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Ended up spending 3 nites of Memorial Day weekend in Montreal with Tom, who wants to move there when he retires I found out. We had a funny hotel called Le 1 Rene Levesque which was like being back in college with cheap furniture and a very spartan atmosphere. But it was clean, the AC worked and it was in a great location. 5 min walk to Old Montreal, on the St. Laurent drag (but on the sleaziest end of it), 10 min to St. Denis, couldn't complain. Weather was hot, croissants were fresh, music was in abundance, duck came in a can, what more could you ask for?
Tom got me after radio and we took *my* traditional ride up with a stop in scenic/cute Montpelier VT for a tasty snack from the culinary school's cafe. Would have been in time for one of the 5-7 happy hours that go on all over the place in Montreal but the traffic on the bridge getting into town was horrible so so much for that bright idea. A quick stop at the venerable Foufounes Electrique on St. Catherine would have to suffice. We regrouped then walked to the fairly famous Au Pied de Cochon where we had duck in a can, yes it literally comes out of a can. I thought the pork dishes looked better but how often do you see a dish like that? But duck AND foie gras, on top of a pate/sausage plate, whew. Checked out a cool record store Sonik across the street but we were on our way to meet a friend of mine, Jesse, from the days of the alt.punk newsgroup at Copacabana on St. Laurent for some catching up. If you haven't been to Montreal, Blvd St. Laurent aka The Main is a crazy strip of bars of all sorts, just jammed with people. You may not want to go to most of the places, but it's a sight to behold. And as Tom said, everything is 25% more in Montreal: 25% hotter (and he's not talking temperature), 25% sleazier, 25% crustier, etc.
Fri. I was out of the room early to wander around Old Montreal and finally went into the Notre Dame Basilica, what an amazing church. May beat out the ones I've seen in Venice and Florence. Started with croissant #1 at Olive et Gourmando then walked up to another patisserie, then another. This was croissant day but unfortunately, couldn't find the choc/almond style I like so much. Checked out Primitive and Beatnik record stores on St. Denis, they've been around for a while. More walking until it was time to clean up and try to get a 5-7 at Suite 701 who according to more than one source offered happy hour but she told us no. I did enjoy my cucumber martini tho and the place was kind of made for the beautiful people (don't worry, we left soon). Tried another place that wasn't even open and they advertised deals from 4-8. Sigh. Ended up at Jello Bar which I'd noticed in past trips but while the bartender was very nice, she made me a WAY too sweet drink. We then hit the other end of the spectrum at the "Friendship Cove", a DIY space in a deserted warehouse part of town and caught Cleveland band the Homostupids which was funny since I kind of know them.
Sat. was a couple food markets, Atwater and the bigger Jean Talon Market. I walked all the way from JT back to Sonik where the owner played me a bunch of stuff and gave an awesome deal. Unfortunately cash only. A quick stop at Le Pick Up spent my last $5 then more walking to Old Montreal where a food festival was going on but I was too full to take advantage and had no cash (sad face here). I did have a relaxing glass of wine while Tom was back at Foufounes, we emailed each other pictures of our beverages. Then it was time for the nice dinner at Laloux which I thoroughly enjoyed and back to St. Denis where I knew there was a nicer bar (Quai des Brumes), a rockabilly/punk bar with a DJ (Rockette) and a club w/ live music (L'Escogriffe) next to each other. Jesse had told me Rockette was a white power bar but I hadn't read that anywhere else so I had to check it out for myself. We go past the rockabilly door guy, the people taking $3 cover and sit at the bar where it was a bunch of fresh faced (completely not white power) kids and some pretty good punk rock that I couldn't place, with a few rockabilly tunes. 5 min later the door guy comes up saying in French "blahblahblabh skinhead blahblahblah". I say "Nous sommes anglais" and he goes, "Good that makes this easier for me. You guys seem cool but we've had lots of problems here and you (Tom) have the look so I have to ask you to leave". Tom was in his 'dressy' clothes, black Fred Perry, black jeans, boots, and of course the shaved head. I couldn't believe it but Tom didn't even argue, just asked for the $3 back. I'm still dumbfounded but we end up next door at L'Esco and that was fate since we saw a great band from Toronto called Darlings of Chelsea. Who I'll play on the radio but it doesn't capture how great they were live. Headliners Rock Hard! (yes that's really their name) were decent too but 5 songs was enough (I'd forgotten ear plugs) so we walked over to St. Laurent and stumbled upon a band at Barfly called The Famines from Edmonton who I actually saw in Winnipeg last summer. I liked them better this time. More St. Laurent craziness on the way home, what a wacky street.
I was up early on Sun. to catch Museum Day, free admission to Musee des Beaux Arts and caught a cool exhibit on Miles Davis (and I hate jazz) plus one on apocalyptic art which included Slayer and Cannibal Corpse records and videos of hockey fans destroying downtowns after Stanley Cup finals. Kind of interesting stuff. Tom took one of the many bikes for rent out for a ride and then we got a nice breakfast at Bagels, Etc. before heading back. So that was our time in Montreal. It's only a 5.5 hour drive, everyone should get their asses up at least once since it's a pretty cool city.