Part X: Miami – SoBe It…

My reason for choosing Miami as the final stop on my trip is because one of my oldest friends, and oftentimes travel buddy, Tree has recently moved here. Same Small World super fans (hi Mum, hi Dad) will remember her name popping up back in Bolivia when I attempted to watch the live streaming of her wedding, and in Guatemala when she swung by for a long weekend in Antigua.

Now, with 20/20 hindsight, it has turned out to be a master stroke closing the curtain on my trip here. You see, Tree took a sabbatical and travelled the world in 2009. (I had the pleasure of joining her for the Argentinean leg.) Anyroad, not only does she know me well, but she also understands the emotions that I am going through with the end so very very nigh. Beyond the sunshine and the hang times, real life beckons…

They scoop me up from the airport and are dazzled by how quickly I managed to get myself through a famously gruelling immigration. In a first for me, my entry stamp to the US was actually dolled out whilst still on Canadian soil. Rather nifty really, and saved me a good hour of difficult questions about why I have so many non First World country stamps on record in the last six months…

Tree lives with her husband Ally (after 18 years of him being her boyfriend, will I ever get used to saying that?) in Miami Beach. The sun beats down on the water as we cross over from the mainland and pull up in front of their flash new pad on Lincoln Road.

We spend our first day watching Bundesliga’s finest Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich battle it out in the UEFA Champions League Final with Ally, his Dad Gordon and their pals, fellow Scots, Chris and Stu. None of us had a favourite team going into this, but by the time the second half kicks off we’re roaring for Dortmund. After equalising with a penalty in the 68th minute, both teams put everything into it. But a Robben strike in the dying minutes seals the deal for Bayern. And with that, football season grinds to a halt.

The day gets a little girlier after that as Tree and I head off for pedicures and manicures round the corner. Of course, cocktails are a mandatory inclusion in any pampering session, so we head to Yardbird on Lenox Avenue to kick off proceedings with an outstanding Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade. The bar is as resplendent as its cocktail menu, and as inviting as its friendly staff. Afterwards, we swing by Haven to sample their wares. They have some really interesting serves including Grey Goose Poire, jalapeño, lychee and pear-prosecco. The delicious coconut panko rock shrimp comes with a wasabi-sour peach marmalade and the sweet potato fries surprise us with a spiced brown sugar and lemon cayenne aioli seasoning. Not a bad local!

After a much needed sleep, Sunday comes our way, and Tree has booked us in for brunch at The Biltmore. After donning our glad rags (as glad as you are going to get from the inside of a backpack), Ally drops us off at the hotel, a brave new world of opulence and indulgence. The hotel is Mediterranean-style, built in 1926, and is a National Historic Landmark situated on 150 tropical acres. It is nothing short of stunning.

20130619-212358.jpg
It also boasts the biggest hotel swimming pool in the US (fact fans)…

20130619-212504.jpg

20130619-212512.jpg

We arrive at 10am and I’m ready to be thrust a brunch menu filled with eggs benedict and waffle options. What I am not expecting is an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink affair. Our waiter takes us through the options.

There’s the fruit station…

20130619-212833.jpg
the salad station…

20130619-212907.jpg
the bread station…

20130619-212957.jpg
the sushi station…

20130619-213025.jpg
the seafood station…(which we renamed the crustacean station)

20130619-213154.jpg

20130619-213216.jpg
the eggs and bacon station, paella station, waffle station, pasta station (sorry, too overwhelmed to even take photos), the pancake station…

20130619-213327.jpg
the “I don’t even know what that is” station…

20130619-213405.jpg
the dessert station…

20130619-213446.jpg

20130619-213453.jpg

20130619-213502.jpg

20130619-213509.jpg
the candy station (not to be infused with Candi Staton)…

20130619-213536.jpg

20130619-213547.jpg
and finally (no show without punch) the cheese station.

20130619-213625.jpg

And if this wasn’t perfect enough, you can complement your meal with Bellinis, Mimosas and Bloody Marys all part of the $80 cover charge. I don’t think they saw us coming…

Basically, we don’t end up leaving until 4pm creating a strategic approach that will essentially see us successfully have breakfast, lunch and dinner there.

20130619-214403.jpg

There is so much to catch up on from the last five months; weddings, big TransAtlantic moves, new friends, old friends, misadventures and grand new perspectives on life. It brings home to me how much I will miss Tree’s frequent London visits when I get back.

20130619-214845.jpg

We take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are.

20130619-215018.jpg

Not long afterwards, as though to punctuate this, something very strange happens. Tree sees a girl in the bathroom who looks very upset. She asks her if she is okay, and the girl collapses in tears. Tree gives her a huge hug and stays with her until she can pull herself together again. In a rush of words and emotions, it turns out that the girl, Irisa, who lives out of town, was due to meet her boyfriend here at The Biltmore for the weekend. She has just taken a call telling her that he has died.

Back at the table, Tree tells me what has happened, and we both agree that we don’t want Irisa to be on her own. Tree invites her to join us, and we spend the afternoon with her as she tries to compute what to do next. Our hearts break for this girl, and it puts all other worries and emotions screaming into perspective.

Now and again she wants to talk about it, but mainly she wants her mind to be taken off it. She can’t thank Tree enough for her kindness. It is all very humbling.

Afterwards in the late afternoon sun, we taxi round to the Miracle Mile in Coral Gables and plonk ourselves in Hillstone’s for more cocktails and chatting. As the sun starts to think about setting, Ally collects us and we meet Chris and Stu, plus their work pals Louise and John, at Taco Rico back in Miami Beach where they’re eating tacos and watching Miami Heat take on the Indiana Pacers in the basketball play offs. It is not a sport I purport to know the rules of, but judging by the yelps from the locals it is safe to say they got through. Late night drinking and celebrations continue in The Abbey, Miami Beach’s only brew-pub (and certainly the best tunes I’ve heard in a bar so far) until we spill out into the night for an impromptu disco back at Tree and Ally’s place.

There is only one thing for it the next day…South Beach! Or SoBe as it is known to its surgically enhanced locals. We would have visited much sooner, but it is Memorial Day weekend which apparently means unofficial parties so ridiculous that they often lead to shootings. By the time we wander through Lincoln Mall, the crowds have cleared…mostly.

20130621-212326.jpg

When we hit the sand, as synthetic as the breasts that currently sunbathe upon it, there are two things that strike me; the awesomeness of the lifeguard towers…

20130621-212543.jpg

20130621-212550.jpg

20130621-212731.jpg

and the stunning shade of the sea. This time, completely natural.

20130621-212903.jpg

20130621-212914.jpg

20130621-212945.jpg

We spend the afternoon sitting on the beach, watching the cruise liners coming in and going out again…with frightening regularity. I’m reliably informed that Miami is the cruise capital of the world.

20130621-213120.jpg
Aside from a three minute monsoon, we soak up the rays hungrily – I’m conscious that with a London summer beckoning…this could be the last sun I see for a while.

20130621-213327.jpg

20130621-213647.jpg
We pause, briefly, to mock the evening’s entertainment that the clubs are trying to tempt us to.

20130621-213958.jpg
We take a walk along the boardwalk…

20130621-214131.jpg
…spying on the mega hotels that flank the beachside.

20130621-214442.jpg
All that lounging around has worked up an appetite. We decide to straddle the money spectrum with cheap falafel eats in Maoz on Washington Avenue…

20130621-214719.jpg
…followed by cocktails at The Ritz on Lincoln Road.

20130621-215004.jpg

20130621-215015.jpg

20130621-215052.jpg

20130621-215212.jpg

The next day, Ally and I go gator huntin’!

20130621-215339.jpg

This involves us getting in an air boat, y’know like the one on Gentle Ben!

20130621-215608.jpg

20130621-215619.jpg
The weather is kind of overcast, and before we get on the boat I throw my bag in the back of the car. Ally asks if I can bring his poncho out, but all I can see is a girls rain jacket or some scrunched up plastic. Assuming that is the poncho, and that Ally will not want to be seen in a bright pink rain jacket, I grab the plastic.
The heavens open whilst we are out on the boat, and unfortunately for Ally, the plastic was not a poncho…but the wrapping from a dry cleaned suit. Oh dear. The are no words for how soaked he got. He was not a happy boy.

20130621-221050.jpg

20130621-221148.jpg

Then we see this little fella out in the wild.

20130621-221306.jpg

Less impressive was the floor show afterwards.

20130621-221510.jpg

It felt like a lot of the animals were kinda doped up. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.

20130621-221620.jpg

20130621-221633.jpg

20130621-221717.jpg

We warm up with lunch at the amazing Versailles in Little Havana…and it is gooood to be speaking Spanish again.

After Tree has finished slaving away in the office, we take a walk along the beach, this time towards the much more placid southern tip. And while we do that, the sun does this. It is exquisite.

20130621-222440.jpg

20130621-222454.jpg

20130621-222840.jpg

20130621-222855.jpg

We round the bay point and face the port, now at rest having seen off the day’s 40 odd cruise ships.

20130621-222957.jpg

Then Piña Coladas and Lobster Ceviche are the order of the day at Monty’s.

20130621-223249.jpg

20130621-223258.jpg

After that, the final 24 hours of my trip is upon us. We spend it lolling between the beach, the mall with the highlight being Little Haiti where we pop into Ally’s favourite record shop Sweat Records to peruse the vinyl.

20130621-224126.jpg

20130621-224142.jpg

20130621-224149.jpg

20130621-224159.jpg

We choose the destination for the last supper very carefully indeed. After a glass of wine at Chris and Stu’s beautiful apartment round the corner, we make our way excitedly to Joe’s Stone Crabs. Basically, a review we read said ‘No visit to Miami would be complete without eating here.’ SOLD.

20130621-224737.jpg

Our server, Janette, ends up being so spectacular that she is probably my favourite server of all time. I mean, look at her, she’s awesome.

20130621-224930.jpg

Killer King Crab Claws and Lobster Mac and Cheese win out from the menu, and it certainly is the finest crab I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.

20130621-225243.jpg

20130621-225324.jpg

20130621-225332.jpg

20130621-225411.jpg

Key Lime Pie completes the experience and it’s all back to the house for some Ciroc Red Berry and Cranberry on the balcony.

And there you have it, the sun has set on my trip of a lifetime.

20130621-225641.jpg
I spend a few hours listening to music and looking through my photos. The next day, head hung low, I make my way to Miami airport for the final flight, the flight home.

After 21 flights, 3 ferries, 2 sailboats, 2 helicopters, 1 single engine Cessna, 15 buses, 2 trains, countless skiffs and 1 parasail, it is time to make my merry way back to London.

It has been all highs, no lows. All killer, no filler. My eyes and heart have been opened wider by the stunning places I have seen and the unforgettable people I have met.

And the soundtrack was:
Yo La Tengo ‘And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out’
Mum ‘Green Grass of Tunnel’
Bonnie Prince Billy ‘The World’s Greatest’
Public Enemy ‘Rebel Without A Pause’
Will Smith ‘Miami’
The Shins ‘Wincing The Night Away’
Daughter ‘Smother’

Part XI: Montréal at my Quebec and Call

So, with the Pacific north west coast ticked off the list fairly comprehensively, it is time to fly east. Shit’s about to get (Mont)réal…

It is weighing heavily on my mind (and heart) at this point that only ten days of my trip remain. For some reason I find this a difficult boulder to climb out from under, try as I might. I know I need to soak up the adventure in every second that remains, so I grab Montréal with gusto and set about busying myself getting to know the city.

On arrival, it occurs to me that I don’t think I realised just how French French Canada is. Now, I should explain at this juncture that my degree was in French, and I lived in Paris for a year as part of the course. Some of the most special people in my life are friends I made there so Montréal, with its echoes of Paris, brings with it another surge of emotion. I think it’s important that you know that to put this post into context.

The similarity is completed when I check into the M Montréal Hostel in the Quartier Latin. That was the area of Paris where I lived and worked (and loved) for a while.

I should feel more confident talking French than I was speaking Spanish back in Latin America. But I swiftly realise that in Quebec, it’s French…but not as we know it. Also, my brain doesn’t seem to be agile in switching languages and for reasons unbeknownst to me…the Spanish word usually finds its way to my lips before the French one does. So it would appear that 4 months of Spanish has seemingly cancelled out 11 years of French. Right, great.

Together with its extreme Frenchness, there are lots of other things I didn’t know about Montréal. For example:

– it’s an island
– they voted on independence from Canada as recently as 1994
– they are nearly all hockey crazy
– Leonard Cohen was born here
– it was the capital of Canada for five years until 1849; an anglophone mob put paid to that when their protesting saw it shifted to Ottawa

With every word I devour of the guide book on the five hour flight from Van City, the more this city intrigues me, particularly politically.

So, with discovery in mind, I set out for an exploratory saunter. Of course, empires were never built on muesli bars, so I swing into Le Gros Jambon for a hearty breakfast. It is the slightly less spenny little brother of L’Orignal from chef Travis Champion – and his surname could certainly be applied as part of a review. The staff are super friendly, the walls are adorned with vintage Montreal kitsch and the food is presented as beautifully as it tastes.

20130616-181944.jpg

The coffee is exceptional, and comes along with this little guy…

20130616-182034.jpg

The next stop is the Basilique Notre-Dame, the grand dame of Montréal’s religious treasures. It was opened in 1829 and designed by New York Protestant architect James O’Donnell. I only mention his religion as, notably, he liked the Basilique so much that he converted to Catholicism in order that his funeral could be held there. You can see why…

20130616-183102.jpg

20130616-183112.jpg

Don’t worry, Canadian God seems to be a little more laid back and is quite content with photography in the Basilique. He had his clergymen put signs up and everything.

Excuse the poor phraseology here, but the devil really is in the detail with this building. It is full of ornate wooden pillars and carvings.

20130616-183651.jpg

20130616-183929.jpg

20130616-183936.jpg
Gilt stars shine down from the ceiling, while the stained glass windows radiate light.

20130616-184113.jpg
The huge 7000 pipe Casavant organ oversees musical proceedings from on high.

20130616-184311.jpg

20130616-184321.jpg

As has become the Mellotte family travelling tradition, I light a candle for loved ones who have gone before us and those we’re lucky enough to still have.

20130616-184438.jpg

Outside, the Basilique looks onto the Place d’Armes.

20130616-184616.jpg
Here the Monument Maisonneuve stands, proudly dedicated to Montréal’s founder Paul de Chomedey.

20130616-184724.jpg

From here it is a brisk walk along the Rue St-Sulpice to the Vieux Port. Despite the fact that it is a rather blustery day, you can see why the port is favoured for recreation. Quai Jacques Cartier is the centrepiece, and large promenades lend themselves to strolling, cycling and skating. It also looks like it is in the throes of rejuvenation, not least with the sleek and sassy Centre des Sciences de Montréal. The port has clearly always been an important revenue stream for the city, with cruise liners docking at the Quai Alexandra. In their absence, the sailboats bob around in the bay.

20130616-190659.jpg

20130616-190840.jpg

I cross into the Parc du Bassin-Bonsecours…

20130616-192227.jpg

20130616-192237.jpg
…and along the Quai de l’Horloge towards the Sailors’ Memorial Clock Tower, dedicated to mariners who died in the world wars.

20130616-192535.jpg

20130616-192559.jpg

20130616-192611.jpg

The views are across to Parc Jean Drapeau and the Montreal Biosphère environmental museum,

20130616-192850.jpg
an installation of public art, including Alexander Calder’s 1967 piece L’Homme,

20130616-193122.jpg
and La Ronde funfair.

20130616-193151.jpg

On the same side, a makeshift beach has been built to capitalise on the good weather that looms in the not too distant future.

20130616-193531.jpg

As I walk back to the city, the city skyline hovers above me…

20130616-193656.jpg
…including the neoclassical Marché Bonsecours, formerly the town hall but now an arts and crafts market.

20130616-193902.jpg

Behind it is nestled the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Bonsecours, known as the Sailors’ Church where sailors would leave ship-shaped lamps in thanks for safe passage. It’s far more peaceful than its big Basilique brother, and a lovely place to spend a few moments giving your own thanks for safe passage.

20130616-195002.jpg

20130616-195014.jpg

20130616-195024.jpg
The statue of Our Lady of the Harbour sits atop it, and was made famous by Leonard Cohen in his song ‘Suzanne.’
Photo 21-05-2013 21 45 01

After this, a little lèche-vitrine (window shopping) along Rue St- Paul’s boutiques is in order.

20130616-195250.jpg

20130616-195303.jpg

And a squizz at the Hôtel de Ville.

20130616-195412.jpg

The rains come, torrentially, so I drop into Boris Bistro for the duck and mushroom risotto and a large glass of Malbec. Then, it’s time for a little bar hopping in Vieux Montreal, with the standout being Philemon where you can have your Malbec with a cheeseboard. Don’t mind if I do.

I’m reliably informed by Canadian friends I met in Bolivia that Montréal is the place to get a smoked meat sandwich. (Hi Michael if you’re out there) The Montréal Reuben is the speciality of hot smoked meat, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing and sauerkraut on rye bread. A Downtown Deli called Reuben’s seems like as good as place as any to start the day, and mighty fine it is too.

It also gives me a chance to ogle the areas that the world famous Montréal Jazz Festival is usually hosted, in and around the Place des Arts.

20130616-201301.jpg

20130616-201315.jpg

En route, I also pass the dazzling Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde.

20130616-201525.jpg

But today’s main focus will be losing myself in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal.

20130616-201755.jpg
It is stunningly huge, Canada’s oldest museum, and houses its permanent collection of everything from the old masters to contemporary work in three free-to-access buildings on Rue Sherbrooke Ouest.

There is some beautiful work on display here, from Salvador Dali’s Homage to Marcel Du Champ chessboard,

20130616-203118.jpg
one of Henri Matisse’s many portraits of his muse Lorette – this one from 1917,

20130616-203531.jpg
Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Musketeer from 1969,

20130616-203740.jpg
and Claude Monet’s La Grande Allée à Giverny a copy of which hung in my room when I was an early teen.

20130616-204022.jpg

My favourite museum in Paris was the Musée Rodin, so I was really happy to find some of his work exhibited here too. Most notably, Sirens.

20130616-204429.jpg
People far more intelligent than me suppose that the three women represent the three furies in Dante’s Inferno, the first section of the Divine Comedy, he is warned not to look at them in case they summon Medusa who will turn him to stone with just one look. Deceptive sensuality at its most beautiful for my money.

The Thinker also has a place here.

20130616-204908.jpg
This bronze cast from between 1902 and 1909 was bought directly from the artist and was the first Rodin piece ever to be exhibited in North America. This piece has come to have so many connotations in popular culture; art, humanity etc. But what I love about it, is Rodin’s own description of the figure, modelled on Dante himself: “Chin on hand, he muses. Fertile thought develops slowly in his brain. This is not a dreamer, but a creator.”

Next, the buzzy student area of Rue St-Denis beckons. After a saunter through, I settle into Le St-Sulpice for a swift one before dinner at O’Thym, a dinky yet elegant bring-your-own-eatery not far from my hostel in the Quartier Latin. Surrounded by exposed brick and enlarged mirrors, I dig into (vegetarians, look away now) Foie Gras Tatin followed by rack of lamb.

20130616-210439.jpg

20130616-210516.jpg

One of the things that I love about this city, is the adeptness with which the people can switch between Québécois French and English. It is such a huge skill to be so completely and utterly fluent like that. The downside is that, spotting you’re not a local, people will switch to English for you. So, to gain back my French confidence, I need to insist on trying to speak French…and they are particularly conducive to it here.

Another day on the road…another market. This time Marché Jean-Talon in Little Italy in the north. It involves my first jaunt on the artful Metro.

20130616-214715.jpg

20130616-214737.jpg
The market itself is the usual mix of vibrant flower stalls,

20130616-215136.jpg

20130616-215149.jpg
colourful fruit and veg vendors,

20130616-215454.jpg

20130616-215733.jpg

20130616-215742.jpg
And my special favourites, the cheese and seafood…

20130616-215908.jpg

20130616-215919.jpg

It’s a lovely meander, and I manage not to hemorrhage too much cash, leaving only with some sirop d’érable (maple syrop) and some Pear Ice Cider…apparently a Québécois speciality.

20130616-220213.jpg

After this, I tour round Little Italy stopping to inhale one of the city’s most famous foods, a bagel from St Viateur Bagel on the street of the same name.

20130616-220429.jpg

20130616-220459.jpg
This place is an institution, and I opt for the cinnamon and thyme bagel with a giganta dollop of Philly cheese. I’ve never really been a bagel person, but I can see what all the fuss it about.

Little Italy and nearby Mile End are pretty areas to hang out in for a spell. They are jam packed with vintage boutiques, awesome bookstores (like Welch Books) and quirky independent coffee shops (I recommend Le Cagibi which translates quaintly as The Cubbyhole.) I had hoped to have time to head to Parc du Mont-Royal, but tonight’s gig by The Shins is not far away so it’s time to make for home.

Very handily, the venue The Metropolis is a mere two minutes walk from the hostel, so there is time to spare for a swifty in the nextdoor Foufounes Électriques before the show.

It has seemed like all of my favourite bands have been touring the US and Canada whilst I have been there, but most have played just before or immediately after my arrival in each city. How inconvenient. So I’m completely beside myself with excitement about this show. The last time I saw The Shins was at Reading Festival last year, but they clashed with Santigold so I only saw a couple of tracks. A full set will feel very indulgent by comparison.

20130616-225649.jpg

20130616-225711.jpg

It is an absolutely great show, complimented by the hilarious drummer and a receptive crowd.

20130616-230319.jpg

20130616-230334.jpg

20130616-230356.jpg
I’m quite tickled to see that the bartenders actually walk through the venue here selling pints piled on trays that they hold aloft. I can see that approach lasting about ten seconds in a sold out Brixton Academy…

Before long I’m chinwagging with lovely fellow-Shins-fan Alex, and we decide to grab a late night drink at Le Saint Bock after the show. Of course, we end up talking about music until the wee small hours and I come away with a head full of new albums recommended to me.

20130616-230736.jpg

The next morning, I bravely fight through the groggy hangover and throw myself on a bus with the recently downloaded The National album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ which came out a couple of days ago. This is quite enough to amuse me for the 2 hour trip to Ottawa. Now, this will be a flying visit if ever there was one.

I’m visiting the fabulous Jimmy Rib (aka James Thompson) with whom I used to work back in the day in Glasgow. We slaved over many a T in the Park together and I have seen very little of him since he returned to his native Canada, wed the wonderful Amanda and produced ridiculously cute Jack. We’d very much like to be hanging out longer than an afternoon, but as bad luck would have it, Amanda is due to give birth any minute now! But the thought of being so close but yet so far was too much, so we decided to do lunch in Ottawa. And I was more than happy to make the trip for an old friend.

Jimmy Rib’s nickname originally came from his insatiable love of ribs, so you’ll never guess where we go for lunch…the inimitable Fatboys Southern Smokehouse. The ribs are smoked on site, and the smell that greets us when we walk in is nothing less than a-maze-ing. This hungover girl needs some carbs…

20130616-231532.jpg

It is so good to catch up with him, and to hear all of his news; his wedding to Amanda, their wee boy Jack and his hilarious turn of phrase. So much time has passed, and I hate it when good friendships drift over time. So it was worth every hungover second on that bus trip to get here, if even for a few hours.

When I arrive back in Montréal, Alex and I are trying to decide what to do with our evening. There is one thing left on the tourist check list that can be accomplished tonight; Poutine.

Poutine is to the Québécois what chips and cheese is to the Scots, literally. It is French fries smoothed in cheese curds and gravy. From discussions with people here, you either love it or you hate it. But I simply cannot leave Montréal without trying it.

We head for La Banquise at 994 Rachel Est, but we are greeted by the most gigantic queue I have ever seen at a restaurant. Keen not to simply fall into the nearest pub and repeat the excesses of the night before, we decide to take a walk in a nearby park and come back for Poutine later. I am particularly pleased because I haven’t made it to any of Montréal’s green spaces yet, not even the most famous Parc du Mont-Royal. When Alex hears this, a swift revision of our plans is made so that we can squeeze it in before sunset. And I am so glad we did.

The park was designed by Frederick Law Omlsted, the same architect as New York’s Central Park. This is every bit as amazing. Its wooded slopes and grassy areas attract joggers, cyclists, horse riders and even battle re-enact-ers in the spring and summer. Whilst winter’s snows welcome skiing and tobogganing. Either way, if you were born and raised in Montréal, you likely grew up doing one of the above.

It’s a solid hour or so walk up the mountain, but the views out over the city are truly breathtaking. The sun is settling as we climb, throwing a golden sheen over every building rolled out in front of us.

20130617-222847.jpg

20130617-222858.jpg

Once at the Pavilion at the top, the city shimmers below.

20130617-223009.jpg
It is a stunning view, and proves once again why it is good to throw away with guide book from time to time and head out with someone who lives in, and loves, the city.

20130617-223211.jpg

And of course, with all that exercise, dinner is well earned. So we flop into Chez Claudette at 351 Laurier Est to reward ourselves with Poutine and a beer.

20130617-223405.jpg
Chips, cheese and gravy has never tasted so good.

Soon enough it is time for the magic of Montréal to come to an end, and Alex drives me to the airport for my middle-of-the-night flight to my final stop, Miami.

When I look back to Montréal, the stand out memories will be The Shins at The Metropolis, sharing ribs with the King Rib himself, making great new friends (and letting them show you how amazing their city can be) and that sunset. Let’s see it one more time shall we?

20130617-224104.jpg

Onwards, to Miami…

And the soundtrack was:
Leonard Cohen ‘Suzanne’
The National ‘Trouble Will Find Me’
The Shins ‘Wincing The Night Away’
The Shins ‘Chutes Too Narrow’
The Shins ‘Oh, Inverted World’
The Shins ‘Port of Morrow’
Les Colocs Unknown
Eric Satie Various
Karkwa Unknown
Blonde Redhead ‘Loved Despite Great Faults’
Arcade Fire ‘Neon Bible’
Foals ‘Holy Fire’
Sly And The Family Stone ‘If You Want Me To Stay’
Edison Lighthouse ‘Love Grows’