Literally — it was POURING. But then all of a sudden it was sunny and beautiful again. Life, man.
Anyway, hi! Full day #1 = complete! Montreal is so beautiful. It’s just not even fair. The architecture is so eclectic and detailed; even each Metro station is different! A different architect designed each one. I love exploring the different neighborhoods, because each street is extremely distinctive. So cool.
It’s also such a biking town. Everyone bikes everywhere! That must be why EVERYONE IS SO SKINNY. No, but seriously – there are even special traffic lights at the busier intersections that direct the bikes only. There are more than 350 km worth of biking paths throughout the city (which is actually an island that can fit more than a big bunch of Manhattan’s inside of it – I forget the exact number but like #funfact!!!) and it’s really great.
So my day began at 7:30am, when my alarm started blaring a song from Waitress the musical. I got up, showered, and then packed up. My next stop is a hostel (still in Montreal, just a different area), so I wanted to downsize and only bring exactly what I need for the next few days. That way, it’s easier to keep track of my stuff, sleeping in a room with fifteen others and all.
After saying goodbye to the Airbnb that served me so well, I headed downtown to catch a 10am hop-on-hop-off bus tour! I had planned it ahead of time, but I didn’t realize until that morning that I was supposed to have called to confirm my reservation beforehand (even though it was totally booked online) and that I had to have the vouchers printed out. Luckily, I reacted quickly and ordered a print order from Staples – a story that deserves its very own post – which I went to pick up that morning, before the tour. Also very luckily, I called the tour company and explained my situation, but apparently it wasn’t totally necessary that I call ahead of time, and that I was a-okay. Phew!
The tour guide on the bus advised us to take the full 2-hour tour first – remaining on the bus from start to finish – and then decide which sights interest you the most and plan your personalized tour accordingly. So that’s what I did! A nice lady from Alberta sat down next to me, also alone on the tour. We bonded over that at first, but quickly I became the much more responsible adult between the two of us, which annoyed me. She was in Montreal with her husband, who was here on business, and was alone on the tour because he was away doing business-y things. We talked about staying on the tour for the full two hours and then doubling back to things (not with each other, but in general), and she made a comment like, “I originally wanted to stop in Old Montreal but I’m not sure I want to do it alone.” I basically looked at her like, “Wha?” but was able to contain myself and simply giggle and say, “yeah…” Then, later, when it started to rain (we were sitting on the second story of a double-decker tour bus), I got out my rain jacket, put the waterproof case on my phone, and got my umbrella prepped for when it was time to get off of the bus. The lady next to me said, “I saw that it was going to rain but it was so sunny this morning…”
One thing I didn’t realize was how difficult it is to take good photos on top of a moving bus. Nevertheless, I tried my best and somehow managed to capture a few gems.
P.S. My favorite part about these tours was the families/couples pondering whether or not to get off the bus or not at a particular stop. They would go back and forth and back and forth until the bus would leave the station. Welp, there goes that! (I’m not going to lie to you — this happened to me several times as well, except I was arguing with myself in my head.)
After the preliminary tour, I was so unbearable hungry so I grabbed a bite to eat at a cute little place outside. Probably one of the best meals I ever did have.
But then it started pouring, so everyone rushed inside. Luckily, I was moments away from paying the check, so I did that quickly and then ran across the street, back to the tourist center. And then back on the bus I went, this time to explore a little bit on my own!
My first totally drenched stop was at the Notre-Dame Basilica // Basilique Notre Dame de Montréal. Realizing once I got up to the entrance that it was cash only and I had yet to take out any Canadian money, I had to make another run for it to an ATM across the street.
Finally, I made it inside. Joining a guiding tour, I was informed about the construction of the basilica, but was overall disappointed by the quality of the tour. I don’t know that it truly gave me any information that I didn’t already know or couldn’t see by simply walking around by myself.
Did you know that to be named a “basilica” is an honor bestowed by the pope that recognizes the church’s beauty? I mean, the pope doesn’t just visit the church and say, “yo this church is pretty it should be a basilica;” It is based on value: architectural value, artistic value, historic value.
The hop-on-hop-off bus comes every fifteen minutes, so I had a bit of time to spare between leaving the church and getting back on the bus. So I explored the streets a little bit! Old Montreal is SO cute, I plan to go back tomorrow and explore even more (my new abode is even closer).
And then… I whipped out the selfie stick. [Please don’t hate me — I am all by myself; how else am I going to prove that I am ACTUALLY visiting these places and not just finding mediocre photos on Google???]
Then, back on the bus! I overheard a group of ladies arguing about what they wanted to do next, which stops they want to explore, etc., and it just made me realize exactly why I am doing this trip alone.
At least it was sunny again! My next stop was St. Joseph’s Oratory. Let me just tell you — actually, let me just show you.
My first thought was “wow, this is unreal. So beautiful.”
My second thought was “wait, do I have to walk up all of those steps?”
The answer was yes. But the view was totally worth it.
After spending a marvelous hour perusing the oratory, I hopped back on the bus for the last time to head back downtown!
I then drove for an extra hour looking for parking near the hostel at which I’m staying for two nights… searching and searching and searching, I was getting very frustrated — I didn’t want to leave the car in an unattended open air parking lot over night, but that was all I could seem to find. Finally, I realized that if I just went to the hostel they would have parking advice for me. So that’s what I did, and less than 10 minutes later I was parked.
Back at the hostel, my visa card was declined. Jesus, it felt like after I got one thing settled, another issue would pop up. This time, I hadn’t monitored how much I had spent in the past two days and had accidentally withdrawn more than the available balance. I tried to do an online transfer but for some reason it didn’t go through. I ended up having to walk a couple of blocks to the bus station where I could exchange the $12 I had in my wallet at the time (I purposefully left the bulk of my money in the car when I packed for the hostel) into Canadian dollars. Luckily I had taken out $60 earlier when I needed money for the basilica, so it ended up being the perfect amount. Success!
Finally, I got settled in my room! It’s so cute! I mean, I’m rooming with 15 others so falling asleep and staying asleep is a bit of an issue, but everyone is very respectful of one another. There was a nice older French gentleman in the room when I got in, but he couldn’t speak English so it was a challenge to communicate. But then he asked if I spoke Spanish, and although it is VERY rusty, it definitely broke the language barrier a bit! It was very cool to speak Spanish again, and it really made me realize how useful it is to know another language — it can really come in handy, especially when you least expect it.
It felt great to finally be here. I met two really nice guys right off of the bat who are visiting on holiday from the Netherlands! We all ended up downstairs in the bar for karaoke night! 1 song = 1 free shot. Pretty sweet.
After consulting with several people on which song to sing, I finally decided on Valerie (Sorry peeps, I didn’t listen to any of your suggestions), and then went back up to do Stacy’s Mom. . Everyone was so encouraging, it was such a fun atmosphere. It was such a great night! This hostel situation is super cool, how you meet people from all over the world and make such fast friends. A girl named Heidi invited me to go out with them later that night, but I was falling down I was so exhausted from my day so unfortunately I had to decline. Heidi and I also bonded over having to deal with…… this.
However, after all of that, I still got a pretty great night’s sleep! Then, I woke up a true 20 year old. CRAZY. Excited to see what today has to offer!