For the domestic travel, I used Porter airline to fly to Toronto and then VIA rail heading back to Montreal. I had to wait till both train and plane fares were on sale. Regular rate were 120 CAD for train and 200 CAD for plane. Like their Facebook page to get updated with their promotions. I got the flight ticket at 142 CAD.
I would say the train was more comfortable journey even though it takes 3 more hours. The VIA rail for boarding is within the city train station in both cities. Check in is just giving your boarding pass (provided in advance via email) to the conductor and then head to your assigned train car number. No custom or immigration checks, no scanning of luggage and yourself, free 25kg luggage plus free WIFI on board. It is less hassle. One way costed 70 CAD.
Bicolline – entirely different experience!
What is Bicolline? Based on my experience, it is a live role-playing game of Fantasy world or flashback from the Medieval times. Think kings, knights, archers, armies, dragons, ogres all battling for land, gold or for the guild with YOU acting as one of the characters. In movies, think of LOTR (Lord of the Rings) or GOT (Game of Thrones).
You can be whoever you want: name, character, skills and get the feel of the character. You dress up in armor, leather shields, (Bicolline approved) hard foam swords and arrows. There is no wizardry skills or spells, only weapons to use for battle. You join a guild or a standalone warrior but most battles are against guilds and alliances so it is best to join a team. Plus, you can enjoy the merry dinner gatherings as a group.
The location is at St-Mathieu-du-Parc, about 2 hours drive from Montreal. It is a week-long event so people can immerse in the experience. Some people join for the whole week while others join at the last 3 days where the final battles are setup. Everything is Medieval theme from your home tents to horse-drawn carriages. There is no internet, no electricity. Water is via public tap (but still drinkable) and toilet is centralized. No joke on the cold shower. Still, people invest time and money to make their experience authentic.
There are rules on fighting. Certain body areas, like face and groin, are prohibited from being hit and you are not supposed to give 100% strength when being on offense. You don’t want to INJURE anyone, this is meant to be fun. A light tap to moderate shove is the norm. There are certain number of hits you can take before you are pronounced dead. Shields, armor or helmet can help increase your defense. Sometimes people can be overly enthusiastic on their offense that you have to be prepared on getting more than just a tap on the head. It can be “brutal”. I was the sword protector for the Healers. I got killed in all 3 battles but at least I tried my best defending 😉 I am still new at this! I need to get stronger
I enjoyed the whole experience (except for the tiny detail of centralized toilet situation)! One thing to note is that everything is in French so for Anglophones like me, you need Franco-phones friends who can help translate for you. Most people know how to speak English on a basic level so don’t be discouraged. But French knowledge does come in handy, especially during battle cries and following orders. Also, this event is not for the faint-hearted, internet addicted, high maintenance people.
For more details, check out their official (French) website and Facebook. They do have entrance fees depending on how many days and if you are a member. I know how much since I got in for free (yay for sponsorship)
And now, back to real civilization!
We went around by car since his family lives outside of the city. If you are planning to just tour within the city, you don’t have to rent a car. There is a day pass for 10 CAD, single ride ticket is at 3 CAD. It made sense to explore Montreal using the day pass since we will be hopping from different stations more often.
Places I have been
Montreal is a city filled with grand churches/cathedrals. Do head to Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal) to have a feel of Victorian architecture. Make sure to stop by Notre-Dame Basilica to see her grandness. They have free tour guides if you want to listen to the history.
Another grand church is Oratoire St Joseph du Mont Royal (St Joseph Oratory) which is also near to La parc du Mont Royal (Mont Royal park). This park was designed by the same landscape designer for New York Central Park. The park is nice for relaxing walk/hiking and picnic.
Food wise, here is what I would recommend to go for a taste of Montreal:
- Poutine La Banquise. Poutine is definitely one of the evil food for your body. It is literally french fries, fresh cheese curds and gravy (and maybe some bacon or other smoked meat). This is a meal itself. It is not served as a side dish. It is very popular in Canada but the only thing I enjoyed was the cheese curds. Still, it can’t hurt to try once.
- Schwartz Deli. Their smoked meat sandwich is delicious!
- Saint-Viateur Bagel . Different texture from New York bagels but they are so good.
- Queues de Castor Pâtisserie. Beaver tail is one of the classics. You can get this in Old Montreal.
- Maple syrup. Go to any open public market for better price than supermarket. I have been to Atwater Market where they sell fruits, cheese, chocolate and other regular stuff.
Montreal also have underground connections between malls. I would probably need a day or two to stroll leisurely around but for this trip, I just did a round on 2 malls for any interesting things to buy. A famous chocolate shop you should try is Laura Secord. She is actually a war hero of Canada.
We also traveled outside of Montreal city to Grandby and Cowansville towns since his family live at those areas. You need to travel via car and travel time is less than an hour. If you like countryside view or just to break the city grind, road trips are quite scenic. His family was very welcoming. English is not a strong language for them but it was nice for them to try to spark conversations.
His parent’s home is built on a farm land. It was interesting exploring the grounds with the ATV. We had a family dinner complete with 3 cakes since his mom loves to bake. His dad has a collection of crossbows which I got to try. I got a bull’s-eye, sweet! We played board games and Rock Band Xbox360 game with his brother and sister-in-law. I suck at instrument playing, especially at drums lol I need practice!
I love my Canada trip 🙂