Day 62 – Cocteau-du-Lac to Montreal! Well, dear friends of the blog, today really stands out for me as a fantastic day on this trip, mainly because almost nothing that happened was planned, except riding towards Montreal on a bike.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 41 / 66
- Time in saddle: 5h 47
- Max/min temp (°c): 36°/16°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 728 / 631
- Calories used: 1833
- Cafe time: 2h 26
Still no map, I’m working on it. Working hard at it. Any minute now.
The day started early for me, as I awoke before 5am, but luckily found that Susie in Toronto had done the same and we finally caught up after a few days of broken calls. I made a quick breakfast and then walked over to Pablo’s where we had coffee together with Annie and planned the route into town. It was such a luxury today to pass all such decisions over to local experts, and just enjoy the sights.
We said goodbye to Pablo, who was such a great host and full of interesting conversation on all subjects (and also spotted before I did that my front brakes needed centering!), and hit the road.
After 20km or so I suggested a proper breakfast stop, and Annie led us to a great place I’d never heard of, a chain called Cora. Annie ordered a crepe and I got the pancakes with strawaberrys and banana.
Annie had called her son and confirmed that he could put me up in Montreal, which was great news. I had planned to do a sort of drive-thru visit from the campsite, but this was much better, and things went on getting better. Shortly after the breakfast stop we met Greg and Willem, two crazy Montreal cyclists, who were returning from a Saturday morning ride but failing to get home as they led us on an exploration route into he city. Greg (a gauche) is in the film business (as is Annie’s son Colin, currently working on the new X-Men movie which is filming in Montreal this summer) and Willem (centre) is a Financial Advisor. They live in a kind of fantasy cycling world of clubs and rules and a proud determination not to look after their bikes in any way. Willem will only oil his chain for one year, then takes a year off, for example. His bar tape was older than me. Greg loves nothing more than overtaking a rich guy on a carbon bike with his muddy old hybrid. They have a club called MOB (Men of Beer) but haven’t quite finalised the rule book yet so their life is pretty flexible.
Their secret plan, not actually all that secret, was to get us to a bar they knew by the canal, The Terrace bar at the St. Ambroise Brewery, to try their many varieties.(He we’re sampling a pitcher of Session IPA which was superb, and another of Framboise, very fruity but not really my cup of raspberry)
I mentioned to the barmaid that I was writing a blog and she turned on the charm like a true professional, offering me free taster glasses of beer and getting a guy in line behind me to take the picture:
All day I suffered, if that’s the word for something so pleasurable, from a kind of culture shock. Of course I knew about French-speaking Canada, but nothing could have prepared me for just how French it feels being here. The great weather and surroundings with all the signs in French made it feel as though I’d fallen asleep and woken up in the centre of France somewhere. After weeks and weeks of feeling increasingly immersed in Canada, this just blew me away.
The ride into the city was fascinating, through so many different small towns in their own right, but technically suburbs of Montreal. I’ve just discovered that we passed through the area called Ste Catherine, made famous in a old song that I love by Kate & Anna McGarigle, Complainte Pour Ste Catherine, which complains about all the mosquitos “Vingt ans de guerre contre les Moustiques”. I’m glad to say that we’re bug-free at the moment which is fine by me:
Once in town we dropped off first Greg at his house, where he presented me with three bottles of his home brew beer (I’ve just finished two of them and they are excellent, especially the 6% but I’ve forgotten the name, which Greg wrote on the bottle top) We met his wife and kids and talked football and swimming but Willem needed to get home too so we pressed on into the city.
Next stop was to meet Willem’s wife and daughter at their lovely townhouse opposite a quiet park:
And finally Annie led the way to the lovely house where her son Colin and his wife Phuong and daughter Mai Lan live in the more French-leaning side of town. We ate BBQ and wonderful home-made Vietnamese spring rolls and I drank a few glasses of Greg’s beer. And we also discovered that Annie’s language school, EF School, where she was for two weeks at the same time That Susie and I were in Toronto, is about 300 yards from Virginia’s apartment, and we all shopped and drank coffee in the same places for a few days.
(I’m not making these people up, honest. I just need to get a photo of everyone with their permission)
So, a lovely end to a great day, and best of all – tomorrow is my rest day…