Saturday, November 30, 2013

Speaking French and bundling up in Montréal

This month we exchanged our US dollars for Canadian, our hellos for bonjours, and battled the cold (both the weather and the illness). So pardon us while we thaw out and write accents on things.

Strolling and jogging around the city in our coats and gloves, we ran into so many construction signs warning us: "trottoir barré", "rue barrée", everything "barré". In an almost comical way, these didn't rigidly restrict people from coming and going. Instead, they popped up here and there around town, seemingly overnight, with locals feeling free to walk slightly around or waltz straight through.


We've concluded that the locals could be so nonchalant about such things because they save their seriousness for their food. And the food... oh, the food! The hundreds of cheeses at the Fromagerie Atwater. Those discretely labeled frozen chocolate croissants that you just throw in the oven to cook. Long fresh bread that we dubbed "pain tordu" (twisty bread), even after being corrected by the boulanger, who calls it "pain parisien". (Yes, it's the kind of bread that makes you scowl and huff "what have I been eating!?" at every kind of bread you've consumed outside of French-speaking lands. Then you get upset at the bread for making you a bread snob.) Cans of maple syrup... abricotine (our favorite sweet there)... we miss it all so much already!

We made plenty of time to exercise off those treats. In fact, we got to continue our months-long tradition of daily trail runs at the nearby Parc du Mont Royal. Since we spent so much time running through the park, you can too. Here's one of Mont Royal's ubiquitous staircases. Followed by a mischievous squirrel.


Here's the chalet along one of the park's main trails, and the view overlooking downtown from the back of the chalet.

Just beyond those buildings to the left, there's charming Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal), which is a living visualization of the French take on New World colonization. (No, it doesn't look like New Orleans' French Quarter, which is actually Spanish in its style.) Of course, if that bit of history is your thing, you can one-up us with a train ride to the Ville de Québec.


But French Canada isn't just about things French, it's also about experiencing Canada. Like that maple syrup. Or braving a good bit of November snow flurries and icy rain. If we came a month later, I hear we could've been skating on the "Lac aux castors" in the park. But I don't think our gloves, hats and light jackets are ready for a Quebec winter. So we head for warmer climes.