Montreal Memoire: 3 Days in Canada’s Cultural Capital

Montreal Memoire: 3 Days in Canada’s Cultural Capital

For someone who has visited over 300 cities across 6 continents, I’ve sadly seen very little of my own country by comparison. When the Canadian dollar started to tank towards the end of last year, I decided that 2016 would be the year of Canada. I called up my friend Katie in Toronto and organized a long weekend in Montreal, a city I’ve wanted to visit for years. It would be the first time in Quebec for us both. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as it turns out, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

I took a red-eye flight, arriving in Montreal early Saturday morning. After waking Katie up in our adorable Airbnb apartment and enjoying a wake-up coffee on our lovely terrace, we set off to to explore.

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Feeling fresh on no sleep – Take that jet lag!

Lachine Canal

We didn’t intentionally go looking for the canal but somehow I’m always drawn to the water. When we stumbled across the Lachine Canal we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and stroll along the path to the Old Port. Along the way we discovered that the park is also a National Historic Site and the third most beautiful urban circuit in the world as ranked by Time magazine in 2009.

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Vieux Port

After walking the canal we ended up in the Old Port which is by far the most touristy part of Montreal. We strolled the cobblestone streets, visited the stunning Notre Dame cathedral, and spontaneously bought tickets to the latest Cirque du Soleil show, Luzia. We simply couldn’t pass the opportunity to see Cirque in the place where it originated. It was a fantastic Mexican inspired production that wowed me even as a long-time fan. We even had the privilege of running into several of the star performers later the next day when they were casually doing back flips in the street. When in Montreal…

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I’ve already written about all the delicious food that we ate in Montreal but my favourite location was certainly Chez Suzette. We had a lovely spot in the window where we could enjoy our crepes and some epic people watching. Basically the perfect setting for our 10 year friendaversary celebration!

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Mont Royal

On Day 2 my main objective was to visit the Mont Royal park, which I didn’t realize is actually a large volcanic hill/small mountain. I heard that there was a great viewpoint, which should have tipped me off that we would have a climb ahead of us to reach the Chalet. It was well worth the effort for the views and subsequent relaxing in the park.

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Parc Jean Drapeau

The rest of our day was a bit haphazard. We had a plan to check out the first day of the Piknic Électronik, an EDM festival that happens every Sunday throughout the summer at Parc Jean Drapeau. However, by the time we got there, the line to buy tickets was so long that we figured we wouldn’t make it inside by closing. So, instead we opted to try out the much touted bike share and get ourselves some Bixis. We rode around the park and then ultimately decided to find our way back to the Old Port. A lot easier said than done considering the lack of bike lanes and the steep incline to the bridge. We made it across though and were rewarded again with some lovely views of the city.

Along the way we made friends with Samantha from LA and the three of us spent the rest of the evening riding through the city, searching for night life, and making friends with locals. It was one of those spontaneous nights that made me feel fully alive, like this is what it means to be young and adventurous and free.

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We ended our trip on Monday with a relaxing walk through our neighbourhood to a local Polish bakery.

Montreal is completely unique to any city I’ve ever been before. The history and language made it feel slightly European, while still maintaining a distinctly Canadian feel. The people were so friendly and the city was notably vibrant and energetic.

At the end of any trip, I’m always wishing for at least one more day. But, even though I didn’t scratch every item off my wish-list, I had a truly memorable starter weekend in Montreal. I have a feeling that I’ll be back. Until next time… À bientôt Montréal! 

 

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The Best Food I ate in Montreal

The Best Food I ate in Montreal

One weekend in Montreal was in no way enough time to experience all of the culinary delicacies and amazing restaurants in this city. But… I did the best that I could and these are some of the dishes that topped my list.

Caution: Photos below may induce hunger.

Poutine: La Banquise and Les Folies

When I mentioned to friends in conversation that I was planning a trip to Montreal, the first thing they recommended was poutine. And La Banquise came up again and again as the go-to spot. This place has been creating legendary poutine creations since the 1980’s and offers no less than 30 different types. We struggled to decide but eventually opted to share two: (1) La Reggae: ground beef, guacamole, diced tomatoes & hot peppers and (2) L’Astérix: smoked meat, mushrooms, sour cream & pepper sauce (both pictured above left).

 

And no weekend getaway would be complete without brunch so in true Montreal form, I ordered La Voisine de Poutine at Les Folies, basically breakfast poutine. Mais oui!

 

Crêpes: Chez Suzette

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Since Montreal is in the French speaking part of Canada, it is also a great place to try French-inspired cuisine. I indulged my sweet tooth with La Rougemont, which is a sweet crêpe with apples, cinnamon, ice cream, and almonds served with 100% pure Quebec maple sirop. This may have been my dinner and I’m not mad about it.

Avo Yo Toast: Buck 15 Espresso Bar

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 I’m pretty sure that the Avocado Toast craze is not a “Montreal thing” but I was plenty delighted to see it on the menu at Buck 15. This unassuming coffee shop had a beautifully curated breakfast menu that made me want to return every day just so I could try them all.

Bagels: Fairmount 

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I didn’t know this before I visited Montreal, but apparently the city has its own critically acclaimed style. In contrast to the New York-style bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven. I was under strict orders to head to Fairmount, which claims to have the best bagels in the world. I don’t know that I’ve sampled enough bagels in my life to have a firm opinion but I definitely liked what I tasted. I recommend the Chocolate Chip and the Sesame Seed.

 

On this trip we also enjoyed Sangria, Smoked Meat sandwiches, and delicious French pastries. I can’t wait to return so that I can add to my list – what do you recommend?

 

Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Things have been quieter than usual on the blogging front these days… mostly because I started a new job (yeah!!) and am focusing on my home life. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been traveling. Since February, I’ve squeezed in trips to San Diego, Victoria, Calgary, Bowen Island, and this weekend I’m flying to Montreal for my first-ever trip to Quebec!

I know that I’ll never have as many vacation days as I would like but I’m not going to let that stop me from achieving my travel goals. And my key to success is the Weekend Getaway. I’ve briefly written about this before when I explained How I Travel the World with a Full-time Job but I feel like it’s time for a more detailed analysis.

Here are my tips for Mastering the Weekend Getaway

1. Explore your Own Backyard

I am spoiled because I live in the ridiculously good-looking Pacific Northwest with a plethora of gorgeous islands, lakes, and mountains to explore. But no matter where you live, I’m certain that there are places worth exploring nearby. I am slowly working my way through a lengthy list of local wonders and weekends are the perfect way to start checking them off. It doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to spend time close to home rather than in more exotic destinations. I want to see the world and that includes my home province. It’s also SO easy to pack a small bag for two nights and scoot out of the city on a Friday evening.

Vancouver Skyline

From City…

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To relaxation in an hour

2. Don’t be afraid of the Red Eye

I may not suffer from jet lag when I travel, but sleeping on planes is not one of my strengths. For this reason, I’ve always been intimidated by the red-eye flight. But, I tried one back in 2014 on route to Boston for a long weekend and it was really great. Not only did I avoid a night of accommodation expenses, but I gained an entire day in the city. It was so successful that I used it again in 2015 to fly home from Maui, heading straight from the airport to work to save a vacation day. Might seem extreme but it’s a small price to pay for a weekend in paradise!

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Hello Paradise!

3. Have a Plan but Don’t Plan too Much

I’m a planner by nature so coming up with a detailed trip itinerary actually brings me joy. However, restrained planning is actually key to making a weekend getaway successful. If you jam pack too much activity into a short amount of time, it can leave you exhausted. On the flip side, no planning can mean that you end up in a town where everything closes at 5pm and you have nothing but bad cable TV for company.

I like to do my research and then come up with a couple of things that I really want to do while factoring in relaxation and exploration time. There is nothing worse then returning to work on Monday morning, needing a weekend to recover from your weekend. Have a goal for your trip and make choices that will help you achieve it. If the goal is relaxation, choose a location that is easy to get to and a little bit off the grid. If your goal is adventure, plan a road trip or visit an action-packed city.

 

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Lazy days in Snug Cove

 

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Always something new to see in Seattle

 

Getting out of town for a long weekend or even a mere two nights may not seem like enough time to see much, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Every weekend away has been worth the effort and has truly made it possible for me to travel the world while maintaining a full-time job.

My office is closing early and I’m off on yet another red-eye flight tonight. Tomorrow I will wake up in Montreal! Bring on the poutine!

Where are you going to explore on a weekend getaway?