There are so many things to love about Montreal
For only $15, I picked up a 3-day BIXI pass and used it to zoom around the city. I was impressed with how quickly the bikes turned over. Bikes were constantly being taken out and returned by users – a lot of them locals judging by how quickly they unlocked the bikes and pedalled away. The bikes are heavy and slow, but still way faster than walking and more interesting than taking the metro.
The separated bike lanes downtown are good (especially around the universities), but the real highlight was the network of separated lanes along commercial streets in the neighbourhoods around downtown, like the Plateau (think Commercial Drive in Vancouver).
There is also a good network of bike routes on quiet streets, salmon lanes against the traffic on 1-way streets, and trails along parks and train tracks. They even have cleaners ensuring the bike routes are free of glass and debris.
Vancouver has some catching up to do.
On our recent trip to Montreal we were delighted to discover that the city is a hotbed for vegan cuisine. Who knew? We had a chance to eat at six vegetarian restaurants (five of them strictly vegan), with a long wishlist of places we didn’t have time to visit. Normally I would rank the restaurants we visited, but all of them excellent with little separating our favourites (Aux Vivres and Lola Rosa) from the rest.
- Aux Vivres
Aux Vivres is a vegan restaurant with mass appeal and wide acclaim, but when I see menu items like veggie butter, vegelox, and coconut bacon I’m always a bit leery. Happily these weren’t overly processed soy knockoffs. The veggie butter was mostly nutritional yeast and the lox was made from carrot pulp and herbs, with a bit of liquid smoke (recipe). For dinner, we had the Aux Vivres burger and an Indian platter. Both were excellent. I highly recommend trying to get a seat on the awesome patio behind the restaurant, as the main seating area is loud.
- Lola Rosa
I really loved the atmosphere at Lola Rosa. The tables are old, wooden desks with drawers that customers have stuffed full of love letters and poems. We found a paper fortune teller that said: “choose the menu item you least considered, everything is amazing” and then “actually, just get the nachos“. So we did, and they lived up to the anonymous hype. Everything is vegetarian with lots of vegan options, often substituting Daiya for cheese.
A great little vegan restaurant in the gay village with a fabulous patio in the summer. We sat outside and ate our lunch while a nearby quartet played classical music. The menu was a bit confusing (language barrier?). We tried ordering a salad, but although they’re on the menu, salads apparently aren’t available. We got a quinoa bowl and tempeh sandwich, which were both hearty and delicious.
- Invitation V
Excellent food but ridiculously slow service. Our meal took 3 hours, including an hour wait between the appetizers and entrees. Everything is vegan. The appetizers and mains were good (especially the crabless cakes and hot pot) but the desserts were disappointing. I’ve had much better vegan crème brûlée and as much as I like kale, it was overpowering in the kale-chocolate cake.
- Green Panther
Simple but tasty vegan food. We tried the veggie burgers, Poppin’ Carrots cake, and a Peanut Munch Break cookie. They have more than one location, but this one is in a cluster of vegan restaurants, along with Crudessence and Cafe Verdure, between Mcgill and Concordia University.
Crudessence’s Golden Square Mile location is located next door to the Green Panther. Everything is raw and vegan. We sampled the desserts, all of which were superb. We didn’t get a chance to try any of the entrees, but they looked good.
Cycling is enjoying a renaissance around the world, with more cities investing in cycling infrastructure, and more people using bikes as a means of transportation. It’s not too surprising considering that oil prices continue to rise, and bicycles are the most energy efficient means of transportation we have ever invented.
Copenhagen and Amsterdam
Copenhagen and Amsterdam have been at the forefront of cycling culture for decades. In both cities everyone bikes and bikes are used for every imaginable type of trip. These are the cities to look at for inspiring ideas that can make cycling safer and more accessible. Ideas like the Green wave, that times stoplights along bike routes to the speed of a casual cyclist – 15-20km/h.
In many ways, Paris kicked off the cycling revolution with its Velib bike-share program. Copenhagen and Amsterdam have always been the darling cities of cycling, but Paris showed how a city without a strong bike commuting culture (cycling was a sport – think Tour de France – not a means of commuting), can grow to embrace bike commuting. Before Velib was introduced in Paris, less 1% of trips were by bike. After Velib, that quickly doubled and continues to grow. The introduction of Velib was also accompanied by replacing many car lanes with dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes.
Montreal has similar numbers of cyclists and bike infrastructure compared to Vancouver, but there is one huge difference between the two (and it’s not Montreal’s harsh winters). Montreal has created the world’s best bike-sharing program BIXI, which is now being licensed for use around the world.
Continue reading Cycling Revolution Around the World