by Taylor Deer
Hello (almost) winter! As we get closer to the Holidays, I am excited to continue rounding up my favorite winter weekend getaways. Today, I am excited to share my memories in the lovely city of Montréal – located in the French Canadian province of Québec.
Luckily, Montréal is only a five and a half hour drive from my home in North Jersey, so I did a road trip during Martin Luther King Weekend in January 2016 to meet up with one of my best friends Courtney who was on a work trip.
One of the cool things about Montréal is that it is the world’s second largest French-speaking city behind Paris, France. When you go through Border Patrol, the officer will greet you in French. (I found that to be so cool!) After you cross into Québec from Upstate New York, all of the signs leading to Montreal are in both the English and French languages.
As I drove an hour north, I began to see the beautiful Montréal city skyline. I was so excited to finally experience it! Montréal is an inland port where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers meet. Unlike the capital of the province, Québec City, Montréal is more modern, but still features an old part of town that has original architecture and cobblestone streets.
The city is divided into three sections Vieux-Montréal, the old city along the St. Lawrence River; Mont Royal, the large hill and park that rises behind the downtown area and the shopping area along the Rue Ste Catherine. There is also a large business district that features Canada’s famous McGill University. Our hotel was located in the heart of the business district across from the University. I liked this location because it was close to Mont Royal and the lively Crescent Street.
After settling into our hotel, Courtney and I got ready to grab dinner and enjoy the night on Crescent Street, located in the heart of the downtown area. Lined with beautiful brownstone buildings and cobblestone alleyways, Crescent Street offers some of Montréal’s most renowned restaurants, cafés, bars, music halls and nightclubs.
Jazz music is a popular staple in Montréal, so Courtney and I grabbed dinner and enjoyed listening to a great jazz band at Sir Winston Churchill Pub. Prior to going to Montréal, my other best friend Julie (who is from Montréal) recommended to try this great complex out as it features three different floors, great food and drinks. If you had an opportunity to read my blog post on New Orleans, you know that I love jazz music. So I enjoyed my time at this fun pub!
Since I was exhausted from driving all day, we decided to enjoy the rest of the night at a great, but causal Belgian craft beer place called bier markt.
The next day of our weekend getaway was going to be our day of fully adventuring throughout the entire city. Since we went to Montréal during January, we expected that snow would be somewhere located throughout the forecast during our weekend. Lucky us, it snowed that day, but it made the city look like a Christmas village or winter wonderland! (Oh the joys of traveling to the snowbelt destinations of the world.)
One of the first things Courtney and I wanted to try was Québec’s delicacy called poutine and it was the perfect day to have it! This delicious specialty is made with potatoes or French fries topped with light brown gravy, cheese curds and it could be added with vegetables, meat or seafood. It was the perfect dish to warm up to; of course with a great cup of coffee! We were recommended a great restaurant that specializes with more than 30 different kinds of poutine called La Banquise. I had a delicious vegetarian poutine and it was just as amazing as it sounds!
After our amazing French Canadian breakfast, we started journeying around the city. Our first stop was to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral on St. Catherine’s St. We then made our way over to Old Montréal, my favorite part of the city. This beautiful area of Montréal features architecture and cobblestone streets that have been maintained and restored dating back to its earliest days.
When we arrived in the area, the first place we saw was the stunning Basilique Notre-Dame. This beautiful cathedral features gorgeous stained glass, which depicts scenes of the religious history of Montréal, instead of traditional biblical scenes. This stunning church reminds me of all of the cathedrals I visit whenever I am traveling through Europe. It was even more magical seeing it in the snowstorm.
When we were finished touring the church, we strolled along the cobblestones of the charming St. Paul Street. Since Montréal is known for it’s oh-so-delicious maple syrup, we stopped into an adorable café and shop that offers numerous maple syrup items. This amazing place is called Delicies Erable & Cie! On the day we went to this awesome place, they were offering maple tastings of different syrups, butter, jams, mustard and other specialties. It was seriously one of the most amazing food tastings I’ve ever done and I definitely recommend everyone visiting Montréal to do it. I ended up buying several bottles of maple syrup as well as my favorite maple butter to bring home and enjoy with my breakfast in the morning.
After our amazing maple tasting, we went over to Rue Ste Catherine where we walked through several adorable shops and boutiques and bought souvenirs for our families. You can even walk down the street to the St. Lawrence River. I love admiring all of the quaint architecture and listening to the beautiful French accents. I took French throughout Middle and High School as well as little in college and learned about both the French and Canadian cultures, so hearing the language and seeing all of the action around me was treasuring.
We shopped and worked up an appetite, so we headed over to the Little Italy/La Petite-Patrie area of Montréal to a bacon bar (you read that right) called Bar Brutus. This retro lounge specializes in crafted cocktails that usually include both maple and bacon. Courtney and I were so excited to try it out since we love both of those food products and combined together, they are on point! We enjoyed a maple bacon cocktail with a bucket of maple bacon on the side. (I promise, we usually don’t eat like that regularly.) I definitely recommend checking this place out if you are in Montréal.
When we were finished exploring most of the city, we headed back to our hotel where we got to relax and get ready for the night. We loved Crescent Street, so we headed back there and enjoyed a lovely French-Italian dinner at L’Académie. This cute restaurant is located in one of Crescent Street’s beautiful brownstones. That is one of the cool things about this street is that a lot of Montréal’s best restaurants and bars are located in these stunning buildings. We both enjoyed fresh pasta dishes and delicious Canadian wine.
The night took us to a great pub on Crescent Street called Dundees and then we finished the night dancing away in a brownstone club called Jet Night Club. This great nightclub features a few stories of different dance floors and plays some of the best music you want to hear when you are out. Courtney and I had such a great time dancing the night away.
The third day was our last and final day in Montréal. Since we indulged in a lot of food the day before, we decided to get a light breakfast at Canada’s famous Tim Horton’s. This great coffee chain is similar to America’s Dunkin Donuts. I definitely recommend getting Tim Horton’s if you are visiting Canada! Their coffee is just as great as Dunkin.
After walking around the city a little bit more, we checked out of our hotel and went over to Montréal’s famous Mont Royal. This great park is a small mountain that lies in the midst of Montréal’s island. During the fall, this park features some of the most beautiful foliage and it offers great hiking trails when the weather is nice. Since it snowed the day before, Courtney and I decided to drive to the top and check out the overlook. When we got to the top, we saw amazing views of the city as well as the beautiful Laurentian Mountains from the distance. It was the perfect way to end our long weekend in Montréal.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my long weekend in this awesome French Canadian city. I am hoping to make my way back up to Québec soon to visit the French-inspired city of Québec City and ski the slopes of Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian’s.
I definitely recommend visiting the province of Québec if you are both near and far. In the summertime, Montréal offers one of the best jazz festivals in the world and Québec City has a fun winter carnival. Email me at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com or call us today to plan your winter (or summer) getaway to Québec!
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