My weekend was great – thanks for asking!  🙂  Zach asked if I was interested in driving up to Montréal  for the weekend to help him get more of his apartment organized in prep for the start of his new school year.  It sounded like a fabulous idea cos’ isn’t that what summers all about….plus you know how much I love a road trip!

As an early morning guy I convinced him to leave on Saturday morning at 5:15 am so we could be in Montréal well before lunch.  It’s always the perfect time to travel on Highway 401 as the traffic was relatively light, which is a rarity given that its one of the heavily used roads in Canada.

After stopping at Kingston (effectively half way) for breakfast – thanks Denny’s (Division street exit) and filled up with gas we were off again and arrived safely around 11:00 am.  An easy drive!

Zach wanted to get a few measurements before driving out to IKEA to collect his list of additional items for the apartment.  It was a hot and humid day and the apartment (yes, he lives in an area affectionately known by the students as the “ghetto” which is only a stones throw from campus) has no air conditioning!  To say it was steamy was an understatement and reminded me of my childhood years in Australia.  😉

Its about a 25 minute drive out to the Montréal  IKEA from his downtown apartment, and as you’d expect IKEA was its usual hectic self.  Zach is also a planner (hhhmmm – wonder where he gets that???) so he had his list of items all ready to go which made it a simple activity once we were onsite.

After our visit he’d made plans to see his grandparents (my ex’s parents who live in Montréal) for a late lunch so once we had collected the items on his list (bookshelves x 2, desk, TV stand plus a few other odds and ends) we headed over to Westmount Square to meet them.

We’re on good terms so it was great to catch up over a light lunch and hear some stories from their recent cruise around the Baltic.

Zach has never been great with the heat, he’s more of a winter guy (his Canadian roots I suppose) so after putting together the desk and one large bookstand he was done in for the day… Likely a mix of heat and only a few hours of sleep the night before but he was at the end of his energy so we called it a day.  He was even too exhausted to head out for a beer!?

Whenever I’m in Montréal  I always stay at the Courtyard Marriott (380 René-Lévesque Blvd W) as its equidistant to both Zach’s apartment and the Old Port of Montreal, which I love exploring.

Saturday night in the summer is prime time to wander this beautiful old area of the city with its cobbled streets and bustling vibe – just the place to check out!

After checking in I grabbed my camera and walked the five blocks down to Basilique Notre-Dame du Montréal.   No surprise that it was packed with tourists, but in the pre-dusk hours the cathedral was beautifully silhouetted against a darkening blue sky, and resplendent in the lights of the square and surrounding buildings and so a thing of pure beauty.

The best part was the classical jazz guitarist playing from his stool in the treed square immediately in front of the cathedral.  I sat and listened to him play…watching his fingers dance over the strings to make such beautiful music was sublime

For the first time that day I was doing something just for me, relaxing and taking in the activity around me while being serenaded by a master guitarist. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with Zach and supporting him in every way possible, but it was nice to sit and chill – a little “me” time!  🙂

When he took a short break I also took my leave as I had much to see and explore in Vieux-Montréal (Old Montréal).

Montréal is made up of a number of islands in the St Lawrence River, first settled in 1642 initially as a Christian mission to serve the local indigenous peoples and later as a fort and major trading post it has seen its fair share of history…yep, all 376 years and counting!

Montréal has also hosted the 1967 World Expo, the 1976 Summer Olympics and home to both the Canadian Grand Prix (Formula 1) as well as the world renowned Just for Laughs comedy festival that draws the best talent from around the world to this month long event and now in its 36th year.

The Old city of Montréal reminds me of New Orleans in many ways, the local Montréalers speak more French (Quebecois) and less Creole (obviously), but they share a number of similarities – a “joie de vivre” (Joy of living), delicious food, an incredibly vibrant nightlife, and a natural love of music…this city has rhythm in its soul much like New Orleans!

Its a romantic city, and one of the most charming that you’ll visit in all of North America.  My suggestion is, if you haven’t visited put in onto your “must explore” list and get planning!  Bring your camera, your appetite and a sense of adventure and you’ll have the time of your life!

Next week I’ll be on assignment in Jacksonville, Florida.  So until then…