Now, I've been to Canada many times - mostly in Ontario, but also a visit to British Columbia some years back. One of the things that's pretty obvious when visiting Canada is that almost all signs (road signs, etc.) are in both English and French. I had assumed that this would still be the case in Quebec -- I mean, I thought maybe French would be first, with English second -- but I assumed signs would still be "bi-lingual." Turned out I was wrong. Quebec is pretty much "full-immersion" French. I should also mention that currently about half of Montreal seems to be under construction, with road and lane closures at just about every turn, and lots of detours. Believe me, it was an exciting (and nerve-wracking) experience trying to navigate the city while struggling to understand the road signs.
Let me back up a moment. So, in high school and college I had taken a little bit of Spanish, and a little bit of French. Not enough of either one to become even remotely proficient. And that was about 35 years ago. When reading in either language, especially if I have some context, I can usually get a decent gist of what something means, albeit slowly. But when someone actually speaks to me it's really difficult for me to process what they're saying. Hell, I can't even identify most of the words they're saying. So all over Montreal, every time someone would speak to me in French, I'd have this panic-stricken moment of indecision, kind of like a squirrel in the middle of the road with a car bearing down on it, then a confused verbal mess would pour forth from my mouth in a tangled combination of English, French, and Spanish. "Excuse me, parlez vous English, por favor?" Yeah - it's embarrassing. (However, one of our nights in town we had dinner in a great little Mexican restaurant where my unique SpaFraEnglish dialect worked out really well - just saying). Thankfully, most people we encountered were incredibly pleasant, patient, understanding - and bi-lingual. Friendly and pleasant - Canadians, this is why the world loves you.
Anyhow, Montreal has a reputation for being a very bike-friendly city, with miles and miles of bike lanes, paths, and other bike infrastructure all around the city. Unfortunately, a lot the previously mentioned construction is currently affecting the cycling infrastructure almost as much as for drivers, but I couldn't help but notice there are still bicycles and riders just about everywhere you look. It's clearly not stopping any riders.
My family and I were staying in a hotel near McGill University and just a few blocks from one of the most significant landmarks in the city - Mont Royal. On my first opportunity to get out on my bike, I did some exploring in the area near the hotel and the district known as "Le Plateau-Mont-Royal" which is a pretty laid-back, funky neighborhood. I managed to find a couple of bike shops that got my attention.
One was called Bikurious . . .
. . . Where I spotted some terrific eye-candy hanging around inside . . .
|. . . Like this Gardin track bike hanging from the ceiling . . .|
|. . . And this gorgeous old Gios track bike.|
|"Halte Cycliste" - Yes, I recommend you do.|
Marinoni cycles are built not too far from Montreal in the town of Terrebonne, Quebec.
One of the places he recommended I ride was the aforementioned Mont Royal.
|Mont Royal, as seen from the roof of our hotel. You might notice that cross at the top. More about that later.|
|There is a network of trails all over the mountain, and it's a popular spot for hikers and cyclists alike.|
The video quality isn't great - but notice near the beginning of the coverage that the commentator points out George Mount and then says "he's not expected to do much." Nice to know he had to eat those words. From watching the video, it seems that when it was raced in the '76 Olympics, the main route up to the summit was probably paved. Today, the route is a mostly firm-packed gravel (if someone knows more about that, feel free to leave a comment).
|The area all around Mont Royal is a scenic park, with a lovely lake . . .|
|. . . and a little more than half-way up there is a nice chalet where drinks and snacks are available - and an observation deck offering excellent views of the city skyline.|
|(Had to get a bike picture in here somewhere)|
|You might not be able to see him, but when I snapped this photo, there was a workman climbing up the inside of the cross, presumably to change lightbulbs. Yes, the cross is lit up at night.|
After a couple days and nights in Montreal, we made the drive up the Saint Lawrence River to the city of Quebec.
More to come. . .