And on the third day, there was sunshine. Quickly followed by a sunburn.
The clouds parted on Saturday morning, just in time for a bike tour I had booked with Fitz & Follwell of some of Montreal’s hippest ‘hoods.The city has almost 500km of bike paths and Bixi stations a-plenty, and everyone – pedestrian, cyclist and motorist – appeared to navigate around each other with ease. Essentially, I was in bike heaven.
For four hours, our group meandered through streets large and small, crossing through the Plateau, Mile End, Little Italy and Outremont. We passed brightly coloured houses, leafy parks, small boutiques, and streets dotted with cafes. Along the way, we learned about the different communities and their inhabitants, and I discovered that Montreal bagels really are the best:
Post-bagel and latte we rode on to Jean-Talon Market. Every guidebook and article I read pushed Atwater Market as the place to be, but I really liked Jean-Talon. It’s a bit rough around the edges in parts, but reminded me a lot of markets in Europe – lots of yelling, lots of commotion, and beautiful food.
People enjoying the surroundings.
And cats on leashes. (Wait, this definitely did NOT happen in Europe. European cats are way too sassy to put up with any leash nonsense.)
The bike tour culminated with a lovely picnic lunch overlooking a pond in a park, with the faint sound of an orchestra practicing in the background. I’m not 100% sure if there was an orchestra, or if I was so happy I just imagined it. Could go either way. One thing I’m sure of – allowing people to drink alcohol in parks is a wise move. Well done, Montreal.
Post-tour, I headed back to my hostel to slap on some sunscreen (as I had managed to get a lovely burn) and change into more weather-appropriate attire. I swear I was only inside for 10 minutes, but when I came out with shorts and sunglasses on, raring to go, it had clouded over again. By the time I made it to back to Mile End the clouds were almost black, and my plan of wandering streets and shops came to a quick (and wet) end. Instead, I spent the remainder of my evening camped out at Le Cagibi, enjoying a cheap glass (or two) of wine and my favourite French food, le burrito. I read most of the Vanity Fair that I’d brought with me and relaxed, so I considered it a very successful evening.
I left Montreal really impressed and disappointed that it’s taken me this long to visit. I’ll definitely be going back (hopefully with better weather) and look forward to feeling like I’ve been transported to a friendlier Paris on the cheap again.