In our defense, everything here is super French. I expected people to speak French and all, but I thought the signs and other text would be bilingual. Not so. Granted, I should be able to read French, so this is not really a defense.
Shortly afterward, we arrived in Old Montréal and wandered into Chez Suzette, a creperie, for brunch. I ordered "La Quebécoise," which is filled with ham and swiss cheese, and comes with 100% maple syrup.
This place is almost alarmingly cute.
I cannot emphasize this next point enough: The syrup is fucking amazing. It is so simply sweet and unadulterated and pure. I assume that this liquid is not actually tapped from trees but is instead the bottled innocence of children. Either that or dark magic. Although I guess bottling the innocence of children probably is dark magic. In any case, it is the only explanation I am willing to entertain. I wish I had a trace of upper body strength just so that I could carry more of this back with me.
After brunch, we walked around but saw only souvenir shops and other tourist traps until we happened upon a food festival. We bought some tickets and tried some potato donuts (good), wine/chocolate pairings (so-so), and gelato (excellent). CTV was covering the event, and a reporter asked us if we could answer a few questions (just about whether we were having a good time). I would have agreed, but she asked me just as I walked into a tent from outside, which caused my hair to look insane, and I was still stuffing my face with a potato donut, and my hands were sticky due to said donut, so I passed. (Sorry, Mom.) We later nearly walked directly into her camera while she was getting establishment shots though, so we might be on Canadian national television anyway, eating gelato.
The outdoor areas of the food festival made me realize a) the sun is very hot, and b) New York skyscrapers are critical to my lack of sunburn on a daily basis. I don't know why I thought I wouldn't need sunscreen in Canada.
Tip: The sun still shines in Canada, and it shines in Celsius.
The food festival was right by the Old Port, which is very classy looking with lots of nice boats, and makes me want to call people "sport."
But none of those hold a candle to my favorite boat.
During the summer, there are a bunch of little vendor stalls, including a Christmas stall housing this rather disturbingly fit figurine.
We then headed to Notre Dame Basilica (admission $5), which is a pretty epic building (though not compared to Notre Dame in Paris), so I'll let the photos do the work here.
We decided to head back to the apartment for a mid-day break and come back out for dinner and drinks, but we took the long way back and walked around a mini-Chinatown and along Ste. Catherine Street to the Place des Arts.
After a quick catnap, we left for La Banquise, a Montréal poutine institution. The restaurant is at the corner of Parc La Fontaine, so we took a quick stroll through it, where we had our weird encounter of the day. A middle-aged gentleman, with stringy, dripping wet hair (though the rest of him was dry), came up to us and told us, in English with a French Canadian accent, that he was from a small town of 637 people and that he was surprised and fascinated by Montréal, where there were all kinds of people. Didi and I waited for the ask, assuming he wanted money, but he just walked away. It was weird.
At the restaurant, where there was a line out the door, I ordered "La Mart," which comes with hot dogs, bacon, and mushrooms. It did not disappoint. Tabasco, ketchup, and mayonnaise are also provided at each table if you are so inclined. I tried it with all three together, and it was pretty good, although the ketchup blends in with their house poutine sauce. The place is open 24/7, so I have to assume it is full of drunk people in the wee hours (and if I lived here, I would certainly be one of them). Overall, I'd say the first five bites of poutine are awesome, the next ten are pretty good, and after that it gets to be a little too heavy. This is coming from someone who filled in the blank, "Life is ___. Everything else is just waiting," with "getting food at McDonald's," and was raised on family-size bags of potato chips, so take that warning seriously. Service is a little slow, but this is not a meal to rush through in any case.
Tip: Cash payment here is like in Germany, where you pay the server and ask for change back, with tip in consideration (i.e., you don't leave the tip later).
Small things I've noticed: The city is incredibly bike-friendly, in terms of dedicated lanes and what seems to be a highly utilized bike share program, but our host mentioned that bike thefts are also extremely common. There are hippies everywhere. I've seen more dreads today than in the year before we left. The city is very residential. Here is a typical street:
Also, advertising here is not sexual at all. It's all just professional and/or happy-looking people with information about the product the ad is selling. Literally the only advertisement I've seen today that cashes in on anyone's sexuality is this one:
We just spent three hours chatting with our host, who I've concluded is my CouchSurfing soul mate. We have the same retirement plans, speak several languages in common, love eggs benedict, and have a very similar taste in humor. What more could you ask for?