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Quebec and Montreal

We got up at about 1pm yesterday, the 3rd of July, hungover and exhausted from our 4am first night in Ottawa. We took our time before having another beer, but I was the first to start again.

We walked in a random direction from our hotel and before we knew it, wound up right in the middle of the British-style government and Parliament districts of Ottawa. The Parliament buildings we absolutely beautiful, and their positions of the edge of a huge cliff overlooking the beautiful Ottawa River made them seem to have been sited providentially.

We continued walking in a northwesterly direction, before we saw that we were nearing the bridge to Gatineau. Eager to made an early visit to Quebec, we crossed the river and watched all the signs turn from English then French, to French then English, but mostly just French. We ate at some Italian place where I failed miserably at speaking French with the waiter.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Ottawa's really excellent urban neighborhoods. The only city I know that comes close to Ottawa's bike-friendliness is Portland, OR. But even Portland has nothing on Ottawa. I looked very hard to try to find something wrong, but I just couldn't. It's a thoroughly excellent city, where it would seem that everything just works.

It was with heavy hearts that we hopped back on their really excellent #95 bus right in front of our hotel, that dropped us off right in front of the train station about ten minutes later. But it was exciting enough that the next half of our trip was yet to come.

After a short, two-hour train ride, we rolled under the startling skyline of Montreal. The buildings just go on forever. Unfortunately, we stepped out of the station into a light but persistent rain. This is the first place on the trip where the native population would not speak English as their first language, and I could tell that Alex is a bit intimidated by it, but I think it's absolutely gangbusters.

We wandered around downtown Montreal(Centre-ville) in the rain until we found a wayfinding map. As we studied it, a man with about as good a grasp of English as I have of French offered to help us. After a bit, with more of me speaking French than of him speaking English, we determined which Metro stop to take.

When we entered the Bonaventure station, we were looking at another map on the wall, when yet another Quebecoise offered her help.This one spoke excellent English, and more than helping, she mostly just made us feel at ease, and kept us company as we navigated the overly elaborate tunnels to get to the actual subway platform.

After a bit of running around after getting off at Champ de Mars, we found our hostel, but wouldn't have if we hadn't had the address in hand(a first for the trip). We have now had dinner, including my first poutine, which was delicious, and now we're ready to check out Vieux Montreal.

7:40 PM, Jul 4, 2007

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