Surprise Trip to Montreal

I’m back!

En route home to Chicago from Dublin, I had an unexpected side trip to Montreal. My flight from London was delayed, causing me to miss my connection from Montreal to Chicago – the last of the day.  Air Canada comped my hotel and meals, so although I was exhausted and ready to be home, I embraced the opportunity to see Montreal for the first time.

In the morning, I woke early and Mr. Dottie and I set off to spend three hours wandering around downtown before we had to catch the 1:45 flight home. The weather was perfect – warm and sunny. Armed with a map, complete with Bixi bikeshare station locations, we planned to pick up Bixi’s at Parc LaFontaine and ride along a protected cycle track to the Old Town area, ending at Marche Bonsecours.

We arrived at the park and wandered around looking for the Bixi station for a good 15 minutes. (Montreal peeps know where this is going…) We were so confused, standing exactly where the map said the Bixi station should be. Finally I asked a woman walking by with a bike where we could find the station and she informed us – oh, the bike share? – Bixi does not open until April. :(

Sad about not being able to ride a bike (no time to track down a bike rental store), we instead walked the planned route, which was also a great way to take in the city sights.

The feel of the city is unique.  The old buildings and French language contributed to a European feel, but overall it felt more like Chicago than Paris.  I imagined an idyllic bicycling paradise, while in reality it was more…real.  A big city with a lot going on.  There were many cyclists and some cycle tracks, but also a lot of motor vehicle traffic.  The number and types of people bicycling seemed similar to those in Chicago.

Since I could not ride a bike there, I compensated by buying a bicycle t-shirt.  It says in French, “Ceci n’est pas une bicyclette,” which Trisha assured me is an arty little meme, nothing dirty. :)

I also bought a lovely bicycle-print dress at Marche Bonsecours that was designed and made in Montreal.  I love the dress and I’ll definitely post about it later.

I enjoyed the unexpected side trip to Montreal.  I only wish I had time to plan ahead, see more of the city, ride a bike, and meet up with some locals.  Next time!

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22 thoughts on “Surprise Trip to Montreal

  1. Nathan Townshend says:

    Yes, Dottie, Montreal is all very well, but what about Scotland????

    • Dottie says:

      Scotland was pretty amazing!  I’ll share stories once I get those pictures back from the lab.

      • nowhere says:

         Sounds like it was fun. I’m not too surprised though. Even my Dad, who was generally of the opinion that every part of Canada east of the Rockies might as well sink into the sea and be eaten by crabs adored Montreal. He actually enjoyed Scotland too even though he first visited the U.K. in the days when the hotels had only one bathroom per floor, they shut off the hot water at 6:00 and the “bars closed every time you got thirsty”!

  2. anniebikes says:

    Montreal has a good biking scene, but it’s too early for rentals. We go there often as we’re only two hours south. 

  3. You have a great attitude, in making a delay an opportunity to sight see!  And I love the tee shirt!  Can’t wait to hear about Ireland and Scotland as well!

  4. Dave Cain says:

    Hi Dottie,

    Its great you got to check out Montreal. My first introduction to bike-hire schemes was trying out the Bixi bikes. Montreal is a little over two hours north from where we are in Vermont, so its like going to another world in a fairly short trip.

    I thought you might find this interesting. Its an app that allows you to locate bike-share bikes in whatever city you happen to be. I’ll show you a map of where you are and where the closest bikes are and tell you how many are there. I haven’t used it yet, but look forward to doing so the next time we’re in Boston or Montreal. 



  5. Dave Cain says:

    Forgot to include the link to the app that I was referring to. Its called Spotcycle

  6. Melissa S. says:

    I have that shirt!! It says, “this is not a bike.” It’s not a bike; it’s a shirt with a picture of a bike on it. :) Originally Magritte painted a picture of a pipe and the inscription translated to say, “this isn’t a pipe.” Again, a picture of a pipe.

  7. cycler says:

    This reminds me that I need to get back to Montreal.  It’s so close to us in Boston,  and it’s such a wonderful place to visit.    
    Just out of curiosity,  was the map you had (with Bixi stations marked) the kind of free tourist maps that they give you at the hotel?  That seems like a good thing to have on that kind of map- I should see if they do it on our Boston city maps.

    • LGRAB says:

      Yes, it was a tourist map that the hotel gave us. Would have been helpful to have the info about Bixi not operating until April on it.

  8. MaxPaq says:

    So sad you didn’t get to Montréal during summer, in march and april cyclist are usually a little shy to go out (you know snow and cold). And the weather here is exceptionnal for this time of the year.

    By the way Chicago will get the exact same Bixi bike that Montréal has (hometown pride)!

  9. Markn says:

    Hi Dottie,

    I am glad you are back. We had a similar experience on our way back from Maui last week. Our plane was delayed, causing us to have to spend the night in Los Angeles. We only had a half of a day, but were able to take a trolley to Matthatten Beach, walk that pier, shop and have a drink. Overall we were glad for the little extra vacation! I did see a number of bikers riding, but not enough time for that….

  10. jodycb says:

    I’m going to Montreal this weekend for a Google Map Maker thing. I think I’m going to take my folding bike and cruise around a bit. Luckily I’m within driving distance. I love your photos and I can’t wait to do some exploring of my own. 

  11. Cupcake Ride says:

    Lovely photos Dottie!  I love that you captured the Canada flag in your top photo too :)

  12. Montrealize says:

    People do not cycle in the winter.
    It is very unfortunate that some blogs try to make it sound as if it is the case (i.e. Cycle Chic) but no, real people do not cycle in the winter in Montreal. Those who do are a very tiny minority composed of hardcores, roadies and homeless folks.

    Bicyle season only starts on April 15 because this is the day the City officially “opens” the cycle paths. That means that cars are not allowed to park in the cycle paths anymore and the City puts all the fluorescent bollards back along the partially segregated paths. They also redo (theoretically) the marking on the non-segregated lanes.

    As Montrealers are normal people, they do not like biking with traffic, with absent marking etc. and so they wait for the paths to be open. Addidtionally, although our weather is not necessarily colder than in Scandinavia/Northen Europe, we do not have their attitude toward cycling in cold weather. People are not interested in cycling with layers and coats on their back. People don’t want to cyle in snow or worse, on ice. And mostly, they do not want to be alone with cars on the road. They like the group effect, you know, good old “security in numbers”. Motorists have a way of driving and behaving in the winter that is way too dangerous.

    Bixis started reappearing this week-end only. They are talking about remaining out full year round starting this year. I am really looking forward to observing WHO exactly with be pedaling these 3 speed tanks on ice…

    If you ever can, come back in May/June. Then you’ll see what Montreal is really about.

  13. Dtakeda says:

    Your flight is delayed and you get to spend a morning in Montreal!  Some people have all the luck!  

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