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The main purpose of this blog is as a permanent record of my adventures throughout the Americas by motorcycle. Feel free to comment or ask me any questions - I'm an open book.

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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Montreal in Spring

Spring is in the air in Montreal, and the landscape is definitely changing. When I first arrived here, there was nothing but tree trunks and twigs for gardens, and the lawns resembled tilled fields. However, the last few weeks have resulted in an explosion of flowers, and the city is slowly turning green. Up until now I have avoided visiting the parks in Montreal for the most part because brown dirt and twigs hold no interest for me. But the time was ripe, and so over the last few weeks I visited the Biodome, Ecomuseum and Parc Lafontaine.

Bicycles are really only practical during the warmer months (in fact, motorcycles are only allowed on the road for six months of year) but Montreal really takes advantage. The Bixi bike rental system was created in 2008 by the Montreal parking authority and consists of hundreds of stations where people can rent one of the over 5,000 bikes (a machine resembling a parking meter accepts credit card payment and unlocks bikes). People can borrow the bikes for trips up to 45 minutes, after which a 'late' fee of sorts begins to occur. However, if you need to ride for longer than 45 minutes (ie to the shops and back) you simply hire another bike for the second half of your trip. The system is very popular with Montrealers, and has been replicated across North America and Europe.

The Montreal Biodome is located in the former olympic velodrome, and contains four seperate ecosystems, ranging from the American rainforest to a polar (both Arctic and Antarctic) exhibit. Of most interest to me was the Laurentian forest and marine systems, typical of the area surrounding Montreal. The crowd favourite was deifnitely the Antarctic ecosystem, as the penguins stole the show. The stark contrast in the creatures' grace above and below the sea is remarkable, and reminded me that unlike the Arctic, penguins have no large predators on land. They would definitely struggle to escape from a polar bear!

The Ecomuseum is confusingly named. In reality it is more of an animal refuge/zoo than a museum. Animals that are born into captivity, orphaned or injured are housed and displayed here. The species included black bears, caribou, owls, eagles, racoons and turkeys. All the animals were native, and so were exotic for foreigners like myself. It was the first time I had ever seen either a lynx, porcupine, and arctic fox, and was quite enjoyable. Fun fact for the day: most deer and moose actually 'drop' their antlers and regrow them every year! Still yet to see a moose or beaver, but apparently moose are abundant in Newfoundland, so I made a mental note to keep an eye out.

While checking out the wildlife, I've been closely examining the Montreal nightlife. Montreal has a wide variety of nightlife, from dive bars, to high class lounge bars, to the ubiqutous Irish pubs. Compared to Perth, there are more venues, but generally of a smaller size. The twins both work at a pub called the Cock 'n' Bull, so that is our defacto local. There are two main strips in Montreal - rue Sainte-Catherine & rue Crescent, both of which offer a suite of drinking and eating options. Sainte-Catherine has a bit of a rep as it is home to nearly a dozen strip clubs, including the infamous Club Supersexe, complete with neon signs of superhero strippers.

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