Sunday, September 17, 2006

Llamas and poutine

So this weekend (at the risk of seeming like complete gadabouts) we were in Montreal, mostly to hang with my cousin and her husband, who had flown over from Wales for a vacation.

We flew in Wednesday night, and by the time we'd checked in to the hotel (following a scary moment as the booking, made online, didn't show up in the hotel's reservation system, and The Boy spent 15 minutes on hold while the Yahoo phone rep and the hotel receptionist yelled at each other), it was 11pm and we were starving.

So out onto the street for eats. Pretty much everything food-related was closed, with the exception of one place on St Catherine's with a red neon "Ouvert" sign. It turned out to be a very cool cafe/bar/club with cowskin seats, a red enamel ceiling, a Gorillaz-heavy soundtrack and a poutine-heavy menu.

The Boy had been foiled in his attempts to sample poutine on our last trip, so this time he went straight for the version avec merguez. Oh, and was it ever good. I mean, the whole concept of chips (french fries, that is) 'n' gravy has long been celebrated in England. So take that and add cheese curds? Perfect. Especially at midnight with a cold beer.

Walking back to the hotel, we realized there were a lot of ladies in very high heels. And obviously there were also a lot of people driving around lost in that area, because they kept stopping to ask the ladies for directions.

The next morning we met up with my cousin Sonia and her husband David at the Biodome, a multi-ecosystem zoo with open-plan exhibits that allow you to walk through rainforest, Laurentian forest and northern marine climate spaces. Coolest were the otters and the penguins. Could watch the 'guins for hours.

In the afternoon, we wandered around the Underground City and then headed to Old Montreal, though a persistent drizzle kept us from being too adventurous. After strolling Marche Bonsecours, we stopped for a drink in Place Jaques Cartier at a place where the cinq a sept was more of a quatre a huit and, misunderstanding the two-for-one beer deal, ended up with a table groaning with eight beers. Somehow, we struggled through them ...

That night, we wandered around Rue Saint-Denis looking for food, and ended up at
Mochica, a really nice Peruvian place. We shared a selection of tilapia ceviche, squid in black olive sauce, potatoes with goat cheese sauce, and veal hearts grilled with chimichurri. And then between us we had steak, lamb in Pisco, goat stew and llama. The llama rocked. Oddly, we were pretty much the only people in the place, which was surprising for a Thursday night. Maybe weekends are busier.

The next day, in an attempt to walk off copious amounts of meat, we did a yomp up Mont-Royal, which is a nice gentle walk through wooded paths and makes us non-outdoorsy types feel like explorers (for us, "roughing it" is when you have to leave the hotel to find a Martini). And then my cousin and her husband headed off to spend a few days on Mont Tremblant before going to Toronto for the rest of their trip. It was really cool to see them, and made me realize I should stay in touch with family more than I do.

After they left, we wandered Rue Saint-Denis some more, and I bought a couple of shirts (it's hackneyed, but the fashions are much more interesting than here). Back to the hotel, passed out for a couple of hours, then into the hot tub with a bottle of Prosecco to unwind before heading out to dinner.

We went to Au Pied du Cochon, which we also visited on our last trip, and had almost exactly the same experience: the place was very busy, the service was lousy, but the food was fabulous. I started with a goat cheese and beet salad (creamy cheese working perfectly with the sweet/crunchy beets) and The Boy had a salad of greens and walnuts. Then he had the house boudin and I had a boudin tart. I love what they do with pig's blood. Thick slices of boudin, peppery and spicy, on a buttery pastry base ... Here's the website, with apologies; who told them this was user-friendly?

Our last morning, we took a final stroll down to Old Montreal via Chinatown and then headed out to the airport. A fun trip, in all, and probably our last jaunt until Christmas, what with work and conferences and the rest. A good way to end the summer.

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