Monday, August 27, 2012

Road trips have their advantages—Part II, Montréal

After Burlington we went to Montréal which we had visited briefly about 25 years ago en route to visiting friends in Ottawa. We weren’t all that impressed with Montréal, but then we didn’t really see it. It was hellishly hot and the only thing I recall was visiting Montréal’s amazing Botanical Garden. It was too hot to walk round the garden and we rode through in a little train, with no time to stop and smell the roses. This time it was hot, but not unbearably hot, so we got to really see the garden, including the amazing Chinese Garden.

The jewel of Montréal is its beautifully 17th century old town which for some inexplicable reason we never visited last time.

Twenty-five years ago we were really disappointed with the restaurants. It seemed as if French culinary talent had not managed to cross the Atlantic. We were certainly not disappointed this time and ate very well in Montreal. Although food was affordable, wine lovers in Montréal(and all of Canada for that matter) will experience real sticker shock. Alcohol is heavily taxed with revenue going to pay for Canada’s national healthcare system, so we consoled ourselves that the high prices were in the service of a worthy cause. I’d gladly pay higher taxes in the U.S. for a single payer system.

Canada’s high taxes pay for a variety of public goods, including Montréal’s Museum of Fine Arts which is well–designed and has a good permanent collection which is free to the public. We spent an entire day there. We had intended to combine the Museum of Fine Arts with! Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, but in our senior citizen, slow-travel mode, we decide to see one museum really well and spend the rest of the day hanging out in a café.

Rick had the gratifying experience of being taken for a Quebecois because his French is so good. He was basking in compliments the entire trip. The first tribute came when we were entering Quebec and the border guard asked in surprise, “How come your French is so good?” When we went to the Botanical Garden, Rick asked for two senior tickets and when he looked at the receipt, he realized he had been given the senior rate for Quebec citizens.

We will be back to Montréal. For Francophiles like us, it’s wonderful to get a little taste of French culture without the pain and expense of international air travel.

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