With the wedding scheduled to start in the early afternoon, we were up pretty early and with coffee made, laid into the “Francois” breakfast we’d assembled, Dillon requesting it as it reminded him of the picnic we’d had in Paris in 2015 with his then girlfriend Simone, Beverly, Francois and myself.
With temperatures in the low 30’s, we prepared for what would be very cold walk that morning as we headed out to Mont Royal. A large volcanic-related hill or small mountain immediately west of Downtown Montreal, it consists of three peaks: Colline de la Croix (or Mont Royal proper) at 764 ft, Colline d’Outremont (or Mount Murray, in the borough of Outremont) at 692 ft, and Westmount Summit at 659 ft above sea level.
The first European to scale the mountain was Jacques Cartier, guided there in 1535 by the people of the village of Hochelaga and he named it in honor of his patron, Francis I of France. On one theory is that the name of the Island of Montréal derives from Mont Réal, as the mountain’s name was spelled in Middle French (Mont Royal in modern French).
Did I mention it was cold out? Although the listed temperature was manageable, a brisk wind cut it by at least ten degrees as we started at the base and began walking up snow and ice-covered paths. The hiking shoes I wear, Oboz, are the second pair of this brand that I’ve owned, and I’ve found that their fit and all-around versatility are perfect for me (I did hike 12 miles a day in them last year with no ill effects) and yet the one area they suck in is on slippery surfaces.
Long story short, I would slip and fall down three times on the way up and down, the first one a slapstick pratfall that really was not in any way pleasant and the next two a bit less damaging as I could see them coming and react to them. As we struggled up the frozen dirt paths, we came to a cleared car-free road being used by morning joggers.
This revelation made it much easier (relatively speaking) to ascend the Mont and after climbing up a series of steps,
we arrived at the summit with its viewing plaza and the Mount Royal Chalet, which constructed in 1932 it was a make-work project during the Great Depression and was designed by Montreal architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne.
The view was impressive, but we didn’t spend much time admiring it due to the cold sharp wind assaulting every exposed scrap of skin. We went inside the Chalet hoping for a food kiosk to grab some coffee, but none materialized and so we exited and made our way back down, where I took the last two of my pratfalls.
On the way to the apartment we stopped in at a bakery/sandwich place we’d noticed at the start of our walk, Boulangerie les Co’pains d’abord where I ordered a very good ham sandwich on a French baguette that was the best of the trip.
It’s a really small shop with just a couple of tables, which were occupied, and since we were only a couple of blocks from the apartment we carried our orders back there for consumption.
We’d planned the morning just right, leaving us with enough time to get dressed for the wedding (we brought our suits) and Uber (13C) to Parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa the Polish church where it would be held.
It was a lovely ceremony, partly in Polish and partly in English with Aneta and Nick making for a lovely couple, and when complete, we took another Uber to Le Crystal, the venue where the reception was to be held.
The reception was one of the nicest I’ve been to, with fantastic food, Polish dancers who appeared midway through, and best (or worst) of all, a completely open bar and never-ending supply of wine at the table. After a couple of cocktails, I reverted to my tried and true protocol for how to get through a reception, which is to stick to white wine. Dillon was having a great time with his friends and also with a French-Canadian woman around his age and so around midnight I called for Uber and returned to the apartment.
He came in a while later having made a date for Monday (I’d be returning early that morning) with his new friend and so it was a quiet morning until we dressed and made our way back to the church for the christening service for Aneta and Nick’s baby daughter. It would turn out that we’d be the only friends there and it being Sunday, sat through an hour long Catholic mass in Polish, which was then followed by the christening in English and Polish.
A reception was to follow at Polish Hall not too far away, so we walked over, running into Robert and Edgar outside a restaurant a block away. We all eventually gathered upstairs at the hall where a bounteous buffet was served accompanied by some beers and a few shots of vodka.
We spent a couple of enjoyable hours socializing and closing out our time with the group before returning to the apartment, before heading out in the early evening to walk the area and try to find a bar with something to hold our attention. I had read about a local hangout located off of Mont Royal Ave., so we headed up St. Denis to that street, turned right and kept walking until we found adequate substitute, Les Enfants du Rock. It would turn out to be the tavern I’d been looking for under new ownership.
Essentially a sports bar with a rock and roll theme, we settled in at the bar, ordered a couple of drinks and proceeded to spend an hour or two watching NBA playoff basketball, there not being a TV at the apartment. As I had a very early flight the next morning, we left so that I could do my packing and hit the bed early, it having been a long weekend.
My taxi picked me up at 5:00 am in the bitter cold and we made the run out to the airport on icy, slushy streets. The driver informed me that weather this cold in April was unusual for Montreal, but I have round that everywhere I go locals always exclaim that whatever the current weather conditions, “it’s usually not like this”. Go figure. At the airport, it took a while to get through security as you clear U.S. Customs and Border Control there, adding another 30-45 minutes to the process (a very long line).
But I got through with enough time to grab coffee and a sandwich from the Starbucks at our gate and then was pleasantly surprised when I got upgraded to business class (the equivalent of first class on the smallish plane). Fortunately given the short flight they didn’t serve much in the way of food, as it would have been a shame to forego a free first-class meal as I was full of my Starbucks breakfast.
It was a nice fun filled weekend, getting to see Montreal, gathering with Dillon’s friends from Copenhagen and attending a lovely wedding. I’ll get to see him again soon as we are currently working our way west on a three-month road trip (I’ll get to it soon enough) and we’ll be stopping in at Bev’s during which time we’ll make an overnight jog up to Kansas City to see him. I look forward to returning to Montreal with Joanna someday, this time when the weather is a little better. I’m sure its charms will really shine then.
Mont Royal: https://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/en
Boulangerie les Co’pains d’abord: http://boulangerielescopainsdabord.com/boulangeries/mont-royal/
Parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa: http://www.franciszkanie.org/kanada/mbcz/index.html
Le Crystal: https://www.lecrystal.com/
Les Enfants du Rock: https://m.facebook.com/lesenfantsdurockmtl/