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Patriots’ Day on Mont Saint-Hilaire

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Jürgen and I are really clever guys. Check this out: while planning our hike on Mont Saint-Hilaire, we decided against going on a weekend, and instead chose a Monday. Because the mountain would be less busy. Now that’s clever! But as it turns out, Quebec was celebrating Patriots’ Day on this particular Monday. Turns out, we’re not so clever after all.

Saint Hiliare Hike

Across Canada, Victoria Day is celebrated in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday… but not in Quebec. In 1837, while Victoria was being anointed Queen of Great Britain, the people of Quebec were embroiled in a bloody rebellion against the crown. It’s not like they’re going to celebrate the enemy Queen, now. Instead, Quebec calls the holiday National Patriots’ Day, in honor of the fallen heroes of the 1837 uprising.

So everybody in Montreal had the day off, and approximately half of them decided to go hiking at Mont Saint-Hilaire. Just to get to the visitor center’s parking lot, we were stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour. That’s not an exaggeration. It was beyond crowded, and made even worse by the presence of a community “fun run.” We had planned to be hiking shortly after nine, but didn’t even start until well past noon.

Saint Hiliare Hike

It could have been so wonderful! Mont Saint-Hilaire is beautiful, and perfect for hikers. The trails are well-marked, and there are several loops you can do depending on the amount of time you have. There’s a gorgeous mountain lake (Lac Hertel), a few breathtaking viewpoints, and even charming woodland creatures (we saw two deer and a dam built by beavers). And the weather was perfect; sunny and warm, but with a steady, cool breeze drifting in.

But it’s hard to concentrate on all the beauty, when the trails are so packed with other people. When you’re constantly listening to the inane conversations of the group of college girls walking two steps behind you. When the kid ahead of you is blasting Eminem out of his backpack. When you’re getting shoulder-checked off the path by a self-important trailrunner. When you have to stand in a line before seeing the Rocky Top Viewpoint. After a couple hours on the trails, we couldn’t get back to the car quickly enough.

This is a really unfair account of the trails Mont Saint-Hilaire. The mountain is gorgeous, and we only have ourselves to blame for the misery of our excursion. We’ll let our photos show off the park’s beauty, and leave you with a warning: only visit when everyone else in Montreal is working… and don’t forget to double-check the list of local holidays.

Location on our Map
Centre de la Nature Mont Saint-Hilaire – Website

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June 15, 2016 at 9:33 pm Comments (0)

The Biodôme at the Olympic Park

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Not to be confused with the Biosphere on the Île Sainte-Hélène, the Biodôme is a small zoo housed in the former Olympic velodrome. The zoo is organized into five distinctive ecosystems found in North America, introducing some of the plant and animal life found in each.

Biodome Montreal

Dwarfed by the Olympic Stadium to which it’s adjacent, the Biodôme doesn’t look like much from the outside. But inside, an illusion of immense space has been created, and each of the five ecosystems are surprisingly spacious. After leaving the Biodôme, I looked back on the building in confusion. How did they manage to fit everything into that little cycling dome?

Walking through the Biodôme is surreal. It feels like you’re in one of those films where life on earth has ended for whatever reason (global warming, nuclear apocalypse, the whims of Herr Trump), and the remnants of our planet’s various ecosystems have been preserved in a bubble. “Look, monkeys! Remember those? Oh, the Earth used to be so wonderful.”

You start in “Tropical Rainforests” ecosystem, where you can see animals like alligators, monkeys, parrots, snakes, bats, and if you’re lucky, a family of sloths. (We weren’t lucky.) From the rainforests, you move into a zone a little closer to home: the “Laurentian Maple Forests” of Canada. It’s not as exotic, but this was actually my favorite zone inside the Biodôme. Monkeys and alligators are standard zoo fare, but you don’t often get to see a beaver swimming around.

Did you know that when beavers poop, they dive underwater and do a little flip? Well, actually, I’m not sure if all beavers do that, or just this particular one. He was a bit of a scatological show-off. Talented, though, I’ll give him that.

Biodome Montreal

Next up is the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, where a 2.5-million-liter basin holds fish like the massive Atlantic sturgeon, dogfish and salmon, as well as starfish and mollusks. You can watch the action in this tank from both above and below. On the side of the basin, the Labrador Cliffs have been recreated, with guillemots and puffins diving into the water. The final zone in the Biodôme is dedicated to the Antarctic; you’ll get zero points for guessing that penguins are the stars of this show.

We enjoyed the Biodôme more than we had expected to. Somehow, the concept of a “zoo inside a former cycling hall” doesn’t ring with promise, but they’ve done a wonderful job with it. The Biodôme can be visited on its own, or in combination with any other of the Olympic Park’s sights (the Planetarium, the Insectarium/Botanic Garden and the Olympic Tower).

Location on our Map
Montréal Biodôme – Website

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May 25, 2016 at 6:03 pm Comments (0)
Patriots' Day on Mont Saint-Hilaire Jürgen and I are really clever guys. Check this out: while planning our hike on Mont Saint-Hilaire, we decided against going on a weekend, and instead chose a Monday. Because the mountain would be less busy. Now that's clever! But as it turns out, Quebec was celebrating Patriots' Day on this particular Monday. Turns out, we're not so clever after all.
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