When in Montreal, do as Montrealers do. In warm weather this means, “Ride a bike.” If you’re hoping to get an insider look at the nooks and crannies that make Montreal so unique, hopping on two wheels puts you right in the middle of the action…
I like being a tourist in my own city – and apparently so do my friends. It wasn’t difficult to enlist a bunch of local hipsters to visit the recently rebranded Fitz & Follwell Company (formerly known as Cycle Tours Montreal) that offers bike rental and cycle tours. Located on the Plateau’s bustling Mont-Royal Avenue – just a hop, skip, and, um, a roll, from Mile End (my personal stomping grounds) – the Hoods and Hidden Gems tour seemed right up my alley.
Speaking of alleys, our guide and Fitz & Follwell’s energetic owner Shea Mayer lead us through a beautiful “ruelle verte” (a residential backstreet pimped out in lush greenery) not too far from my apartment, which I had never seen before. (Right under my nose, all this time!) Our group also moseyed on over to the picturesque Parc Lafontaine with its serene pond, charming bridge, and newly minted restaurant. Along the way, we rolled past colourful graffiti, quintessential Plateau architecture and quirky landmarks.
During little mini-breaks at key spots Shea filled us in on the area’s history, recent happenings, and insider tips. For example, “The shows at the Théâtre Verdure (in Parc Lafontaine) are always free.” Yes, the F-word. Someone in our savvy group also pointed out to me “rue Arcade” where musical group Arcade Fire took their name. Good lord, etymology turns me on every single time.
It was a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, and a sunny-licious day to be outdoors with the wind in my hair. I must say, I was majorly stylin’ with my retro-fabulous City Cruiser Deluxe in Miami-chic aqua-green – and my canary yellow helmet. All bikes had been baptized with local celebrity names. I thought it was fitting mine was called Misstress Barbara.
For those of you concerned about safety, helmets are provided (black is available, if bright yellow isn’t your thing). As well, a mini-safety lesson is given at the beginning, and then there is a second guide that rides behind the group to make sure nobody travels astray. (Thanks Martin!)
One point of interest included a fun snack break at the famous St-Viateur Bagel bakery. Shea treated us to these hot, chewy treats, which we munched while sipping coffee at Café Olimpico just across the street – also on Fitz & Follwell’s tab. This tour also takes you to Jean Talon market where you’ll pick up a market lunch to be enjoyed in the park.
The Hoods and Hidden Gems tour is designed for all levels, even uncoordinated gals like me. Fashionista friends, I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, but in no time I was breezing down streets like nobody’s business. One tour that is a bit beyond me is the Mountainside to Riverbank. This one has hills and is five hours long. Um, no. Although I bet that’s they type of thing those Ironman cuties like to do. (Shea, send me photos?). There is another tour I could’ve done called the Highlights tour, which treks through the McGill University campus and down to the Old Montreal and Lachine Canal, or the Bike & Yoga, which I think is pretty self-explanatory. Hmmm. Next time. Who’s in?
Fitz & Follwell, 115 Mont-Royal Avenue West (near St-Urbain Street)