Recently, my wife and I took a weekend trip to Montreal. Sans les enfants, if you will. It was a quick two night trip to compartmentalize the stress of moving across New England, changing jobs and starting our three girls at a new preschool all at the same time. It worked. We also discovered our new second favorite business idea ever. Called Bixi, it’s a mixture of bicycle rental and taxi service. You can pay as you go or buy a pass for the day, a few days or even a season. The bicycles are available from April until November. We were only going to need them for Saturday so we opted for the $5 24 hours pass. The fun catch of the system is you only get the bicycle for 30 minutes, otherwise it starts charging more. As a result, you have to get from station to station in 30 minutes or less. With over 450 stations, this isn’t really difficult but it does lend a sort of competitive nature to the adventure.
I’m not saying bicycle is the best way to see Montreal. I’m saying that it’s probably the only way to see Montreal. You could try walking but the city is large and you’ll want to save some energy for all the stairs at Chalet du Mont-Royal or the Jardin Botanique de Montreal. Taking a car is fine but you miss so much by driving from point A to point B. The bicycle allows you to really see the area while maintaining a decent level of transportation.
Our plan for Saturday was simple enough. We wanted to see the botanical garden first. Then we were going to go down to the Promenade du Vieux-Port to see some tourist attractions. We would ride back in the afternoon and climb to the Chalet du Mont-Royal and finally shower and go out to dinner near the pavilions on or around St. Catherine.
We charted out where our Bixi adventure would start and where we would make our first bike transfer. The rule was we had to stop and wait two minutes for the system to reset before we could take our new bikes. We pedaled from the street next to where we were staying to a park with a lovely fountain system and small pond. We docked our bicycles and walked around the fountain to kill the mandatory two minutes. From there it was a straight shot to the botanical gardens. We docked our bicycles and made our way around a beautiful collection of gardens. Much of our trip around the garden was spent lamenting how little time we have to actually garden. Before getting back on our bikes to go down to the old city we had a quick snack at the restaurant in the garden.
The second leg of the trip was a longer time pedaling. it took us through the industrial area as well as some of the seedier less touristy type sections of the city. Personally, I feel like it’s important to see that side of any place you visit to remind yourself that real life happens everywhere. We cut it pretty close finding a dock at the half-way point between the garden and the promenade. This led to just a tiny amount of bickering between the Drs. McNutt but we found a station just in the nick of time. There were few bicycles there while we waited for our two minutes to elapse. We became a little nervous when a family of seven came over to rent bicycles. It turned out there was the exact number of bicycles needed for everyone to be outfitted and we all went our separate ways. The next leg of our trip was only a few minutes and we docked out bicycles and walked around the promenade scoping out what tourist attraction appealed the most to us. First we had to hydrate. The adventure to finding a convenience store led to us completely changing our plans. The restaurants and people watching in Old Montreal were too good to pass up. We spent a little over an hour exploring an indoor maze called SOS Labyrinthe before settling into a delicious meal with perfect street side seats in an outdoor restaurant that left me wondering, “What do they do when it snows?”
We cycled back to our bed and breakfast, docking our bicycles and walking the last two blocks just as the sun was setting. We decided to do the hike up to the Chalet du Mont-Royal in the morning and toyed with idea of going out for drinks and maybe dessert after a shower.
Once we were cleaned up and relaxed, however, we decided not to be too hard on ourselves for going to bed around 10pm.
We did wake up the next morning and climb the hundreds of beautifully crafted stairs that lead through the forest to the stone patio of the chalet.
An inexpensive and easy to use bicycle rental system combined with a very bicycle friendly city made our trip to Montreal one of the most memorable quick weekend trips we’ve taken in what is very close to being a decade long adventure between my wife and I.
Thanks for reading.