Another monthâ€™s now in the bag, and Iâ€™m finally back on the monthly schedule! This month was relatively eventful thanks to the first trip I had taken to a major city in exactly two years. But thereâ€™s also covid stuff to rant about, because these posts really cannot stop being a thinly-veiled covid journal, why donâ€™t we just get on with it?
We took off for a road trip to Montreal over the Canada day long weekend. This was actually the destination of the aforementioned 2019 trip, but we really wanted a destination within driving distance (because cancelling air travel in the event covid surprises is a lot more complicated). The land border to the USA was and still is closed, so that further narrowed down the options.
Founded back in 1642, Montreal boasts a lengthy history and got the looks to boot. Many of the older buildings have an European air, and none more so than the cobblestone-lined streets of the old Montreal.
Mount Royal park looms over the city centre. While itâ€™s technically more of a hill than a real mountain, it might as well have been Mount Everest to my out-of-shape ass. Thereâ€™s quite a network of trails and paths up there, which means the locals who jog here must be absolutely jacked. The view at the top toward the downtown core is a real treat. The giant mural of the late Leonard Cohen is especially striking.
The Olympic park area is definitely the most photogenic area of the city This is where the Montreal Botanical Garden is situated. In addition to all manner of foliage, it also contains smaller themed gardens like the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, both of which are quite authentic.
The Olympic park area is also the home to the Biodome, a track cycling venue converted into an indoor nature exhibit showcasing five different climates in the Americas. It may not be the largest facility of its kind, but itâ€™s very densely packed with spectacular plants and critters. The gang of macaws perched a few meters away was an especially spectacular sight.
The true focus of the trip was the food. At the time, Quebec was ahead of Ontario in its business reopening schedule by a few weeks, so going to all the restaurants was like getting a head start on eating out.
There was a lot of comfort food. Smoked meat on rye, loaded burgers, bagels & lox…none of which was very healthy, and most of which was served with fried potatoes. Even the breakfast toast came with a salted pork spread! By the end of the four days my body was in open rebellion from the overindulgence, and letâ€™s just say I was glad to have made it home.
The entire trip felt like a post-pandemic experience, even though pandemic-era compromises still lingered. Masks had to be worn, some attractions (like the Notre Dame Cathedral) were still closed to tourists, and capacity limits were still enforced. Still, it felt like a big step back to normal, to take in leisure activities without the tinge of guilt for not being vigilant enough against the invisible enemy. It also felt like things would only get better from here on out (more on this later).
We took it rather easy for the rest of the month. The wifeâ€™s niece turned 6 months old, I played a lot of Yakuza 7 and Red Dead Redemption 2, and we had omakase sushi at Sushi Nishinokaze to celebrate Ontarioâ€™s latest lifting of pandemic measures.
I am very glad the restaurant is still in business after seven months of being shut down, as this is the kind of food that does not translate well to take-out. Thereâ€™s nothing quite like good omakase sushi, and even though I can still scarf down cheap takeout sushi like no one elseâ€™s business, everyone who claims to enjoy sushi should give proper omakase a try sometime. Donâ€™t think of it as an expensive meal, but rather think of it as a night out at the theater — a theater where you get to devour the performers.
These days it seems like bad covid news is making the rounds yet again. As disappointing as the large infection numbers around the world have been, I am still optimistic that the situation will not fully unravel. There appears to be a sizable segment of society that has been vaccinated but is against continued covid restrictions, who views what is happening to the unvaccinated is simply the consequence of personal choices.
Unrelated: a Barbie exhibit in Montreal
Iâ€™m not so spiteful about the unvaccinated, but itâ€™s clear that herd immunity has not and most likely will never be reached. The vaccination campaigns in the first wave countries have more or less wrapped up, so the die has now been cast in countries like Canada and USA. Vaccine uptake has plateaued, and I donâ€™t expect too many of those to have resisted vaccinations to suddenly change their minds. Much like in 2020, authorities will still navigate the uneasy balance of public health, economy and political support. But unlike 2020 there is no promise of an ultimate solution to all the covid woes.
…But you know what? Guessing what happens makes my head hurt, Iâ€™m just going to give it a break and sit back and see what happens. Until next time!