The Northern Option – Part II

Posted by admin on January 27th, 2010 filed in batman, food, travel

I’ve been riding and working a lot lately, but finally finished Part 2.  It came out a bit more bitter than I would have liked, but for those of you who know French Canada, but don’t call it home, you’ll understand why.


My Saturday morning in Montreal started out wonderfully with an hour of training Kali at Philip Gelinas’ school.  The class was great! His technique was fluid and powerful, his instruction interesting and clear, and his students kind and talented.  I wish I could have stayed longer. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to train with him again someday. Unfortunately, my friend and I had other plans to see more of Montreal, so we thanked Phil and his students, got cleaned and changed, then went in search of food.

Someone we met earlier in the trip had recommended one restaurant to my friend.  Supposedly it was nearby, but it was only after half an hour of walking around in the below freezing weather that we finally found the restaurant several blocks away from where we thought it’d be. It turned out to be a breakfast place serving lots of pancakes and bread and fruit and syrup; we had hoped for something more substantial, so we asked for recommendations and set out again into the cold.

We repeated this sequence six or seven times and every restaurant we checked out was either closed or a deli-style sandwich shop.  We added an additional 20 city blocks to our first 8-10 on what we had expected to be a 3 block walk and still hadn’t found what we were looking for.

I had only dressed for a quick downtown stroll – leggings, jeans, undershirt, shirt, sweater, wool coat, wool socks, cotton socks, boots, hat, hood and leather gloves (you’d think that’d be enough) – and the cold, having penetrated my clothes, was working it’s way down to my bones.  My friend (who hadn’t even brought his gloves) was feeling a little frosty too. So with our stomachs growling angrily, we broke down and hailed a cab.

We told the driver what we were looking for and he, of course, knew just the place.  When he began to rave about how the restaurant had signed photos of all the famous people who have eaten there, I started to worry.

He dropped us off at the curb just past Schwartz’s Deli (“World Famous Smoked Meat”).  As we were exiting the cab he proudly said we would probably have to wait in line for a table.  Ok, not a prob–  Wait, that line of people piling up OUTSIDE the building? @&*$.

Let’s recap:  a cabbie picks up two people, obviously – visibly – freezing, talking about how cold they are and how much they want a big plate of hot meat, then takes them to a restaurant where he knows they will have to wait outside.  Probably a good intention, just not really thought through.

Moving on:  once inside the teeny restaurant, we shared an elbow-to-elbow table with four people from Toronto (I think) who actually turned out to be really kind and fun to talk to.  The smoked brisket was nice considering we were still thawing out, and though it tasted alright it was a little dry.  They had mustard and steak sauce available at every table because the meat needed it.  Our tablemates asked us excitedly if we liked the meal, and I said it was good but, unfortunately, I’m a terrible liar.  My friend apologized for me though: “She’s from Texas and I forget that it’s hard to impress her when it comes to beef.”

And that got me dreaming about Lockhart brisket and Elgin sausage. About the tender barbecue brisket of Kreuz Market (“No Sauce, No Forks”). About how the restaurant compromises and offers a seasoning salt (delicious enough to eat on it’s own) meant for those who have never tasted perfect brisket and are in the habit of blindly putting something on their beef before sampling it.  Thankfully, new Kreuz customers usually show up with a friend or family member who’s a returning customer; someone who invariably acts as a guide and who has to remind the newcomers how each person must inevitably wrestle with their own decision of whether to mix the independently perfect tastes of meat and seasoning or eat them separately.  How most of us have to try a little of both.

But back to Montreal and Schwartz’s.  Uh, the fries were excellent.  And the dill pickles were good.  Tasty ketchup, too.

After being shuffled out to make room for those literally standing out in the cold, we realized we weren’t far from the hotel and decided to make the walk back, having warmed up a bit from the body heat of those who had been sitting within inches of us.  The walk, though chilly, proved worth it because we happened upon this:

aliens wall

an amazingly complex, detailed graffiti mural of “Aliens” aliens (and maybe some others mixed in for variety. I’m nerdy, but not that much of a Sci-Fi movie buff. All apologies.) Here’s a closeup:

half wall

Beautiful, no?  (And gruesome. I know, I know.)

Naturally, we had to stop to take pictures of Batman:

ears and wall

Ahem. Of BATMAN.

batman in snow and wall - b

Thank you.

Bman Aliens

Bman Full Aliens - b

After returning to the hotel, spent most of the rest of the night inside, except for an excursion for Tequila which ended up necessitating 3 cab rides.  Apparently liquor stores close sometime around 5pm or 6pm on Saturday afternoons.  That is not a typo. (Oh Quebec, how I’ve come to loathe you.)

After that, it was an early night.  Thanks to my first stint on Priceline, my flight left at 6:35am, so I was up by 3:30am to be at the airport 2ish hours in advance.  With the low volume of passengers travelling at those pre-dawn hours it would have been plenty of time, however the airport had everyone waiting in a series of six lines.  One line to get bag tags (suddenly carryons aren’t allowed – only one personal item), one line to have your carryons sent downstairs, one line for preliminary ID and boarding pass screening, one line for regular security (metal detector, xray the bags, random screening, etc.), one line for customs (which actually turned out nicely as we didn’t have to deal with it after landing in the States), and another line for more security (full pat-downs and thorough searches of personal items for everyone! yay!).

If you count the lines you had to stand in at security and customs after standing in the big line, it’s actually eight lines total.

Montreal, we need to talk.

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