I turned 30 recently, and to mark the occasion, J and I took off for somewhere totally new: Montréal. Neither of us had ever been to Canada, but since we now live just a few hours from the border, we agreed it was time. So we bought an invaluable guidebook, got a lovely hotel recommendation from a friend, and on a Wednesday afternoon, we headed north.
The weather was chillier and greyer than we had hoped, but we still spent three enjoyable days walking, museum-ing, snapping photos, trying out our (limited) French, and stopping into cafes to warm up with hot drinks and pastries. (We have been eating a lot of veggies since we got home.)
Our first snack in Montreal was a Nutella-banana crepe:
Thus fortified, we headed to the Musée McCord (free on Wednesday nights), which included a multi-dimensional exhibit on the history of Montreal’s neighborhoods; a gorgeous display of First Peoples clothing and heirlooms; and a special exhibit on Grace Kelly. I am not sure what she has to do with Montreal, but the exhibit included movie posters, gorgeous couture gowns, her Oscar (!), and a slew of correspondence, including love letters from her husband, Prince Rainier (my favorite part).
We ate dinner that night at Juliette et Chocolat, which specializes in chocolate (as you might guess) but also does wonderful crepes (and tea):
The next morning, we enjoyed the first of several delicious carb-tastic hotel breakfasts (muffins, bagels, pain au chocolat, yogurt and juice – I wish I’d thought to take a photo) and headed out to explore. We visited St. Patrick’s Basilica (grand, but echoingly empty), then wandered around Rue St.-Denis and the Latin Quarter for a while before heading to Old Montreal to tour the Basilique Notre-Dame:
After all that touring, we were famished, so we stopped for pastries and tea at the charming Olive + Gourmando in Old Montreal. (It’s named after the owners’ cats.) I could have stayed all afternoon.
Later, we explored Rue Ste.-Catherine, a major shopping street, stopping in at the Argo Bookshop. It’s tiny, but crammed with wonderful books. I fell in love right away (and restrained myself from buying dozens of books). The bookseller was kind, if a bit gruff – we heard groups of fraternity guys screaming on the street outside, and he said with a sigh, “That’s why I prefer literature.”
The next morning, we took the Metro to Marché Jean-Talon, a huge, beautiful open market packed with gorgeous produce:
We strolled the aisles for a while, then bought a pint of strawberries and sat down to eat them while listening to a violinist play.
After a walk through Little Italy and another Metro ride, we ended up at La Banquise, a 24-hour hot spot for poutine, Montreal’s local dish. The standard version is French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, but La Banquise has tons of options. J tried a version with three kinds of sausage, and I opted for La Grecque (“the Greek”) – tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta.
Greasy, but so delicious.
We headed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montreal’s huge, free art museum) after that, and wandered through rooms full of paintings and sculpture.
Fun, but a little overwhelming – we returned to Juliette et Chocolat afterward to enjoy another crêpe. Mmmm.
Saturday morning, we toured the Centre d’histoire de Montreal, a lovely little museum about Montreal’s history housed in a former fire station:
Fascinating exhibits (in French and English, thank goodness) about Montreal past and present. (Much less hokey than the video we’d seen at the Notre-Dame light show, the night before.)
We’d heard about the famous pork sandwiches at Schwartz’s, but the line was forever long, so we ended up getting ours to go and eating them in a park. (Delicious.)
After more shopping and wandering, an Italian dinner at Lombardi, and dessert at the lovely Brûlerie St.-Denis, we collapsed. (So much walking, even with the three-day Metro passes we bought for $18 each – a stellar deal.)
We came home with sore feet and lighter wallets, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and a fun chance to explore a new city.
Have you been to Montreal? What are your favorite spots there, if you have?
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