Okay, there’s a lot here. First, let me introduce you to our traveling companions, Ryan and Liz. Ryan was Jason’s randomly chosen suitemate when he was a freshman at UNCA (along with Bert, who is previously pictured in this blog) and they’ve been friends ever since. Liz is Ryan’s girlfriend. In this picture, she is blaming Ryan for being late to meet us after breakfast.
The 1976 Olympics was held in Montreal, and they built what is still the world’s largest inclined tower for it.
They have made the Olympic Park into a great zoo-type place called the Biodome, where they have all the different Canadian Biomes represented. Here are some highlights:
Okay, this is a capybara. It’s essentially a HUGE gerbil. Seriously. Check this blog out to see how big they are… and just be creeped out by this lady with a blog about her pet capybara. They are the largest rodent in the world.
This monkey kept staring right at me. When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Asheboro Zoo and they told me (in jest) that I was related to the gorillas. I felt like they were right when this guy kept staring me down. It was like he was recognizing my inner-monkeyness and showing me some fellow monkey respect. I liked him.
Here I am in my natural habitat.
Then we got to see these guys! They were way cool. I don’t have a great picture of the whole exhibit because people were crowding it basically nonstop, but you could watch the penguins waddle over to the water and dive in and then you could see them swimming underwater, which is truly unbelievable. They’re so awkward and strange on land, but when they get in the water, they’re so poised and graceful. Here’s one that was totally hamming it up for me:
After we left the Biodome, we went to the Insectarium. I was dreading the idea of lots of live bugs, but these were mostly dead and arranged in artistic ways, which was totally cool with me.
This was really amazing because check out all the colors! And they’re all safely dead.
After the Insectarium, we walked around the Botanical Gardens. I was honestly expecting that we’d walk through some grass and see some local trees and all that jazz. I was so wrong. First, we ran into a Japanese tea house and a bonsai exhibit; check out this crepe myrtle, it’s 70 years old!
There was a Chinese garden, too. With weird little pagodas and everything.
And really pretty lotus flowers.After the gardens, we went to the Marche Atwater, which is like a giant farmers market, but there’s more than just produce, they have bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, all sorts of things. I was starving when we got there, so we got some bread, cheese and salami and sat outside at a picnic table for lunch. Jason bought some beers and asked the guy at the store if you were allowed to drink outside and he responded, “you may drink as long as you have friends and food.” So we had beer, too.
Interesting thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else: The metro system in Montreal is great, and in one of the stations, there is this really cool stained glass thing:
I noticed that both Montreal and Quebec City are really interested in using public space for things other than being functional. I saw a lot of things (like this stained glass) that you don’t see all that often in the states, probably because it would take so much hoop-jumping. It really makes for a beautiful city, though. Things that are utterly ordinary in the US could be so much more.
After all this exploring and sightseeing, we all wanted to sit and drink a beer and relax a little. We ended up at this really great place called The Distillery, where they serve drinks in quart (yes, quart)-sized mason jars in this sort of kitschy southern charm kind of way. It was pretty great. Also, they make really convenient shakers for the bartenders.
It’s not uncommon in Canada to use beer in cocktails. I thought this was going to be super weird, but the bartenders at this bar have a competition every month where each person has to make an original cocktail with a certain ingredient. September’s ingredient was beer, so both bartenders were making test drinks and they gave them to us to try. One guy’s was a blonde beer with Jameson, agave syrup…and something else. The other guy made his with a stout and Grand Marnier and some sort of whiskey. I kind of panicked when they handed them across the bar because, well, I was worried they’d be gross and we’d have to drink them to be polite. But, they were actually really delicious. The whiskey and dark beer one especially.
After our drinks, we went to dinner at a nice-ish restaurant in the old city and sat outside while the sun went down.
After dinner, we crashed hard. Talk about a long day.
Also, Jason discovered espresso in Montreal. The drip coffee at this place wasn’t great, so he went for the real stuff and hadn’t ever had it before.
He said, “it’s like falling in love!”
Tomorrow, we hit Quebec City, and talk about falling in love. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t go there all the time. You’ll see.