Last Friday was Saint Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec’s national holiday which meant a long weekend as most of the city shut down on the Friday. I remember being surprised on this day last year at just how little there was open. On public holidays in the UK banks and public services will be closed but that’s about it; bars, restaurants and shops will all still be open, however here there is very little left open with shops and supermarkets all closing and the bars and restaurants which do open tend to have reduced opening hours. I actually like the fact that most places are closed on these holidays here, it’s only one day and I think it’s important that people get a proper break to spend time with their families.
We had very little planned for the holiday weekend so it was lovely to be able to just relax in the sunshine. Summer has very much arrived in Montreal and with it there seems to have been a notable shift in atmosphere. Everyone’s mood appears brighter and it’s like they wish to spend as much time as physically possible outdoors, be it cycling, running, walking, in the parks or on one of the countless outdoor terrasses and rooftop bars that have popped up throughout the city. The winters in Montreal may be harsh but it’s residents certainly know how to make the most of the summer months. It’s as if the whole city has been let out of prison ( a very cold, snowy prison) and they want to resume their (summer) life with gusto.
In keeping with this we spent a large part of the holiday weekend in my favourite place in Montreal, Parc La Fontaine which we are fortunate enough to live just a short 5/10 minute walk from. There is just something about the park that makes me feel so relaxed. I appreciate the beauty in all of the parks in Montreal but there’s something special about La Fontaine. I think it was the first place I felt truly at home here and that feeling’s stuck with me. Even in winter, when it was deserted and covered in snow, a walk through it (a very careful walk in winter so as not to slip and break any bones) could always cheer me up on a bad day, and well, now that the sun is shining, it truly is my happy place. We were due to meet with friends there on Thursday night for a picnic and some drinks, though due to me and an ongoing issue of throwing my iPhone out of my hand, (this happens ridiculously often) I missed the actual picnic by being in the phone repair shop but I did get to join them later which was a lovely way to kick off the holiday weekend.
On Friday, after a lazy morning, we returned to the park just the two of us and Max (our dog) for a day of sunbathing, picnicking and a few drinks in the sunshine. Montreal’s “picnic law”makes it legal to drink in Montreal parks as long as you’re eating at the same time – undoubtedly the best law Quebec has. The atmosphere in the park on Friday was truly lovely, it was very busy but still very chilled, as couples, families and groups of friends all with big smiling faces enjoyed their day off in the sunshine. We found ourselves relaxing there until early evening.
On Saturday, Mark, who is training for the marathon in September, went to do his long run and I would like to say that I joined him but the lure of the sunshine was too much for me, so I once again returned to my favourite spot with my book for a quiet few hours. The heat on Saturday was intense and it didn’t cool down even in the evening. At 10pm it was still 26 degrees so we felt a few glasses of wine on a terrasse was deserved. Again we didn’t venture far, in fact other than to fix my phone on Thursday evening we didn’t leave the neighbourhood once this weekend and it was nice just to walk everywhere. So on Saturday night we wandered up to Terminal on the east end of Mont Royal Avenue where we found a spot on their terrasse and watched the world go by for an hour while we enjoyed a few drinks. Terminal has recently became a firm favourite of mine, it’s very low key, nicely decorated, the wine is nice yet not overpriced, the music is good but low enough that you can still chat easily with those you are with – it would seem that turning 30 also turned me into one of those people who complain when they have to shout over music to be heard. Yes I am officially now that person.
Waking on Sunday to another scorching day, we decided this was the perfect excuse to spend our first day of the year at the pool. The Scottish in me still can’t quite get my head around the fact I live somewhere that you can actually get use of outdoor pools, but I’m definitely not complaining. We went to the nearest public pool to us, (there are 74 outdoor public pools in Montreal),at Parc Baldwin, just 10 minutes walk away. The pool is a decent size and has a diving pool and also a small kids pool too and is $5 for adults to enter and $3 for children. It was busy, understandably so on such a beautiful day, but not overly so – there was still plenty of room to find a spot to lay your towel. There’s no sun loungers so if just lying on a towel on the ground isn’t for you make sure to take a fold up chair with you. You can’t eat around the pool area either which is a bit of pain but I suppose is fair enough, especially if it helps to keeps the area clean, and there is a separate picnic area just outside the pool area for this purpose. I suspect we may spend a lot of time here over the next few months.
We finished our Sunday and our holiday weekend off with heading back home for a BBQ, a relaxing end to a lovely, very chilled out summer weekend in Montreal. On a weekend like this winter now seems a very distant, chilly memory however I know that before long it will of course rear it’s icy head again. But until then, here’s to a wonderful summer in Montreal, let’s make the most of every warm minute.