturalisation (to restore the ecosystem/natural habitat), épicerie (a kind of mini-grocery), nettoyeur à sec (dry cleaner), ésoterisme (new age/esotric ideology), solde (on sale).

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