Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Miles in Montreal

Bienvenue to Part One of my Montreal trip recap: my miles around the city!

I'll save most of my reflections on the city for tomorrow's post. That feels kind of backwards, right? After all, I'm about to show you a bunch of photos without the full context. But it's actually kind of perfect, because this is usually how I explore a city. I get a little mental map of the key streets and landmarks to remember - sometimes through trial and error - and see parts of the city I never would have checked out otherwise.

Because the marathon is in a few days, I didn't do anything too crazy: two six-mile runs. I took Saturday and Sunday as rest days and walked around Montreal's Old Town a little bit, including a guided walking tour on a rainy Sunday night that ended up teaching me more about present day Montreal than historical Montreal. (That would come in handy for my miles later in the trip.)

On Sunday, it was rainy and dreary, and it felt like it had been that way for ages even though we'd just arrived on Saturday night. (In case you missed it, by the way, I was there for a work conference.)

But on Monday morning before the workday got started, I burst out of the hotel to find blue skies, temperatures warm enough for shorts and a light breeze. The fresh air felt so good.

Here's the view from a window in our hotel:

The rain had stopped overnight, leaving the pavement wet. But the sun was shining on everything that morning. The light was amazing - and dare I say, cheerful!

Look at the gold sunlight shining on those windows in the Old Town, near the waterfront:

Then I turned around and saw the source of that gold light, over the water:

Obviously, I like sunlight on wet pavement. And no, my pace wasn't very fast for this run.

The other joy of running in Old Town fairly early in the morning is that you get a really good peek at what it might have looked like 100 or 200 years ago. Sure, there are people out walking and biking and otherwise beginning the day - and believe me, the rest of my route through downtown Montreal was much busier - but I also encountered longer stretches without seeing any cars at all:

Running through the Old Town on Monday morning made it much easier to get around the neighborhood for the rest of the trip. It also gave me a chance to check out the waterfront, which borders one edge of Old Montreal but wasn't part of our sight-seeing the previous day.

On Tuesday morning, I tried something a little different: the Lachine Canal path, which connects to the waterfront near the Old Town.

The Lachine Canal, to me, seemed like a hybrid of the greenway and the river road in the Twin Cities: paths stretch for many miles on either side of the canal, and it seems popular for bike commuters. Running on the canal path was a completely different experience than the previous day, when I was cruising around what I presume would be a hoppin' tourist area during the summer months. I saw a lot of people who appeared to be regular old Montreal residents getting their run or ride in before work, and it felt nice and familiar to just nod your head to greet them and get nodded at in return. (My favorite greeting, though, was when a man looked at me and said, "BONJOUR!" in such a friendly voice. I don't get that too much on the river road.)

That day started out with sunny skies, too, and that made for a pretty reflection in the water:

By the way, I've learned a few tips through the years to boost the chances of a good running experience when traveling. Before a trip, I google things like "good running routes in Montreal" and read local runners' perspectives so I don't have to guess about a route's safety when I'm cobbling one together on a map. I try to get a sense of my probable route before I leave, and if there's any doubt, I take pretty good notes and tuck a little piece of paper into my pocket before I head out (as well as my hotel address and cash for a cab or bus). I also make it a point to make sure someone else in my party (or back home) knows when I'm heading out and when I expect to be back.

My only momentary snafu on this trip came during my out-and-back run on the canal path, when I turned around to head back and saw that construction workers had actually closed the path on which I had just been running (oops!), so I had to cross over to the other side of the canal unexpectedly and follow that detour back to downtown Montreal.

Both runs left me feeling so refreshed and energized. It's easy for me to start feeling a little bit sluggish when I'm going to restaurants for most meals and sitting in conference sessions during the day - even when the food is wonderful and the discussion is thought-provoking! - so getting fresh air in the morning is key whenever possible. As I've written before, my experiences running in other cities are hands-down some of my favorite souvenirs.

Coming up: More on Old Town, getting around in Montreal, and my adventures with poutine!

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