montreal at night

The first part of our little week long road trip was planned out pretty well. We stayed one night at Caleb’s place near Cornell. Then we had booked one night at a hotel overlooking Niagara falls. From there we went to Toronto. After Toronto we had nothing planned yet. So we decided we would continue driving east into Montreal and then back to the US through Vermont to eat lobster in Maine. Since we had not planned this in advance, Bo looked for a hotel room near downtown Montreal that was relatively cheap, but still had good reviews.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo when we arrived at our hotel we had a little surprise. Our hotel was above a sex shop. Still, the hotel room wasn’t too bad. It was comfortable and clean, and much cheaper than any of the other hotels nearby. It gives new meaning to the phrase ‘bang for the buck.’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd on the plus side, it appeared that Chinatown wasn’t too far away. I wanted to walk to Chinatown and the Notre Dame Basilica, which according to Google Maps was only about a ten minute walk away. First I googled: ‘is it safe to walk in Montreal at night’ to which most pages on Google responded with a resounding ‘yes.’

It was sort of a semi walk of shame for me, because even though Chinatown was only about two blocks away, those two blocks were filled with strip clubs and sex shops. And even though I didn’t go into any of those seedy establishments, I would bet that most people would assume that a guy walking at night through the area would be a patron of those establishments. So yeah– semi walk of shame.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chinatown gate, guarded by a lion. Seems like this is a fairly standard thing in most Chinatowns I’ve been too. There must be some story behind the lions that I’m unaware of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Yelp there were still some restaurants open in Chinatown, but when I arrived Chinatown seemed sort of creepy and deserted, so I didn’t walk through it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Notre Dame Basilica.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFire Station in Downtown Montreal. Boots and overalls ready for action.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen and Yellow lights, as opposed to the red light district that our hotel was in.

Aside from the area near the strip clubs, the streets were fairly deserted. Even though I guess we were in sort of a seedy part of town, I felt pretty safe compared to most American cities I’ve been to, but I didn’t tempt fate by staying out too long. After taking a few pictures I hurried back and fell asleep safely locked in the room above a sex shop.

steam whistle brewery

Across the street from the CN Tower is an old train roundhouse that has been converted into the headquarters of Steam Whistle Brewery. The brewery brews one kind of beer, a pilsner, and offers a brewery tour. This tour ended up being one of the unexpected highlights of Toronto for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe brewery is near the Toronto waterfront, directly across the street from the CN Tower.

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The tour takes us through the brewery. We visited towards the end of the day, so workers were busy filling up pallets of beer.

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Beer apparently is pretty simple. Steam Whistle only uses four ingredients. Hops, malt and spring water, to which yeast is added to start the fermentation process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA technician monitors the fermentation process. The monitoring happens 24×7 because apparently beer never sleeps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople in lab coats monitor every step of the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis crazy machine is the heart of the operation. It cleans, fills and caps the bottles of beer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the line the bottles are packed and loaded onto pallets by hand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the working day is done, boys just wanna have fun… Apparently workers at the brewery get free beer, and often enjoy a few bottles at the end of their shift. It’s a pretty cool place to work, just across the street of the CN Tower, which you can sorta see the base of in this picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe finished product, a bottle of pilsner from ‘The Good Beer Folks!’ The tour was $10 and included a bottle of beer which was bottled just hours ago, a souvenir glass, and a couple of tastings of beer. Not a bad deal in my opinion.

the CN tower

The CN Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in Toronto. For thirty four years, up until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010, it was the world’s tallest man-made structure.

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We arrived at the CN Tower at night, about a half hour before closing, but the guy at the ticket booth said we should come back in the morning and devote at least an hour to the tour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tower is reflected off of many of the buildings in downtown Toronto.

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The CN Tower towers over all the buildings in downtown. (This distorted view from my wide angle lens makes the tower seem even taller than it should be. It’s really only like twice as tall as all the other buildings in Toronto.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn elevator ride takes you to the top of the tower. At the halfway point of the elevator ride you’re at the level of most of the downtown skyscrapers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut from the observation deck it’s clear how much taller the tower is than surrounding buildings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lower floor of the observation area has an open air deck that wraps around the tower. It’s pretty cool. Literally. A cold great lakes breeze blows through the protective mesh barrier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a glass floor which you can stand on and gawk at the pedestrians who are more than 1500 feet below you.

The tower tour was pretty cool, but at $35 I thought it way overpriced. I think closer to $10 would’ve been more appropriate.

st lawrence market

When traveling I like to visit the local food market. So when I discovered that Toronto had a pretty famous one, the St Lawrence Market, rated as one of the best in the world by National Geographic, I had to check it out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe market is housed in what appears to be a converted brick warehouse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst order of business: find some coffee. Then roam around the market looking for food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were several coffee dealers. I was tempted to buy some of ‘Mike’s Blend #3’ since it had my name on it. But I don’t own a coffee grinder. I should probably buy a grinder and a french press.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe market is a large indoor market with many different seafood and meat vendors, kind of like Pike’s Place market in Seattle, but smaller and not as crowded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey had fresh oysters and clams.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey shuck the oysters and serve them right there for you if you so desire. In hindsight I should have ordered more than three. They were quite tasty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe smoked salmon from Mike’s Fish Market was calling out to me. How could I resist fish from a market with my name on it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter wandering around the market for a bit, I settled on what to buy for lunch. A bit of smoked salmon, some herbed goat cheese, a few sun-dried tomatoes, and a small french baguette. It was quite a tasty meal, though not as tasty as the magical market meal I had in the Nachsmarkt in Vienna. Overall I was a bit disappointed with the St Lawrence Market. Because it was rated so highly by National Geographic, I was expecting it to be truly amazing, but I found it to be more or less on par with the other markets I’ve been to.