I’ve been in Montreal for about a week now and I now have a vague map of the city in my head. I think I know where all the important things are. This morning I tried out Bixi, Montreal’s bike share program, which they’ve exported to several cities around the world including London, Toronto and Melbourne.
There are stands of bikes set up all around the city and you basically pick up a bike in one area and drop it off in another. I used the day pass today, which meant I had to swipe my credit card to get a code to unlock a bike. The program charges you by the hour, but you get the first half hour free each time you use the bike, so if you return the bike and wait five minutes for a new one then you never have to pay more than the membership fee. The program costs $5 a day, $28 a month or $72 a year. I think I might get a monthly pass for the rest of the summer.
I should probably mention that I haven’t owned a bike since I was 12 years old, so today was the first time I’ve cycled in traffic. I’m pretty sure it’s also only the second time I’ve been on a bike since I was 12. Considering this, I think I did a pretty good job moving around the city. There were only two times where I almost got hit by a car. (Though, they were giving me a lot of space, so I must have looked pretty wobbly). My goal was to map out the route to my job, because I think biking will probably be the easiest way to get there. It only took me about 20 minutes today and I think when I get better at it, I could do it in about half that time.
I live off rue Saint Laurent, which is the main street in Montreal. It’s actually nicknamed “The Main” by the locals. I went for a walk all the way down the street today and stumbled upon a street festival for the Formula 1 race happening tomorrow. Many of the shops had sale items out on the street. At the bottom on Saint Laurent is the Vieux Port (Old Port) which is the original settlement of Old Montreal and the area that draws the tourists to the city. I’m pretty sure the last time I was in this part of town was during a school field trip in Grade 7. I actually saw a museum that I remember we visited, called Pointe-à-Callière. If I remember correctly, the building was one of the first trading posts about 400 years ago. The museum has done several rounds of excavation over the years and when you go inside you can actually go underground and see the original building, and the different changes that happened to it over the years.
On the way to the Old Port, I walked through China town, which I hear has some of the best Dim Sum in the country. I’m definitely looking forward to checking it out. As I was walking, I realized how happy I am that I’m not trying to drive in the city. Montreal is the only city in North America that doesn’t allow right turns on a red light, which means that traffic is always backed up. To make matters worse, Canada’s european city has mainly one way streets, which it makes it very hard to get around if you don’t know exactly where you are going.