Trapped in a car in Montreal

Sep 18th, 2009, 06:27 PM
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Trapped in a car in Montreal

Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT visit Montreal on the day of the annual marathon. (Unless, of course, you are actually running in the marathon in which case the roads are yours.) I was clueless what day it was when I started out from our hotel in old town on Sunday morning en route to the botanical gardens. Almost immediately, I was trapped front and behind with bumper to bumper stationary vehicles. Uh-oh, I thought, this is not good. As we inched forward and I would get to an intersection intending to turn out of the traffic it would be blocked off. When I finally was able to extricate myself, hoping to find an alternate route via my GPS, I would encounter another roadblock and so on. Worse, the GPS, (insulted I was not taking her advice), would keep routing me back to the roadblocks. Finally, I just wanted to give up and go back to the hotel. Also not possible. I pulled over and asked a very kind traffic officer to please help me. He directed me far out of my way so I could double back downtown on Notre Dame. When I arrived back at the room, I had been gone 2-1/2 hours, having actually gotten nowhere.

The hoopla finally died down about 4:00 it was safe to set out again (we hoped) for the gardens. This time we hit the jackpot. We mainly wanted to see the Magic of Lanterns at the Chinese Garden. It was almost good enough to wipe the bad experience of the morning from my mind. Even before it got dark the colorful exhibits were awe-inspiring. A woman, Shen Qi, was playing "Scarborough Fair" on the Chinese violin. The peaceful gardens, combined with the music wafting through the air was indeed magical. I purchased one of her CDs. As we wandered through the other gardens we spotted the flash of a red tail and to our shock and surprise a beautiful fox loped jauntily past us and disappeared in the bushes. We could hardly believe what we had seen, but later, in the Japanese Garden, it ran toward us again. This time, my husband was fortunate to get it on film.

We were not able to stay until it was completely dark because we had dinner reservations back at our hotel, Auberge Bonaparte. The hotel was chosen for us by a local friend who knew the owner and we were very happy with her choice. The location was excellent, right in the center of old town, which reminded me so much of our recent trip to Paris, my husband had to keep reminding me where we were. The spoken French, the cobblestone streets and charming storefronts felt so European. Each morning I was able to take my hour long walk in a different direction and see something new. Even our room reminded me of Paris. We had high ceilings with beautiful crown moldings, and floor to ceiling windows which we kept wide open, each with a window seat. The first night there was some extremely loud noise coming from the street due to a rowdy gang of drunken youths. Even that felt Parisian! Another thing I liked about the room was the huge jacuzzi tub. One evening we all had wine up on the rooftop terrace, where there is a small area with chairs and a table for intimate gatherings overlooking Basilica Notre Dame and the lights of the city. (By the way, our friends attended "And Then There was Light" in the Basilica and reported that they were not impressed. We were planning to see it, but canceled our plans.)

Bonaparte's, the hotel restaurant, was superb. Our room price included a cooked to order breakfast each morning, which was a huge value. Again, reminiscent of France, we had fresh croissants, a beautiful little fruit salad, yogurt, omelets or any other type of eggs, among other items. Our dinner the evening of the gardens was a group affair. We had a table in the back room in the corner where we could visit undisturbed and we sat and ate and drank for hours. The menu had variety and was superb. Best of all the prixe fixe was really reasonable.

The purpose of our visit to Montreal was a concert at Oscar Peterson Hall, which featured a friend of ours. For that reason, much of our time was spent in occupation of things related to that activity and we didn't see too much else of the city. But we definitely plan to return again soon to pick up where we left off. Just not on MARATHON WEEKEND!!!
Maggi is offline  
Sep 18th, 2009, 06:31 PM
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PS: If you want to see photos of the hotel and Chinese gardens, they are here:
Maggi is offline  
Sep 18th, 2009, 08:22 PM
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I really enjoyed your report and the pictures are lovely. When we were in Montreal there wasn't anything special going on but right by the Notre Dame Basilica there was a huge traffic jam. We laughed because a fire truck had the siren going but couldn't move at all. After a few minutes they turned off the siren and just gave up. My husband is from Montreal but we didn't drive - we went everywhere by subway and bus. It is a beautiful city but the winters!!!!!
traveller69 is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 04:43 AM
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Hi Maggi,

Wow, looks like a terrific trip to my adopted home town. I remember having the same feeling of being transported to a Paris-like experience when I came here from the Mid-Atlantic US in the early 1990s for the first time, such was the effect on my young American mind of the history and the predominance of the French language on the TV, on the billboards and in the streets. I remember it seemed like you're on a highway from Upstate New York, which seems like a pretty typical (but pretty) U.S. interstate and then *boom* you're in this French-speaking world. Normal for Europe, but an atypical North American experience.

I also enjoyed seeing pictures of the Auberge Bonaparte. Looks lovely! Thanks for sharing!

Daniel_Williams is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 05:17 AM
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I liked your pictures! Sounds like a nice hotel also. I really want to go to Montreal next summer. I'd love to see the Magic of Lanterns, but I think we will go in summer vs. fall.
amelie is offline  
Sep 19th, 2009, 09:06 PM
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Traveller, driving was OK, except in old town at night where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, and of course, the aforementioned marathon. Daniel, lucky you to be living there. We are fortunate to be close enough to enjoy such a change of pace. Amelie, it certainly was beautiful in the gardens at this time of year.
Maggi is offline  

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