A Travellerspoint blog

Halifax: A Long Walk, South to North and Back

sunny 24 °C

This is a bit of an extended walk - from the south of Halifax to the north end - which I didn't do all at once, or just once, It is quite long - you might want a cup of tea, but I wanted to get this done.

Although I was staying just off the main street, and its name is a fancy version of my own name (Barrington), I spent very little time on it. It has some interesting old buildings but is sorely in need of rejuvenation - several of the buildings are unoccupied - and there is not actually very much of interest on it. There's a nice bahn mi place and I found some great fried chicken in Stillwell Bar, but I also had the one dud meal of my time on this street. Of course, the Lieutenant-Governor lives there in the 210 year old, Georgian Government House, but I never received my invitation to visit.
Barrington Street

Barrington Street

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View of Harbour from Barrington

View of Harbour from Barrington

Government House

Government House


Government House (rear)

Government House (rear)


Old Burying Ground

Old Burying Ground


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St Paul's Anglican Church

St Paul's Anglican Church


The Old Burying Ground is pretty much opposite Government House, and dates back to 1752: it was closed to new residents in 1844. Apparently, Canada has a history of moving cemeteries away from such prominent spots, but this one is a National Historic Monument, so cannot be touched. There is a fairly pugnacious notice outside the Ground, explaining that Canadians are not Americans because of the service of men and women like those buried in this cemetery who died to prevent annexation by the Americans. I picked up a few interesting stories about the place: it was run but not owned by St Paul's Church. Because it was not church property, the church could not charge for burials, so it charged a whopping fee to ring the church bell for funerals. In the very early days, about a thousand people were killed by typhoid, more than the tiny town administration could deal with, so a law was passed, requiring every citizen who found a deceased person to take him or her to the burial ground, otherwise they'd be fined and sent to jail. But perhaps best of all, lying in this cemetery is the man who caused the White House to be a white house:

Major General Robert Ross, to quote his tombstone, "was killed at the commencement of an action which resulted in the defeat and flight of the troops of the United States near Baltimore, on the 12th Sept. 1814". His troops captured Washington, burning several public buildings including the President's mansion. The pale limestone building was so badly stained by smoke that it had to be painted white. Ross is remembered by Americans for inadvertently giving them a name for the White House, and through his use of rockets in battle, inspiring their national anthem.

A block up from Barrington is Argyle Street, centre of Halifax's bar scene - they all seemed a bit formulaic to me, so didn't actually go into any. Just off Argyle is one of the sweetest wee cafes in town, Le French Fix - the barista was delightful, and extremely precise and methodical in her movements. I'd take a break here, and read one of the stories in the Oxford Book of Detective Fiction. Quite a good collection, with a couple of oddities: in one, the detective basically gives up and asks us (the reader) to let him know if we find the culprit. In another, the detective solves what he thinks is the murder, only to find that he's the victim - that one ended abruptly.
Le French Fix

Le French Fix

large_WP_20140927_037.jpglarge_WP_20141011_006.jpgArgyle Street

Argyle Street


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Auctionhouse Pub

Auctionhouse Pub


On one of the walks, I took the ferry across to Dartmouth so that I could walk back across the Angus L McDonald (former law professor and Premier of Nova Scotia): I certainly hoped that PL Pratley (he designed it) knew what he was doing - I had a moment when I worried about the bit I was on falling off, as you do.
Downtown Halifax

Downtown Halifax

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

Dartmouth

Dartmouth

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Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour

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Atlantic Fleet

Atlantic Fleet

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This put me at the beginning of Gottingen Street, which is a bit of a rough street - there is a fair amount of social housing (including the wonderful looking and named Sunrise Manor) - but has several bright spots which made it an interesting walk, such as a couple of performance venues, a great cafe (where they serve tea in a glass pitcher with a wee fire under it - I took a few surreptitious photos with my camera on my knee, but they're all a bit weird and perhaps dodgy).
Edna's

Edna's

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Maritime Command Museum

Maritime Command Museum

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Sunrise Manor

Sunrise Manor

Nook on Gottingen

Nook on Gottingen

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At the far end of Gottingen Street, you'll find The Hydrostone - several people had mentioned it to me, and when I was looking for places to stay, they said their place was in The Hydrostone, as if that was a good thing, but I had no real idea what it was. Turns out hydrostone is an early brand name for concrete, concrete blocks in fact. It resulted from The Halifax Explosion - two ships, one carrying munitions, collided on 6 December 1917 in the nearby harbour, which set fire to the neighbourhood, killed 2000 people, injured another 10,000 and destroyed the housing (until the development of nuclear weapons, it was the biggest man-made explosion ever). So they had to rebuild and didn't want fire - I'd say that many have been rebuilt, others have been re-clad, so there aren't that many which are obviously concrete block. They also built a wee row of shops - the Hydrostone Market - which have been kept up very nicely. I, of course, had to pop in to Julian's Patisserie because walking is thirsty work. Coming back down Agricola Street, there wasn't much to see - a tiny microbrewery which makes such a great Belgian Pale Ale I had to buy some, and the Lion and Bright cafe, which has a dedicated workspace. I actually came back on Thanksgiving to work here, but way too many people beat me too it, so I went to my old friend, the Killan Memorial library.
Hydrostone Market

Hydrostone Market

Hydrostone Houses

Hydrostone Houses

Julien's Patisserie

Julien's Patisserie


Lion & Bright Cafe

Lion & Bright Cafe


Back in town is the Citadel - or Fort George - which was built in the 1740's as a defence against the French (there's another on an island in the harbour) and re-built three times since, but never actually attacked. They have guards, so there's a changing of the guards. They have big guns, so every noon they fire one - I happened to be strolling past when the did, and can confirm from direct person experience that when you stand under one of these babies when they go off, they're LOUD. There is also a nice (strategic) view across the top of Halifax.
Army Museum, Citadel

Army Museum, Citadel

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Changing Guard

Changing Guard

New Guard

New Guard


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Town Clock

Town Clock


Town Clock

Town Clock


Nearly home again, now. Just going to pop into Brunswick Street which has an interesting looking boutique (next door is Mary-Janes Smoke shop, to help you smoke weed but not tobacco) and the Stubborn Goat pub - on my last Sunday in town, a couple of people raved about it, but I didn't go in - I had three pubs two blocks away from my house which did me fine - even if one did faintly rip me off, by promising a 1 cent steak if you buy a drink - I was very happy to do so, but in the invisible print carried around in the waitress's head, it was i cent for the second steak. So I had two. Go up past St Mary's Cathedral Basilica, turn left at the Medjuck building, go past some cool houses and you're at mine (which was so not cool I took no photo).
St David's Church

St David's Church


Brunswick Street

Brunswick Street


Black Market Boutique

Black Market Boutique

Stubborn Goat pub

Stubborn Goat pub

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St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica

St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica

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Medjuck Architecture Building

Medjuck Architecture Building


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Holy Cross Cemetery

Holy Cross Cemetery

Posted by NZBarry 14:17 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Halifax: A Wander along the Waterfront

sunny 24 °C

My digs were very convenient for Dalhousie University, which is just a few blocks up my street (Morris). Going in the opposite direction, there are only about four blocks before you hit the waterfront. Almost next door is a Chinese restaurant, open very late, one I told myself I must go into, just to be neighbourly but never did. Down a block, on opposing sides of the road there's a brilliant magazine shop and a gift/sweet shop. Further down, there is the wonderful Morris East pizza restaurant (where I had my first meal in Halifax) and across the road, an extremely late night pizza and kabob shop, to which I might have had to make emergency recourse once or twice. Next block down, there is an OK sort of cafe, one I went into more for the name and because it was convenient than because it was a great experience. This is one block up from the waterfront. In between these shops, it is mostly housing, but none as interesting looking as the houses in the final block of Morris.
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Straight ahead, there is Georges Island - it is presently closed, but work is underway to restore Fort Charlotte, an important part of the defences against the French built in the mid 18th century. If you go right, you'll see the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, the Garrison Brewery and end up in the railway station. Although the premises for the market are pretty impressive, the market itself is not - just a few stalls selling produce, others food and the rest the normal sort of crap you find at markets. I guess the cruise boat passengers bought it (the boats tie up outside, and one day while I was there, the prediction was that there would be five of them).
Morris Street

Morris Street


Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour

Georges Island

Georges Island


Georges Island

Georges Island


Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

large_WP_20141005_004.jpgPumpkin Carving @ Seaport Farmer's Market

Pumpkin Carving @ Seaport Farmer's Market

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Turning left is much more impressive - the waterfront is very accessible to pedestrians and there is plenty to see as you wander along - there are probably about 2 kilometres of boardwalk. I was there four times at least - mostly it was sunny, but one day the weather was a bit grim, so there were very few about.
Fishing @ Halifax Waterfront

Fishing @ Halifax Waterfront


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Halifax Waterfront

Halifax Waterfront


Pilot Boats

Pilot Boats

Climbing Challenge

Climbing Challenge


I did not try to go up that challenge - some seemed to just stroll up as easily as I walked the boardwalk, others found it impossible, and would slide back down again unless rescued by their friends at the top (who might get pulled down in the process). All very amusing. Nearby is an interesting enclave of shops (with condos built above them) - there's an exclusive cigar shop, an equally exclusive wine shop, some clothing shops, a most excellent Italian restaurant (Ristorante A Mano - I went in on a whim on a Friday night - the place was packed, but they found room for me at the bar, so I could enjoy my linguine frutti di mare) a not bad coffee shop, the Smiling Goat, and foodtrucks and musicians during the day.
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There are plenty of other restaurants along the way - most of the wharves have been turned over to their use - but the big event on the waterfront is probably the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. As expected, it has lots of maritime bits and bobs and models of ships but the top floor has been devoted to maritime disasters in the area: most will have heard of one of them - Halifax was the closest port to where the Titanic met its end, and about 150 of the passengers and crew are buried in Halifax cemeteries. Titanic is not actually the first White Star Line ship to sink near Halifax - the Atlantic was actually entering the harbour when it hit rocks and sank in 1873, with a loss of 530 lives. They had surprisingly few actual exhibits from the Titanic, but there were a rather poignant pair of shoes which belonged to an unknown four year old boy.
Shoes of Titanic Boy

Shoes of Titanic Boy

Goose Boat

Goose Boat

Parrot

Parrot


My favourite part of the museum was actually the Wm Robertson Chandlers Shop, which is presented as it was about a hundred years ago (apart from the girl doodling on her smart-phone).
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Outside, they had a couple of ships that could be explored. The K181 (HMCS Sackville) is Canada's oldest fighting warship and the last of her 123 corvettes built during WWII, credited with 2 U-Boat kills but unfortunately put out of action when her own depth charges blew up a nearby torpedo. Acadia is a very different sort of ship, a 100 year old survey vessel which saw action in both wars and as an occasional ice-breaker.
K181

K181

Acadia

Acadia


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Acadia Speaking Tube

Acadia Speaking Tube

Emergency Wheelhouse, Acadia

Emergency Wheelhouse, Acadia

Captain's Cabin, Acadia

Captain's Cabin, Acadia

First Mate's Cabin, Acadia

First Mate's Cabin, Acadia

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Among all the restaurants, there were also several brightly coloured kiosks selling food, tickets and souvenirs - it was such a long time since I'd had fish and chips (Vancouver!) that I couldn't resist.
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At the far end, and not really accessible by boardwalk, is the Canadian Atlantic Fleet - I took a ferry ride to the dark side, also known as Dartmouth (its a place that came in for a lot of cheek from my mates at the meetup group, even more when someone from Dartmouth attended).
Canada's Atlantic Fleet

Canada's Atlantic Fleet

Angus L McDonald Bridge

Angus L McDonald Bridge

Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour


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Posted by NZBarry 22:37 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Train Across Canada: Montréal to Halifax

sunny 25 °C

Halifax is the end of the line when it comes to train travel in Canada. That's pretty much the only reason I ended up there, plus the fact they have a University which suited my needs (St John's, Newfoundland has one too, but no law school). There are freight trains still running north and south, but the last passenger service north to Cape Breton stopped in 1990 and south to Yarmouth in 1989. The latter is a bit of a pity, as they're trying really hard to keep a ferry running between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine but I found it very difficult to get there.

The train across from Montréal was of the same design as the ones I caught from Vancouver to Toronto, but much quieter - not many passengers and no onboard entertainment. As I left Montréal, I had two surprises: I ran into the German couple from the Winnipeg-Toronto train, and my train left on time. Even more surprising, it arrived on time. Once on the train, the announcement came over - people with reservations, but only people with reservations, can come and eat dinner. I was a bit confused about how people would have made reservations, since we had just got on: it turns out the dining car was so close to empty that everyone dining had a table to themselves. I had a delicious beef dish, washed down with a couple of fine ales - a very nice start to a pleasant journey. It was rather similar to what I had seen before, so much so that I have zero photos, but not boring. I could watch the world go by, watch a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad and finally finished The Alexandria Quartet, which is very dense, but having the ability to read it for an extended period made it very rewarding.
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I spent a whole month in Halifax, and pretty much had tears in my eyes when it came time to leave: I had a completely wonderful time. The weather helped - sunny most days, cloudy for a few but actual rain for just two. My first week or so was in the hostel on Barrington Street - a very relaxed space where it was easy to meet people - I even found myself wandering the streets in search of coffee and smoking furiously with a retired gent from back west at 3 in the morning. Next door is Bearly's House of Blues, where I went a couple of times - the first time because I was hungry and I'd heard they have great burgers (they do, plus a wonderful Belgian IPA). Despite what you might think from the size of the audience, the singer was pretty good. I went back the next night for another of the beers, and the place was packed - kareoke night. Surprisingly: not shit. Across the road was a very traditional English pub, Henery's House, where I had dinner a couple of times. I also meant to go to the underground games cafe but somehow run out of time.
Bearly's House of Blues

Bearly's House of Blues

large_WP_20140916_001.jpgHenry House

Henry House


I spent my last three weeks in a place called Novel Stay - short term furnished accommodation, with a proper kitchen and lounge (and what is the one thing I cook? Sausages, eggs and beans. A bit tragic, but I was seduced by the fact they were artisinal, hand-made sausages). I hardly saw a soul the whole time I was there, even though it had ten rooms and a "host" who supposedly came in every evening. I did have an odd encounter with a neighbour - she and some mates were celebrating the end of their degrees: she came over (this is another 3 in the morning thing) and declared that there would be two weeks of fall, then it would get so cold people would either lock themselves away for the winter or go out and kill people.

My first encounter with the law school was a bit off-putting: I misread a sign the Dean had put outside the building and thought I had to show Dalhousie ID just to get in. That's not what it said, and in a month of going in and out, I was never challenged so spent my days here
Sir James Dunn Law Library @ Dalhousie University

Sir James Dunn Law Library @ Dalhousie University


In the evenings, I'd relocate to what must be one of the ugliest libraries in the world
Killam Memorial Library @ Dalhousie

Killam Memorial Library @ Dalhousie


but once inside it was fine, and there was food and coffee available until midnight (not that I ever stayed there quite that late). Ordinarily, I'd also use the public library, for a change of pace and access to wifi, but central Halifax is currently without a library. It closed its main Memorial Library at the end of August, and the new ($60 million) one was not opening until late fall (no date yet - they want to be ready).
Old Halifax Library

Old Halifax Library


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Churchill statue @ Old Halifax Library

Churchill statue @ Old Halifax Library

New Halifax Library

New Halifax Library


It certainly looks impressive, although at least one person I spoke to thinks it is an eyesore. Apparently it is the first major building built in downtown Halifax for decades, and has several associated projects, as the Council sold vacant land to developers to help fund the project. I did find a public library I could use, but it was quite awkward to get to.

Architecturally, Dalhousie doesn't have much going on, although it physically merges with the University of King's College, which is the first Canadian University, and looks rather good.
University of King's College

University of King's College

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One of my first priorities was to find a regular coffee haunt, and after a couple of false starts, I had three. There was one right beside the hostel I thought might do but by my second visit, I had decided their coffee was dull. On campus, I took the advice of the library staff, but they also sent me on a false trail, to Second Cup. At least a week after I arrived, I just walked around the block and found one of the sweetest coffee shops I have ever experienced, Coburg Coffee. I'd pop in every afternoon and developed a terrible habit of eating grilled cheese sandwiches. One of the staff I only ever saw about three times, but every time she smiled at me as if we'd been friends for ages - in fact, she served my very last Halifax coffee, and it was her smile that almost had me in tears. There was another staff member, so tiny she can't even be seen behind the cash register even when she's standing up, but who had an enormous smile, one that made me glad to be alive.
Coburg Coffee

Coburg Coffee


I was also lucky to have a great place just around the corner from my house - I nearly didn't go in because it has such a lame name (Humani-T) but it became my lounge - I'd go in on my way to and from the uni for a coffee and a wicked ginger date slice and use their wifi or read, it was open till 10:30 most nights. It only took a couple of days and some of the guys working there knew what I'd be wanting. Nice as it was, in the last week they were gazumped by my third cafe, which also had a lame name - Just Us - but their coffee was fabulous (and came in proper sized cups as standard).

Wanting to meet people, I found a few groups on Meetup.com - there was one for Halifax singles of a particular age, but the one meetup I attended was strange - it was for a movie, a random romcom, but as soon as it finished, everyone just left. I got on far better with a group called Halifax Friends International - it met every Sunday night at Humani-T just to talk, and talk we did! One evening we hadn't done talking when the cafe closed, so we moved on to a pub. Good times, and I may have come away from one of those evenings just a wee bit smitten with another member.

I managed to hit two film festivals - the tail end of the Atlantic Film Festival, where I saw four movies over two nights - including the latest from David Cronenburg, Maps to the Stars and a very strange locally made movie, Roundabout. It has been panned a bit by critics, but I just loved God Help the Girl, made by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian fame, about three lost kids who find each other and start a band, and also a vehicle for some songs Murdoch had written which were for female vocalists rather than Belle and Sebastian. I also went to the Japanese Film Festival at St Mary's University and saw every film in the festival: there were only two of them. The Consul-General himself came from Montreal, and gave a very strange introduction, talking about the great films they'd shown at Montreal and then saying "but they're not what we have for you". Instead, you'll be watching Hospitalité and Until the Break of Dawn. The first one was cute: this couple runs a printing shop and live above in a tiny space. They take on a new employee, who moves in, then moves his wife in, with whom the boss sleeps. This gives the employee power over the boss and how does he use it? He takes control of both workplace and home - the latter, by running it as a backpackers, with around 30 people crammed into every nook and cranny. The latter was pretty cool too - about a tsunagu, someone who can facilitate a meeting between a live person and a dead one - not like a seance, they actually get to sit down and talk to each other. Of course, there's more to it - the film focuses on three people who want to contact a dead person, why they do and what happens to them. Oh, and I saw Gone Girl.

On the way down to St Mary's, I was totally impressed by the great housing I saw, and they may have inspired me to paint my own house a bit more colourfully when I get home: I'm thinking purple (not that I seem to have captured any purple houses in a photo, but they exist). A lot were in a couple of blocks of Tower Road - built in the late Victorian period for merchants, who had a bit of cash to flash.
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This post is an overview - I have more to show you Halifax as I walked around it.

Posted by NZBarry 21:24 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

An Afternoon Walk around Old Montréal

sunny 24 °C

Because of my poor research, I only had my last day to spend looking around Old Montréal. The city was first established as a French colony in the mid 17th century, called Ville-Marie. The existing inhabitants were none too happy about this and it is likely they would have wiped out the French settlers had reinforcements not arrived: from that point on, the place thrived, spurred on by the fur trade. When Louis XIV declared it a province of France in 1664, the building style changed: craftsmen had to make all important buildings in stone and the town had to follow a particular pattern. Luckily, moves to make the area accessible to cars in the 1960's did not succeed, so walking around it now, both are still very much in evidence. I have no idea how many of the buildings are from the 17th century - there has been a steady process of revitalisation and refurbishment which makes Old Montréal a great place to wander.

My starting point was the Sherbrook Metro station - I walked down Rue St Denis towards the old port. As I got closer, things got more interesting - cool, stone apartments, the former archives building (all the archives have been moved into the Grande Bibliothèque), outside which there is a rundown park with a couple of rundown old gentlemen sitting on park benches (I nearly joined in) and a couple of disused hotels. One, the Place Viger, had been the main railway station for downtown Montréal as well as a luxury hotel. The hotel closed in the 1930's and the train station in the 1950's - it has been empty for decades, although there are plans to turn it into an apartment building.
large_WP_20140914_001.jpglarge_WP_20140914_002.jpgArchives Building, Montréal

Archives Building, Montréal

large_WP_20140914_005.jpglarge_WP_20140914_007.jpgPlace Viger, Montréal

Place Viger, Montréal


I had a clear idea in my head of how the Old Port would be - little shops along the waterfront, falling down old sheds and other port buildings and still a bustle of activity on the water. I was completely wrong - it is a marina, a park, a boardwalk and, at the tip, a tiny man-made beach stuck behind a concrete edifice - both closed for the season. The one significant landmark left from its days as a port is the clocktower, which operated as both beacon for sailors and memorial for lost ones.
Old Port @ Montréal

Old Port @ Montréal

Old Port @ Montréal

Old Port @ Montréal

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There is a pretty significant road between it and Old Montréal, on which is to be found the Bonsecours Market, the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, a line of stern-faced buildings which were probably port-related and now feature bars and souvenir shops, and carriages for those who want to travel around the area in style. The market was built in the 1840's to house the main public market, although for a year it provided a home for the United Canada Parliament. The market ran for over a hundred years - now there are restaurants on the ground floor and posh little shops in the upper floors. It gained its name from the nearby chapel, built in the 1770's, which has long been a place of pilgrimage for sailors.
Bonsecours Market, Montréal

Bonsecours Market, Montréal


Bonsecours Market @ Montréal

Bonsecours Market @ Montréal

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Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

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The main street through Old Montréal is Rue Notre-Dame, although it veers off about half way through and other streets carry you through. It is still cobbled and a bit quaint, despite all the traffic and modernisation. Its lined with all sorts of little business and shops as well as, of course, cafes and bars. One thing it does not have (I know, because I was in need of one) is a stationery shop.
Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal


Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Cute B & B, Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Cute B & B, Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Side Street off Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

Side Street off Rue Notre-Dame, Montréal

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I did my best to wander up and down every side street in the area, but probably skipped a few as I got towards the end. The Town Hall is about half way down, and has the Place Jacques Cartier running down hill from it - this had been the formal garden of a château: when that burnt down, this was turned into a public square and named in honour of the French explorer who found Canada (who knew that?). It was a busy spot when I was there - several performers, stalls selling various sorts of food and tragic tourist restaurants down each side.
Town Hall, Montréal

Town Hall, Montréal

Town Hall, Montréal

Town Hall, Montréal

Place Jacques Cartier, Montréal

Place Jacques Cartier, Montréal


A typical style for smaller buildings developed: Château Ramezay - the former home of former Governor, built in 1704 - is an example. It is now a museum and national historic place.
Château Ramezay

Château Ramezay


With all the walking and the bars and cafes, I was a bit hungry, but I wanted to eat somewhere which spoke to me - not some chain restaurant, not a basic cafe - and I found what I was looking for in La Suavagine Restaurant - serving up game in a classical French style, It opened in 1980 and most of the waiters (there were no waitresses) looked like they were the original crew - old timers, the lot of them. I had a very pleasant wild boar stew, although the vegetables were a bit sad.
La Suavagine Restaurant, Old Montréal

La Suavagine Restaurant, Old Montréal

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Somehow, I failed to take a proper picture of one of the main attractions in the area, the Notre-Dame Basilica. They wanted quite a lot of money to go in and there was quite a queue so I decided to wander on.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal

Square opposite Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal

Square opposite Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal

Quiet Side Street, Old Montréal

Quiet Side Street, Old Montréal


Time to go: after picking up my bag from the hostel, I made my way to the train station, between an anonymous huge bank and the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral. As I walked, I heard a pretty loud BANG - I am not sure exactly what happened, but there was a collision involving a bus and a car. The bus didn't look like it had been much affected, but the side of the car was all pushed in - with a woman sitting in the rear passenger seat who looked absolutely terrified. Since I hadn't actually seen anything, I didn't see any point in hanging around to talk to the police and went off to catch the last train of this part of the journey.

Posted by NZBarry 22:11 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Train Across Canada: Winnipeg to Montréal

sunny 24 °C

Visiting the Manitoba Museum, I learnt about the Hudson Bay Railway, and it created a great desire in me to take a ride up to Churchill. Construction started in the 1880's but the line was not actually finished until 1929 - there were plenty of engineering, financial and political challenges standing in the way of completion, as well as a diversion of energies to World War 1. Having a northern port was important, as it would provide a short route to Europe for the grains grown in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Originally it was to go to Port Nelson, but that port proved to be too difficult - shallow, riptides and bad storms combined to see the port operate for just four years and the railway diverted to Churchill (just one of a number of cul-de-sacs and false starts). Various photos made it look like quite a trip but, alas, I was committed to heading East.

When I arrived in Winnipeg, my train was a couple of hours late, so I had no real expectation that the train I was to leave on would be on time. I checked in my bags at around 8:00 and was told that my train, timetabled to leave at 22:30, would not even arrive until 1:30, and probably not leave for another 3 hours because there were problems with one of the fuel tanks, so re-fuelling would be a slow process. I hung round the Forks area in a bar having drinks and dinner as long as I could, but it was a long long wait in the Winnipeg Station, although the train did get away before 3:00 in the end.

While in Winnipeg, I'd spent a day out at the University of Manitoba, and finally found a University that had some traditional university-looking buildings. I also really liked the look of the Fort Garry hotel - it was my back-up if I'd arrived too late for Tara.
University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg

Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg


The train to Toronto was essentially the same as the one from Vancouver although with a different crew, naturally. It probably had even fewer passengers, so there was plenty of room to spread out and no problems with getting space in the dining car or up in the dome. The scenery was much the same as the scenery to the west - mile after mile of trees, although with more lakes and rivers. I just settled into my Alexandria Quartet, my nightly Breaking Bad episode and enjoyed the ride.
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There was a young German couple who got on in Winnipeg with whom I had breakfast the first morning, along with a local fellow - the four of us spent most of the day in the dome car, but the local and the guy from the couple got so engrossed in discussions of hunting that the girl left them to it and I returned to my book. At one point, four guys from various parts of Canada who had flown in to do some fishing surrounded me and I got caught up in their conversation. Apart from that, there wasn't much socialising this trip.

Rumours went up and down the train as to how late we'd be getting to Toronto - at one point, people were saying we'd made up quite a lot of time but the reality was rather different. I was supposed to arrive at 9:30, but didn't actually make it in until after 18:00! Via Rail does give discount vouchers when they are more than 4 hours late, but they were no good to me. I did appreciate the fact that the guy running the snack bar just gave up charging for coffee and on the last day made us all lunch. It did mean that my day of checking out Toronto didn't happen - by the time I arrived, my two friends were already waiting for me, so we wandered over to the Mill Street Brewhouse, ate far too much and had a great time.
CN Tower, Toronto

CN Tower, Toronto


The train to Montreal was a different sort of train, used more by people commuting between Toronto and Montreal - just standard seats, a wee food cart trundling through the carriages, wi-fi and most importantly, on time! I think four different people sat in the seat beside me, but it was not the sort of train that people would talk to strangers.

I spent five nights in Montréal, although I didn't plan things very well. My first two nights, I stayed in a wonderful old hotel, the
Hotel Abri du Voyageur, with creaky, polished wooden floors, corridors that twisted and undulated, friendly staff and a very pleasant vibe.
Hotel l'Abri du Voyageur, Montreal

Hotel l'Abri du Voyageur, Montreal


Because I wanted to see the old city, I moved out into the hostel, which was at the other and, as it turned out, wrong end of town - I was MUCH closer in the hotel, and it was a better experience. The hostel was chocker, stank of weed the whole time I was there (which is really unusual for a Hostelling International property) - I was even offered "hash" at one point, and there were no potatoes involved. The hostel was quite adamant about allocating beds, so when I found someone had taken the one they allocated to me, they moved all his stuff out - didn't stop him trying to climb in with me at about 4:00 in the morning.

I visited the library at McGill one day, which turned into an unusual experience - during the afternoon it was pretty quiet, but come evening, it was pretty much totally deserted. They put a security guard on after hours to ensure only authorised people could come in - which meant once I was in, I had to stay in until I was finished for the day. Going home one evening, I got off the subway and was disgorged into the bowels of Concordia University, which looked like a cross between a hollowed out office block and a mall. Their library is open 24/7 - it occurred to me that it would have been interesting to just stay in the library and not bother with a hostel - I'm sure they have the occasional student nod off. Most of my work was done in the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, another grand and practically brand new library.

I had three really good food experiences when I was there. Montréal is famous for two types of food - poutine (which I have no desire to eat) and smoked meats. Although it is a New York institution, the reuben sandwich is a natural fit with this, and I went to a restaurant called Reubens to have one: it was the most ridiculous sort of sandwich I have ever eaten - two thin slices of bread, as normal, but attempting to contain a mountain of smoked beef. I had to use a knife and fork on this one.
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I also found the perfect cafe, Pikolo Espresso Bar, which was a tiny space, full of interesting people, great coffee and food. I would have happily set myself up to work there (several others had) but I didn't think it would be very fair on the number of people wanting to sit down.
Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar


Right next door was a very dangerous place for me, the Papeterie Nota Bene: a shop stuffed with beautiful papers, journals, pencils, pens, satchels and associated goodies. I was very good and only spent $22.50 - on pencils alone (to add to the 4 dozen I bought in Hong Kong, although here I only netted 8 pencils).
Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene


On the Friday night, I popped into a bar, thinking I'd have a drink and some food. I'm pretty good about travelling on my own, but for some reason, sitting in this bar saw my mood sink beneath the floor - I had to leave. I was still hungry and on the way back to the hostel saw what I thought was a Japanese cafe, which turned out to be mainly Korean. The two wait-staff were incredibly nice, one even warned me that the plate of Korean Fried Chicken I was ordering was "very large". Sitting in this space, chowing down on my fried chicken (I ate the lot), having a beer, watching the young Koreans having a great time restored my mood and I went home with a smile on my face. The staff had been so nice, I thought they deserved a generous tip, so told them they'd increase their business just by putting pictures of their glorious fried chicken outside.

I'm going to do a seperate post about my wander through the old city, so just have a few random photos of a few things that caught my eye as I walked between the cafe and the library
Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Sculpture, Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Sculpture, Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Posted by NZBarry 18:50 Archived in Canada Tagged montreal Comments (2)

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