The great Ontario to Quebec VIA Rail 2012 biking adventure – Day Five
[If you missed any of the previous or subsequent articles in this series, there’s a list of all the articles with hyperlinks here at the end of Day Ten.]
Arriving in Montreal in another downpour, I pedaled from the VIA Rail station to my hotel for the next two nights – Auberge Du Carre-Saint Louis. Situated right next to the quaint Saint Lewis neighborhood park, the hotel’s rooftop terrace and hot tub overlook a street teaming with restaurants and shops of every description. The hotel is located in a neighborhood with a sinful amount of architecturally interesting homes. (I’d have to wander around later when it wasn’t raining.)
This quaint hotel is a walk-up from the street and has rooms of all sizes depending on your needs. My room is a compact but very comfortable room overlooking Rue Saint-Denis. The full-depth soaking tub would be a welcome treat after a full day of biking. Some other rooms have whirlpools.
In addition to an sumptuously big bed, there was a large dresser/closet piece with amazingly wide drawers and tons of closed shelf space. Across from that was a decent sized traditional closet with mirrored doors. It was enough storage space for the wardrobes of four people. Hardwood floors shined and a high pile rug awaited your first steps out of bed.
Plenty of bandwidth was available via Wi-Fi for my entire stay. That makes for a happy journalist. To top it all off, the staff was extremely personable and bilingual.
Early on day five, I quickly chow down most of the breakfast the hotel packs in your mini-fridge each day and head off for my biggest bike ride so far on this trip – the 50km Le Tour de L’ile de Montreal (The tour of the Isle of Montreal.) This was the culmination of a week-long Montreal Bike Fest. These Canadians know how to celebrate their bikes.
Read about Le Tour in a separate article where you’ll discover why:
- Rubber ducky head-gear was approved helmeting for the event.
- Why real ducklings and goslings were a refreshing distraction for the younger riders.
- And why this writer wasn’t among the initial elite riders who led this route.
When the ride was over, and because I hadn’t tortured myself enough yet, I wanted to see more of the city, especially some of the tall, old churches that can be found just about everywhere you look.
It was sad, but most all of the ones I rode by were no longer in use as houses of worship. One was even in the process of being renovated to become condominium apartments. They did however retain their beautiful architectural proportions and served as great landmarks within their respective neighborhoods.
I eventually made my way downtown to the Vieux Montreal area to see the smaller Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church where they give guided tours of the archaeological site and where you can discover a vanished chapel and neighborhood.
Culmination of the trip was getting to attend 5:00 p.m. mass at Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal. I’d heard that “awe-inspiring” didn’t do justice to their interior and they were right. From the heavenly blue altar walls to the inset statuary to the curved winding staircase of the pulpit, there were too many feasts for the eye to behold. The fabulous architectural elements and exquisite detailing kept me from hearing a word of the sermon. (The fact that the priest spoke only in French may have had something to do with that.) After an hour long service, I left; still sure there were areas my eyes could have explored had I had more time.
You won’t be seeing any photos of the interior. Before I even saw the signs, I was reminded of the “No Photos” policy as I raised my camera the first time by an over-zealous usher. Somehow, I really don’t think Jesus would have minded. I guess we’ll find out if I ever make it to heaven.
After Mass, I took off for dinner to a restaurant recommended by the hotel. Le Express on Rue Saint-Denis was supposedly a neighborhood classic and was only three-blocks away. Not having the address, I though surely I could find the sign. After turning around two times, I finally discovered that their only “sign” was a mosaic “Le Express” in black and white tiles in the sidewalk outside their front door. Talk about keeping a secret.
The dinner was worth the effort as I enjoyed the waiter’s recommendation of hanger steak and fries with a great glass of Pinot Blanc. A mason jar of sour pickles accompanies your meal and was surprisingly good with the dinner.
I arrived back to the hotel later than planned and needed to pack for tomorrow mornings first-thing train to Jonquiere. All my stories and photos will have to get caught up on that eight- hour train ride, so that’s why these posts have been delayed. Due to the remote region of this train trip, there is no Wi-Fi available on these cars, so I’ll be posting from Jonquiere when I arrive.
Did you miss any of the other days of this Canadian VIA Rail bike adventure? The links are here if you did…