[First Steps]

There are several steps one must take on every journey; one of ours was getting out of bed this morning. Sleeping in feels so nice after a long day of traveling, and I’m a big fan of sleep to begin with.

We really didn’t have a plan for today, so we took our time getting ready and out the door. Our aim was to walk around downtown Montreal and mark spots for future exploration. What ended up happening was us making a huge circle around downtown, and getting completely turned around in the process. It’s a good thing that the city has these giant billboard maps everywhere, or we’d still be wandering around.

Courtesy of Liz Case

Montreal has some beautiful street art, including several large murals decorating the sides of downtown buildings. This one was just outside the Chinatown district, where Mandarin signs outnumbered French for a good three or four square blocks.

Courtesy of Liz Case

That, of course, is where we decided to find refuge from the heat and also grab lunch. In a second-story restaurant, we ordered some pork dumplings, rice soup, and a cucumber salad. We also happened to be the only non-Asians in the place for most of our meal, which is usually a sign that the food is authentic.

It also meant that I was watched by a large number of the other customers when I picked up chopsticks to eat my salad.

From the window, we could see one of the open seating areas, where a group of older women were practicing (we assumed) tai chi. Our entertainment of the day was when a younger man (in a dress shirt and tie, but paired with casual khaki shorts and sandals) went and joined them for a good half-hour. He wasn’t quite as flexible as the women. But he made a good effort.

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After lunch, we resumed walking around the downtown area, taking in the sights and maybe getting a little turned around. But those maps came in handy again, and we were able to locate the Notre-Dame Basilica, and therefore reorient ourselves.

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We headed home for a break before dinner, since five hours of walking wears a body out. While cooling down and resting, we looked up a brewery specializing in local beers. Vices and Versa came up. Located in Little Italy, we had a short train ride and a longer walk. But we also got to try our first poutine and, in Liz’s case, first Canadian brew.

I think I found a new recipe that I need to learn. Poutine is delicious.

Courtesy of Liz Case

After dinner and a drink, we headed back toward home, but not without picking up dessert. Ice cream melts fast in summer heat, but that doesn’t explain how Liz managed to demolish hers before I even reached the halfway point of mine.

One more note: Montreal’s subway system is the nicest subway system I have ever been on. It’s also extremely deep below the surface, sometimes two or even three levels below ground. And each stop has its own unique look, which I love. Different mosaics and art pieces give everyday transport a bit of cheer. There are usually buskers making music in the stations, too.

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