Another weekend in a big city and we couldn’t resist rolling the dice once again. We’d done the typical stuff in Montreal – shopped St. Catherine’s St., visited the Old Port, hiked up Mount Royal – so we knew we couldn’t go wrong with leaving our last day to chance. To ensure that we could cover as much ground as possible, we rented Bixi Bikes (such a fantastic program!) We were hesitant when we saw that our roll was taking us right back to where we had been the day before – Mount Royal. But, ever the true Zufallers, we followed the roll. We hopped on our bikes and took a leisurely route along the cycle path, checking out fun neighbourhoods and funky architecture.
Before we arrived at the park, we hit a detour. Well, Tim’s stomach hit a detour. We’d seen Schwartz’s Deli the day before and it was lined up down the street. This is the famous smoked meat sandwich joint that everyone says is a quintessential Montreal experience. The lineup had been too long for Tim to justify the wait but since Zufall was sending us back into Schwartz’s hood, we decided to check it out. Sure enough, the line up for takeout was incredibly short (note to visitors, go on a Sunday). He grabbed a smoked meat sandwich, fries and the requisite pickle. Not to be left out of Montreal cuisine, I grabbed a vegetarian poutine (first in my life) and we took our hot messes to the closest picnic table, fighting off an over fed squirrel in the process.
We hardly recognized Mount Royal from the day before. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal had taken over the ring road and a spandexed crowd lined the route. Cowbells rang out and people cheered in short 20 second bursts as the peloton blew past. With laps taking 15 minutes or so, we decided to make our way around the race and head into the park proper.
Every Sunday in the summer, when the weather is nice enough, a random gang of drummers gather and bang out a beat. We’d heard about Tam Tams but we had no idea that it would be such a swell of joy, dancing and rhythm. We sat and nodded our heads to the beat, Tim snapped pics and tried to capture the magic on film and time disappeared.
We were keeping an eye on the race but decided to head up the hill because there seemed to be another crowd at the forest’s edge. The surprises and amusements kept coming as our path took us past jugglers, tightrope walkers, guitarists and acrobats. When we finally arrived at the gathering we could only marvel and wonder at what we saw. Two gangs beating each other with swords, long poles and daggers. These weapons were made, it seemed, out of duct tape and the medieval style warfare was clearly some kind of game, but we were astonished just the same. “Montreal is crazy!” I couldn’t help myself from saying with complete adoration.
We arrived back at the race finish line just as the racers were entering their last lap. We saw Ryder Hesjedal pull ahead of the pack a little too soon and promptly lose his lead. Several riders made a play for the win after that but when Norwegian Lars Petter Nordhaug took the lead and kept it. What a thrill to see.
And what a fantastic show of diversity and culture we saw that day in the park – from hippies and music lovers to the circus set to mock warriors to uber-fit cyclistas. We thought our adventure was going to be a repeat of the day before. It may have been the same place, in the same city but it was utterly different.