Thanksgiving Weekend in Montreal • Exploring Mont Royal & Driving Home • November 26, 2016
Once we were finished with our walk around downtown Montreal, we wanted to walk to a place that seemed more “us” — Mont Royal, the mountain that sits in the center of the island. It was on the way back to our apartment, so we decided to hike to the top and look for some letterboxes, even though it was still very foggy and there was a good layer of snow on the ground. We got lost wandering the trails and were unable to find the letterboxes. The snow certainly didn’t help, but it wasn’t the only reason: we had no idea where we were. The map that Curtis had downloaded and the signs that were in the park were not very helpful. Then of course, when we finally reached the overlook of the city, there was no view to speak of. We could barely make out the trees and bushes 20 feet away, much less the skyscrapers that were out there somewhere in the clouds. Deciding that we had walked enough, we walked back to our apartment, where we enjoyed the donuts we had bought earlier and took advantage of the complementary Netflix. According to my phone, we had hiked 12 miles that day. Yikes!
The next day, Saturday, November 26, was cold and wet but much less foggy than the day before, so we decided to return to Mont Royal to try again with the boxing and views. This time, Curtis studied Google maps and the trail map more and had a better idea of the trails, and we were actually successful in finding a box. Today, the trails were filled with wet snow, slush, and half-frozen puddles, and walking was much more challenging than the day before. However, we were glad we returned because this time we were rewarded with a view of the city!
Before visiting Montreal, our 2 big things we wanted to see and enjoy were the historic downtown area, and take in the view of the city from the top of Mont Royal. While the rest of the weekend may seem less eventful, (not to mention not very interesting to read about…haha sorry!) we were very happy because we were able to do the 2 things we really wanted to do! Set your expectations low while traveling and you’re much less likely to end up disappointed. 😉
We took some pictures and watched the little tiny cars driving through the city streets from our view, then started our walk back. As we were walking away, I turned back and noticed that clouds were starting to hide the view once again. I guess that’s just something that goes with winter: thick clouds and obstructed views, we’d better get used to that if we’re going to be doing much hiking!
Our hike back down the mountain was a challenge. We thought the trail we were taking would lead us to the road and we’d be able to walk down a clear sidewalk. But, as it turned out, the road had no sidewalk so we had to stick to the steep slushy trails. Once we reached the bottom, we were on the opposite side of the mountain. We had done this on purpose so that we could walk back to the apartment on new streets and get some food on the way back, but it turned out to be much much longer than we thought. We ended up walking over 8 miles that day, which makes our total in Montreal a whopping 20 miles…just as much (if not more) than our typical vacation to the mountains. We were also just as sore (if not more so) as we would have been after hiking.
Along the way, we made a couple very important stops: lunch, donuts, and beverages, all to go (to take back to our apartment so we could be lazy for the rest of the night). The best part was our first stop for lunch/dinner. We decided on Lester’s Deli, mostly because we were walking right by it, and Curtis went inside to buy food while Charlotte and I waited outside. Charlotte was not alright with this arrangement, and she planted herself right against the door and looked longingly inside. According to Curtis, the people working there noticed her right away and they LOVED her. “Is that your dog?” they asked, and then 2 workers came out, one with a handful of sausage and the other with a lot of love to give. Charlotte ate up all the attention and sausage. They did all this BEFORE attending to Curtis’ order, haha! After that, the lady came back out and handed me a handful of sausage “for later”, and they gave Curtis a handful as well and asked if we were local — if we were, they said they would hook us up with more bones and free treats. After all that, I think we’ll consider becoming locals, or just regulars at this deli! Haha!
So while our second full day in Montreal was long and tiring, we still managed to see things we’d wanted to see, and we ended up cozy in the apartment with lots of food and sausage for Charlotte. We also managed to binge watch all of “Stranger Things” on Netflix, and see a few other movies we’d heard of and wanted to see.
On Sunday, we packed up and began our drive home, making one final stop at Saint Joseph’s Oratory. We had seen it from the streets near our apartment several times, but never made our way up to see the whole thing. We were so glad we did. It’s already impressive from the streets several blocks away, because it’s an exceptionally tall church that sits on a hill. But up close it just dominates the landscape with its sheer size. We parked, then left Charlotte in the car for a few minutes so that Curtis and I could pop our heads in. It didn’t turn out to be as beautiful on the inside as we were hoping (compared to pictures of the interior of Notre Dame of Montreal) but we weren’t able to see all of it, presumably because it was a Sunday morning. After we determined we probably wouldn’t get to see all of the interior, we got on the road and said goodbye to Montreal, until next time! (Only after getting Tim Horton’s one last time. Of course.)
For the drive back, we decided to take back roads, so we drove West to the border crossing around Trout River, NY. We decided to drive back entirely on NY highway 30, which Curtis has said is his favorite highway in New York, because it goes through both the Adirondacks and the Catskills. It was pretty scenic and we enjoyed getting to see new parts of our home state, but it also made the drive very long.
Our last fun stop of the day was around Malone, NY, to see the boyhood home of Almanzo Wilder, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband and subject of the book “Farmer Boy”. I was the biggest fan of the “Little House” series growing up — I took my family’s collection of the books and kept them sitting on the headboard of my bed — but I completely forgot that Almanzo came from Upstate NY. Thank God for letterboxing, because it led us to this site! The house standing is the actual house his family lived in (and the only surviving structure from any of Ms. Wilder’s books). When the books started becoming popular, the people of Malone realized that this old house out on a farm was Almanzo’s childhood home and they formed an organization to preserve it and turned it into a historical site for visitors. It happened to be closed for the season when we visited, as many places up here are during the winter, but we still got some pictures and found the letterboxes, despite the deeper snow! I just love the way we travel, because although driving on highway roads rather than the interstate takes a lot more time, we’re able to see so much more than we would have otherwise, and because of this I was able to see a historical site that I actually really would have wanted to see!