Montreal, Part The Rest

This always happens. I scribble notes here and there, but then I get back from a trip and get caught up in catching up and then it's forever since I was in whatever place I was in and it all seems too daunting (plus, minimally interesting) to go back and give a blow by blow account of said trip, which now seems so far in the past. Thus, I present to you some highlights of the remainder of our trip to Montreal, in photo form. (I also went back and added some photos to the previous Montreal entries, for posterity.)

Saturday was possibly my favorite day in Montreal, as we hit the famed Jean-Talon Marche, an outdoor farmer's market near Little Italy that runs week-long but hits its stride on the weekends. Especially on a crisp, sunny Saturday morning.

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The abundance of fruits (or, as the French say, fruits) was amazing, especially the giant baskets of "bleuets." Chris especially loved the signs for "bleuets sauvages" from Quebec. While it actually means "wild bleuberries," I'd guess he had a more violent mental image going.

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Our favorite part was that many of the stands offered up generous samples of their various produce, so we lined our tummies with bites of juicy peaches, pears, apple, mango and chunks of (thoughtfully) lightly salted tomatoes. We also tried some fresh figs (below), which have a strange, watery sweetness something like the consistency of watermelon. Not quite what I was expecting.

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Other beautiful images included aubergine (eggplant) in every gorgeous shade of purple imaginable, from the palest lavender to the deepest, well, eggplant:

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Giant clusters of garlic still on the stalk:

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Baskets spilling over with ripe tomatoes:

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And Chris was in heaven when we found a vendor selling fresh cooked cobs of "maize sucre," complete with a pot of butter you could paint on with a brush and a sprinkling of salt. I don't know if it was the fact that we were outdoors on a gorgeous day and surrounded by all the most amazing colors of nature but it was, without question, the best corn I've ever eaten. (Chris said it came close to rivaling fresh corn picked from the Iowa fields of his homeland, which is a pretty high compliment.)

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We had what was probably our best meal in Montreal at the market. We picked up a baguette, some local goats cheese (flavored with garlic and olive oil), a little tub of stuffed olives and some organic cherry tomatoes and squeezed into a picnic bench in the crowded eating area for an impromptu picnic. It's something we've done on several trips -- picked up a few locally made goods for a simple lunch and it always winds up being one of our favorite memories.

It turned out that in addition to walking too far the day before, I'd also pulled or twisted something strange in my left foot -- badly enough that, the night before, it had been excruciatingly painful to hobble to the bathroom and I barely made it down the block to dinner without tears. On Saturday, my foot was feeling a little better but I made a real strategic error in wandering for too long around the market before heading out on what I had thought would be the main attraction of my entire trip to Montreal: the fabric shopping district on St. Hubert.

Here in Ann Arbor, there are a few fabric and craft stores and my new sewing jones has me familiar with a couple of great online retailers, but I'd read much about the dozens of fabric shops located just North of a busy pedestrian thoroughfare. I even made room in a suitcase for all the fabric I anticipated finding and bringing back.

However, it turned out that the combo of foot pain and sheer volume of options -- shop after shop with bolt after bolt of fabric to choose from -- had me quickly overwhelmed. I didn't have any particular projects in mind and I quickly got the same feeling I get at thrift stores -- a little bit of claustrophobia and instant exhaustion at the thought of having to pick my way through so many bolts, squeeze my way down tiny aisles, in the hopes I might find something I liked.

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I spent maybe 45 minutes going into four or five different shops, but at that point the fabric were all blurring together. I couldn't remember what I'd seen where or even think of what I would use the fabric for. There were too many possibilities and not enough specifics. Bargain sections held remnant bolts stacked floor to ceiling. I couldn't handle it.

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In the end, I bought...nothing. Well, I did pick up a little ribbon trim at one shop, mostly because it was pretty and it seemed like a small and easy, manageable purchase. But all that extra suitcase room was for naught. If I return, it'll definitely be with some projects in mind and at the beginning of the day.

Overwhelmed and ready for a refreshment, we ducked into a Nickels restaurant on St. Hubert. Nickels is a pretty cheesy local chain designed in a fifties-American-throwback sort of way. And it was here we decided to try one of the great Montreal culinary traditions: poutine. Although there are many fancy variations, the basic gist to this beloved snack/meal involves french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. No, really.

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Granted, in its most basic form, it looks like a plate of vomit. It took a little getting used to -- it helped when the cheese curds melted -- but the truth is, the taste grows on you. Enough that we polished our poutine plate clean. Not so much that we went actively seeking more.

Sunday, my feet feeling a bit better, we spent some more time on Rue St. Denis, which offers up block after block of boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The weather couldn't have been more lovely and there are plenty of gorgeous buildings -- mostly commercial on the ground floor and flat up above -- to gaze at. To wit:

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Reminded me a bit of Amsterdam in some ways...

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You can spend hours ducking into one little shop or another but -- from an aesthetic standpoint -- Au Festin de Babette is perhaps my favorite. It's a tea house, chocolatier and ice cream shop that's just so charmingly set up in what was likely once a residential house.

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And pretty, no?

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Monday, we drove out into the Laurentian mountains, which takes about an hour from Montreal. It's not as rustic as we'd hoped. A lot of ski resorts and golfing developments breaking up walls of stick-straight pines reaching skyward. We stopped for lunch in the charming little town of Tremblant and wandered its few blocks of touristy shops, then headed for Lake Tremblant, which was completely developed and difficult to access if you weren't staying at one of the resorts on its shores.

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And Tuesday, we headed home. End of trip. (If you're a real glutton for punishment, there are a few more photos from our trip on my Flickr page.) I have to say that, while I enjoyed our trip to Montreal -- and probably would have moreso if my foot hadn't gone all wonky -- it wasn't one of those places that grabbed me (the way San Francisco or London or, even, Puerto Rico have) and made me long to return even after I'd left. I'm glad I went, though, and who knows -- maybe Montreal and I will meet again and maybe next time, she'll understand what I'm saying.