Category Archives: Montreal

BIXI

Visiting Montreal between Spring and Fall means it is BIXI bike season!

While the BIXI web site does not make it clear, it is possible for US residents to sign up for a BIXI subscription.
30-day membership is CA$30 for the 2016 season and it is worth it even if you are just visiting for at least 7 days in a 30-day period. These subscriptions also offer 45 minute rides instead of the normal 30 minute rides.

Sign up for the subscription a couple of days before your arrival. The sign up page will ask for a Canadian address. Use your hotel address. You’ll receive an email confirming subscription and if the email says that they are going to mail the BIXI key to the address, then call the BIXI customer service center and tell them not to send the key and that you’ll pick up the key personally.

You can pick up the key from a handful of main STM Metro Stations during normal working hours. Berri-UQAM is one of the stations that is also open on the weekend.

Once you have the key, call up customer service and they will attach the key to your account and activate it.

BIXI key instructions has a picture and instructions on using the key – ready to ride!

Be sure to read the FAQ and the Instructions at the BIXI web site. Any mistake can end up with $1000+ charge on your credit card. Be sure to check that the LED indicator turns green after you return and dock a bike.

Disclaimer: The above instructions worked for me in 2016. Be sure to read up all the BIXI rules on their website and also call up the customer service center for any additional information.

In addition to the key, it is quite critical to have a smartphone with a data plan since the BIXI phone app is critical to have. Many times you’ll find docks full or no bikes at docks so having an app to quickly see all nearby BIXI stations with available bikes or free docks on a map is essential.
The BIXI app also allows you to rent a bike without the key. It has an button on the app to generate a code which can be used to unlock a bike.

Avesta

This Turkish restaurant has a unique window display of the cooks making lavash – basically huge chappatis/tortillas.

The appetizers – Mezze platters – are good enough for a meal, many choices to pick from, and come with a freshly made lavash bread. The appetizers include Baba Ghannouj – charbroiled eggplant puree with pomegranate paste and roasted vegetables, Hummus – chickpeas puree with tahini, lemon, garlic, olive oil, Muhammara d’Alep – pomegranate paste with mixture of walnuts, pine nuts, pepper.

The borek – Turkish feuillette – is excellent. These are flaky phyllo dough pastries filled with feta and spinach or beef and potatoes along with a splash of hot spice – really good. The spinach and feta borek is a great accompaniment to main dishes like Manti, or to a sampling of the mezzes. With a main dish, you can request an half-order of borek so you have chance of finishing it all. 2015 update: They heard me! Now the borek is half-size – a single large square instead of two, so it is now the perfect accompaniment to Manti.

Avesta-Manti-Borek
Manti with Borek

Manti is listed in the specials section – small meat filled dumplings in a thin yogurt sauce with mint, and melted pepper butter paste on the top. Looks nice, and tastes great. It does take 20-30 minutes to prepare this but the wait is all worth it. 2015 update: Looks like they redid the whole menu, and also tweaked the recipes a bit. They are better prepared to make Manti and now takes just 10 minutes or so. And it is no longer a mix of hot dumplings and cold yogurt – the yogurt now seems to be room temperature. Still the best Manti around. Even NYC does not have this good a version.

Avesta-Making-Manti
Making Manti

Gozleme – two lavash breads with feta and spinach sounded good – but this was a bit too dry and lean – not enough feta or spinach in it. This would work well when taken along with the appetizers. The borek is much better in that it is more balanced in having sufficient quantity of fillings and is not dry like the gozleme.

The main dishes are listed as Sach Kavurma – sauted meat with vegetables, and Tava Kavurma – sauted meat with onions and eggs. These are served with pilau – bulghur wheat. And to top this all, they also serve sandwiches, and have items for breakfast also.

[2007] Prices range from $8 to $15 for the major dishes, Manti for example is $9. Entrées are just under $4 for one, and get two or more in a platter, and get a borek thrown in for free. In fact, the mezze platters can be a full meal- select 3-4 varieties, and add the excellent feta and spinach borek. The mezze platters also come with the lavash bread.
[2012] Add around $2-$4 to the prices above. Manti is $13 for example, and it still is a great dish.
[2015] Manti is around $16, Borek is $3.
[2018] Manti is $18, Borek is around $4.

Montreal

Montreal! The best city to visit!

For current posts, visit my Twitter @avinash3c account.

From its museums, to its parks, to its bustling tourist areas like Ste Catherine, St Laurent, and St Denis, there is never a dull moment in Montreal. Even after visiting so many times, I always end up discovering something new on each visit. It does help me a lot that English is spoken everywhere here, since it takes all the fun out of traveling if one can’t communicate with the locals.
(Of course, like France, Quebec is not very fond of English. Once in a while, out in the suburbs, you’ll bump into someone who will rail at you for not speaking French. But most people I met were comfortable speaking English. One of the big points in favor of Montreal, it is like a visiting a exotic foreign country where one can still communicate with the locals!)

In addition to being a major cosmopolitan city with many different communities living together, and having a collection of awesome ethnic restaurants, the people of Montreal are very friendly, and Montreal is also a very safe city — there are no regions I am afraid of being in at any time of the day or night — as long as there are other people around, I feel totally safe. Drunks are the only problems you may encounter.

Food in Montreal is what I keep coming back for here. I’ve eaten in numerous places; even when I’m on my own exploring restaurants, when such a policy is bound to end in bad results in other cities, it is hard to escape bad food! Amazingly, even with just randomly choosing a restaurant, I have usually encountered excellent cuisine in Montreal.

The top food on my list, for nearly two decades now are: Schwartz’s Smoked Meat Sandwich, the Ciche Kebab Terbialy at Le Petit Alep, and the Manti at Avesta.

Cravings for these is usually the trigger for me to pack up and drive the six hours to Montreal or take the Greyhound bus (now with sometimes-may-work Wi-Fi). Of course, it only helps when there also happens to be an Asterix Exhibition on at the Museum, or when it is summer and the outdoor music festivals have begun, or when it is winter and the city is even more inviting because there are no crowds of tourists anywhere, or … etc., etc. Montreal has a unending supply of delights for any tourist at any time of the year. It is my number one destination for any vacation or any 4-day weekend visit.

I first visited this city in 1988, and through the 2000s and 2010s I have been making two to three trips each year. And each time, still exciting enough and discovering new things to make me want to come back again.

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