The second week of our stay in Quebec took us to Montreal. This time we would be trying something new to us on the accommodation front, staying with complete strangers we found on AirBnB — a site that allows people to rent a spare room on a short-term.
Our hosts, Camille and Vincent, welcomed us with cous-cous and local Quebec beers. Such was the taste of these fine local brews, that I consumed quite a few glasses. That right folks, the non beer drinker was turned, but only momentarily.
Staying with Camille (Vincent was camping most of the week) was a great decision — we got an insiders view of Montreal and really got a great feel for the city by staying in the trendy Plateau area — something that would not have happened had we gone via the usual tourist haunts. Her suggestions on where to visit, eat and generally showing us a good time were invaluable.
During the week Vincent’s girlfriend threw a disco party, and we were invited to attend. Despite having not packed for such an event, we were able to make an impact on the fashionable Montreal types courtesy of my hair being able to stand up on end like it has tried for many years now. My French is quite poor, but I let the hair do the talking for most of the night.
Apart from spending another week in French-speaking Canada, my main task for the week was to attend the Osheaga music festival and finally see my favourite Canuck band, The Tragically Hip. The festival spanned three days, but we decided to attend only the Saturday and Sunday. Osheaga took place on an island just off the main island upon which Montreal is situated, and had a Metro stop only metres from the festival gate — now that’s service! Over the weekend we saw Tragically Hip (who were as amazing as I’d imagined), Bright Eyes, John Butler Trio, P.S. I Love You, Sia and Elvis Costello. In general the music was of a pretty good standard, but the choice of Elvis Costello and The Flaming Lips to finish off Saturday and Sunday night was a little wanting, these are acts that don’t exactly blow the roof off with energy and the amount of people heading to an early train showed that I was not alone in this view.
If I were to recommend a way to travel across Quebec, I’d do Montreal first. And the reason why is that having come from Quebec, Vieux-Montreal (old Montreal) had none of the impact that it should have. For instance, Montreal’s city walls are foundation stones, whereas Quebec is a walled city — no comparison in the history stakes. Nevertheless, we walked around Montreal’s harbour and took in an old clock tower on the river.
Watching MacBeth in a graveyard, was one of the more original activities we did in Montreal. Although the ‘modern’ take on the old classic sounded an awful lot like the text I studied in high school, the setting more than truly made up for it. While walking out after the performance, we got took a wrong turn ended up on our own and a little lost. Claire’s grip on my arm was a little tighter than usual but once again, my navigation skills rescued us from undead, vampiric and zombie peril.
Being in town during the Just For Laughs comedy festival gave the town an awesome energy and the chance for us to see one of my favourite comedians in Jimmy Carr. A lot of Jimmy’s comedy is based on heckling, so to have an audience of polite Canadiens and only a few vocal Americans hindered Jimmy’s style. I did think that the ‘free heckle’ segment showed how much of his routine is based on putting people in their place.
This clip isn’t G-rated, you’ve been warned.
All in all it was a spectacular week in Montreal, it is without doubt the best place we have seen in Canada.
If we were to live in Canada again, I’d undergo intensive French lessons and move over there without delay. Although I would have to work out how to survive winter, it does get rather cold there.
Note: I, Chris, take full responsibility for this post being about 8 weeks late. We are fully employed again and currently living back in Sydney. I choose to blame that rather than my procrastination for the tardiness of this post.