Au revoir, Montréal; Hello, Ottawa / South Mountain!
Day 15: South Mountain, ON. 3,576.8 km.
(This post is going up late, because we didn't have any internet to post it in the evening on Thursday.)
We took advantage of our hotel's late (noon) checkout this morning, sleeping in, packing up, and finally checking out around 11:30 or so. I talked to the front desk, and they kindly allowed us to leave our car parked in one of their three free parking spots for the day (we got one when we arrived and never moved our car since).
So, with the car packed, we walked over to the Mont Royal Metro station, grabbing a bite to eat at a coffee shop on the way, rode to the Champs-de-Mars station in Old Montreal, and walked to the artists cooperative that we were in on Tuesday, to buy a print that we liked as our souvenir for the trip.
It was a nice day for a walk because the weather was great, but we didn't have too much time to kill, so we walked back to the Metro, rode to Berri-UQAM, changed trains to the green line, and finally got off at the Viau station. It's nice to spend long enough in a city that you start to feel comfortable with where things are, where you're going, and how to get around!
We took this journey because our final destination in Montreal was the Biodome – a sort of indoor zoo, but one that focuses on reproducing environments, not just displaying animals…I don't remember seeing a single cage!
We deliberated on what tickets to get — I kind of wanted to see the Insectarium, Ali kind of wanted to see the Planetarium — but we decided to get just the Biodome ticket, and a good thing too, because we spent way longer than the recommended 1-1.5 hours there!
This might be because it was practically empty of visitors, which was fantastic! I'm sure it's packed with people in the tourist season — and there was a preschool group leaving just as we arrived — but there were hardly any other people around as we wandered through, so we could take our time, take everything in, and not feel like we were getting in anybody's way. It was probably much more enjoyable as a result.
There are four “zones” at the Biodome: rainforest, Laurentian mountains, St. Lawrence seaway, and subarctic. The subtropical was, as you might expect, hot and humid, and my camera fogged up inside and out! It was a while before I could take clear pictures. The first thing we saw (way up in a tree) was a two-toed sloth (two toes on the front feet, that is, which is apparently rare), and the next animal was one of the most memorable: a capybara, which is apparently the world's largest rodent. It was fascinating to watch wander around, eat (we were there at feeding time), and go for a swim, but it was kind of freaky and weirdly intelligent-looking.
We also saw caimans (I would have called them alligators, but what do I know?) that could have been stuffed, because they didn't move a millimeter the entire time we were there…we couldn't even see them breathing, a little red monkey (maybe a tamarin? I forget) that is apparently an extremely threatened species, turtles, a whole bunch of different birds, and some aquariums with tropical fish.
The next area was a sharp change, because it was the Laurentian mountains, set up as if it were fall — with the associated cool temperature. This area was a lot less interesting, because it felt a lot like just going for a walk in Bird's Hill Park! And some of the major creatures — deer, moose — couldn't be included. They did have a pair of beavers an otter, and a porcupine, but the otter and one beaver were sleeping, and the other beaver was working inside the lodge (you could watch on a TV screen they had set up with a camera, though).
The next area was the St. Lawrence Seaway, and was of course mostly marine life. The aquariums here were really neat, because you could see some of the same ones from above (where it was set up to look like a shoreline area) and below (through glass walls).
And at the end they had what I'm sure is the most popular: the subarctic area with auks and penguins! There were more people here than we saw anywhere else, and I'm sure it's crazy when the Biodome is busy. We sat and watched the penguins for quite a while…they're incredibly fast swimmers and leap in and out of the water with real agility.
After that, we browsed the gift shop for a bit, retrieved our coats and bags from the locker we rented ($2 well spent), and took the Metro back to our hotel. Our car, after sitting there for three days, started on the first try (yay!), and we navigated our way to the highway and out of Montreal!
Well, almost. We needed to stop for gas and food first. We wanted to get away from central Montreal before doing that, and then it was surprisingly difficult to find anything. We had to backtrack two exits, and bought gas when the car was showing one square left on the fuel gauge. And we couldn't really find anywhere to eat, so we grabbed donuts at Tims and resolved to find something larger in Ontario.
Which we did, in Cornwall…after driving around for a while (and being surprised by a huge bridge that apparently leads to the USA; we had no idea we were that close to the border!). We ate at a rotisserie place called St. Hubert's, and my meal included a free slice of something called “sugar pie”, which was delicious! Amusingly, the menu described it as a Quebec delicacy…of course, we had it in Ontario!
And from there, it wasn't far to South Mountain, where we found Aunt Carla's and Uncle Andy's house with a minimum of difficulty, and after visiting for a while, we headed to bed to end a long day!