Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Montreal Starbucks (May 17, 2009)

I seem to visit Starbucks for coffee only when I am traveling. Every time it is the same order – Tall Chai Latte. I decided to try something different, saw the Earl Grey Latte and decided on that. By mistake I said Earl Grey Tea and here I am - with water and the tea bag in it. It costs 1.98CAD, so that’s fine :D

Montreal is a different place. It is like visiting a European country, and it is easier too as most of the people do understand English. I felt so French though, I was bon-jouring everyone although in a rather low voice – fearing that they might laugh at my bad pronunciation.

I landed up at 7 in the morning (yesterday), the greyhound bus having got delayed a bit. But it was a smooth passage. The immigration lady cancelled my visa as it was a single entry, and stamped it for 16th May. This means I can shuttle between US and Canada till 6 months from this stamping. I will explain this in a later post about how to obtain a Canadian Visa.

My first stop was the visitor center on Rue Peel (Peel St), but as this only opened at 9, I headed off to the one place I had to visit – The Gilles Villenueve Circuit. Getting around Montreal is easy – the subway is pretty good. I got the daily tourist pass for 9CAD, which lasts you till midnight.

The bus station is at the Berri-UQAM stop and the circuit is Jean-Drapeau. This is a park with the circuit as one of the attractions. There are others like the Biosphere, the Montreal Casino and a lot more. Lots of people were jogging and cycling, and a rowing competition was also going on. The circuit was not blocked by anything as this was not a race day. I sat at a corner and thought of how Michael Schumacher would have taken one of these corners.

After a while I left for the visitor center on Peel St, and this was very helpful. The lady gave me a map, pointing out all the locations to go, the nightlife to see, and if needed she also would have told me about shopping, but I decided against that! She even told me about Quebec City and a map of that too. Also, while she was talking she was pronouncing the words in French, like ‘Montmorency’ and ‘Jean’, and so on. It is so good to listen to a French lady speak :)

As suggested I walked to the Basilica Notre Dame passing Chinatown and St-Catherine St on the way, which is a nice street with shopping on both sides. The Basilica was huge with the Place d’Arms opposite it. A wedding was going on, so I could not enter, but I will do it today. The entry fee is 5 CAD. I walked a bit more after this to Place Jacques Cartier and sat at this square. Very nice buildings, and good photo ops all around. By then I was feeling hungry and so I headed to one of the restaurant recommendations in a tour book called Stash Café. This is a Polish café and it has very good food. I finished off the dumplings in no time, and so also the tea. Very well made, nice people and really cheap. It is also in old Montreal so you don’t have to go too far. Visit this when you are in Montreal.

After this plate emptying meal I saw that it was raining really heavily. I wanted to visit the Pointe-à-Callière, which has stuff about Montreal’s history, and it may be worthwhile if you like that sort of stuff. The entry fee is 13 CAD.

In the rain I caught the metro to Pie-IX. I was not able to do anything except take a photo somehow in the rain. This is a very kid friendly place with a Biodome, and lots of things to see inside. The station here is Pie-IX or VIAU.

I could not do anything more and had to return back to McGill station and stay underground. This is the beauty of Montreal – they have a huge underground shopping mall, which spans 6 metro stations. It is called La Ville Souterraine. Days could be spent here. I got free wireless and sat and browsed through my iPhone for a pretty long time.

Finally the rain slowed down and I set off to St-Denis, which is supposed to be Paris-like in appearance. This street has a few cafes and one such is Starbucks :D

If you read my previous post I wrote it there. The rain did not let off at all, and I decided to brave it and go to my hostel for the night – The Auberge Alternative. Again - a highly recommended hostel – quite staff, good people and a mixed dorm. You get a locker and I would suggest that you get a padlock, but else linen and towels are provided.

It is right smack in the middle of everything and Vieux Port is a minute walk from here. As it was raining, I could not walk out. So as I had time to kill, I thought I will catch some sleep as I had a lot of dancing to do that night. This did not happen as expected because I and a girl from France got talking. We spoke for 40 minutes of which the actual conversation was for 10 minutes. I tried some French, she tried some English – it was fun!

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