A couple weekends ago (Columbus Day weekend in the US, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada), Donald and I went to Montreal, driving up on Friday morning and coming back on Sunday (thus hoping to avoid the long weekend traffic back into Boston on Monday, which unfortunately didn’t work quite as well as we’d hoped; others must have had the same idea). We stayed with my friend Rene (Donald’s friend too, now, on Facebook!), whom I know from science fiction conventions. (Rene was chair of the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.)

The weather was beautiful, if on the chilly side. I hadn’t been to Montreal in a number of years, since my sister Lisa graduated from McGill and moved away (I used to visit her fairly often). I guess it’s hard to notice everything that’s different, when you didn’t actually live in a place, and haven’t visited in a long time. I did notice that there’s significantly more English on signs these days, hot dogs now being referred to as hot dogs, rather than “chiens chauds”. Rene confirmed that the authorities have, in fact, lightened up on French language requirements for signs. Apparently, about 90% of the complaints about English on signs were coming from about 3 people, so it was decided that there was not, in fact, widespread concern about English on signs contributing to the eroding of Francophone heritage.

On Friday evening, Rene cooked some yummy tofu tacos for us, and then we went to see the annual Chinese lantern exhibit at the Montreal Botanical Garden. It was really amazing, and I’m glad Rene suggested it.

On Saturday, we headed out to see Old Montreal, after a stop in the Plateau district for poutine. Lots of walking! Saturday evening, the three of us plus Rene’s daughter went out for dinner to, of all places, a restaurant specializing in Louisiana cuisine (called, perhaps unimaginatively, La Louisiane). I guess the Cajun/Creole food overdose from our recent Louisiana trip had worn off! The food was good, though not quite as good as in Louisiana.

Sunday we completed the trifecta of essential Montreal foods, with Montreal bagels for breakfast (they’re quite different from New York bagels, though, of course, still round with a hole in the middle), and smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s for lunch. In between, we drove up Mont Royal, and walked up to the viewing platform at the top.

Oliver looks happy to be back in Canada, even for a short visit

Donald in front of the Montreal skyline

On a science fictional note, Worldcon chairs apparently all get a display copy of that year’s Hugo Award (these are kind of like the Oscars for science fiction and fantasy; though I’m not sure anyone who doesn’t already know this reads my blog). The rocket is always the same, but the base is different each year. As we were packing to leave, Donald glanced at it, displayed on its shelf, and said wistfully, “I want one!”

The way back from Montreal to Boston goes almost right by the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory, so since I happened to be driving at that point, we got to stop. Donald was a little annoyed, and even more annoyed about the 45 minute wait in line for ice-cream. Joining a factory tour was out of the question, unless we wanted to wait an additional hour. Hmm, for some reason, a lot more people are interested in a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory on the Sunday of a holiday weekend, than a tour of the Tabasco sauce factory on an ordinary Tuesday just after the start of the school year. Can’t figure that one out….

What's not to love?

Thanks again to Rene for his kind hospitality in La Belle Ville!