I have to admit I was a bit taken aback by the Canadian border agent speaking to me in French only twenty feet from Vermont. She switched quickly to French-accented English, but it was a reminder to adjust my mindset and remember how to say “Parlay voo Ahnglase?”
Hilly New Hampshire and Vermont became even hillier Quebec, a topographical feature I hadn’t realized. We set our sights for a “wilderness resort” for some strange cycling-in-the-air activity I’d seen online, but when we arrived it had been cancelled because of the weather. So we took a hike among the shaggy cows mooing in French.
When we returned the thunderclouds had been driven away by our cheerfulness and we were strapped into the velovolant.
Each of us got our own peddling contraption which was suspended from cables, themselves bolted to trees. The course weaved in between Canadian conifers and eventually over steep hillsides. It was a surprisingly calm way to spend an afternoon.
It was nice to soak up some calm before entering bustling Montreal. We had set up yet another home exchange in yet another awesome house (thanks Frédérique and François!) in an interesting neighborhood abutting the stretch of the St. Lawrence called the Prairie river. Our place was a fifteen-minute walk to the subway, which we got to know quite well. Our neighborhood, like all the neighborhoods we experienced in the city, was astoundingly diverse. I have to say I felt a bit more at ease among the Haitian families, Portuguese fine restaurants, and a friendly Uber driver from Burundi than during the more rural parts of our trip. Banh mi for lunch, walking past a Yemani restaurant, and a huge, old Coptic church were reminders that this place really is a melting pot. I mean a mosaic (my apologies, Canadians).
Our time in Montreal was nice and mellow. We explored the old town (the kiddos each zip lined over the old port) and took a look at Sarah’s grandfather's alma mater (McGill), before hiking up the namesake hill.
Montreal's street art was quite everywhere.
On our way into town I thought the young lady draped in a French flag on the subway was for Bastille Day celebrations, but when the songs started flowing on the subway ride home I realized that we'd just been informed of who won the World Cup.
The hike up Mont Royal yielded quite the panorama.
Montreal's long-standing Jewish population is famous for its "smoked meat" (Schwartz's was awesome) and its bagels. Sorry New York, we tried both famous practitioners and found them all to be amazing. We brought two dozen home to Panama...
We also took a break from taking a break from learning and checked out the local science museum. Some of us also dressed up like trolls. It had a huge exhibit on the making of computer animated movies which included a hands-on-electrons activity.
Last but not least was the Jean Talon farmer’s market, where we stocked up on too many fresh berries, along with snooty cheese, fresh baked breads, and dried sausage. Dinner was a veritable cornucopia!
On our last evening we met the family of our final Quebec City home exchange in Montreal and they handed over the keys to their minivan before flying to our place in Panama. The next day we sped up the interstate (interprovince?) towards our last home exchange and a rendezvous with my folks. Quebec City here we come!