This past weekend was my first trip to Montreal, and it was fantastic! There was all sorts of feed and fun in the city, so I’ll go day by day and share it with you.
Friday, Day 1:
Took the greyhound from Albany to Montreal, quick and pleasant ride, though the city did seem very drivable. Since we would be staying till Monday, we got an evening pass for the metro the first night and a 3-day pass the next day. This choice was really affordable. Growing up around NYC I was always hopping on and off subways, so this metro with only 3 lines was quite easy to navigate. The metro was also incredibly clean, on most days very quiet, and in some regards quite artistic.
We stayed at the Auberge Alternative which was a hostel. It was very affordable, and clean, centrally located. We met girls from all over the world in our dorm, and really enjoyed our stay here. I wouldn’t recommend the $5 all you can eat breakfast though. After trying it I just whipped out my own cereal and took advantage of the free milk and coffee when we weren’t going out for breakfast. The hostel was indeed alternative looking, and had many different books, games, people, and art to look at.
The first night we got in late, so after checking in we headed to dinner at the famed La Banquise to have our first go at Poutine. It was SO GOOD and we were SO HUNGRY. The place was definitely a bit cramped at the 9 o’clock hour, but that didn’t bother us (it is open 24-hours!). We were just taking in the scenery. After we put our order in for, “La Classique” (fries, cheese curds, gravy) and “La Danse” (fries, cheese curds, gravy, chicken, onions, bacon, pepper sauce) poutiness, we were shocked at the amount of food coming our way. It was way more than two girls could handle but we dove in as best we could. It was hot, flavorful, and exciting. I wanted to try standard poutine, and it was truly fantastic alone, but we both preferred the one with additives.
With full bellies and high spirits on a Friday night we made our way to Les Foufounes Électriques in the Latin Quarter for some drinks. After hopping off the metro we had fun checking out some street art and people watching, and the bar itself was a sight. A very alternative feel, and the bar is also a concert venue although no one was playing this night. I really enjoyed watching the people while sipping my PBR and relaxing after a long travel day.
Saturday, Day 2:
First on the agenda of the day were Montreal bagels. Apparently they are something you must eat, and Saint-Viateur is the place to eat them. We journeyed to the little restaurant that was packed but we were still seated and served quickly. We both got everything’s which they call ‘all dressed,’ my friend was wild and got some strawberry cream cheese and I just stuck with regular, and we both enjoyed some lattes. Food came out fast, the bagels are different from the ones I’m used to in NYC, they’re a bit smaller and thinner and crunchier, however they give you about a bagel and a half. Everything was really delicious, and surprise cantaloupe slices were a nice touch. We sat by the huge windows and enjoyed people watching on the streets, and everyone was so friendly we even enjoyed talking to the people at the other tables.
After a hearty breakfast us girls were off to do some shopping. We looked through great boutiques and vintage shops down Saint-Laurent. The styles were different, unique, awesome, and very fairly priced. We could have revamped our entire wardrobes if we had the cash and the strength to hold everything!! All that shopping can really make a girl hungry, so we stopped at a Portuguese bakery called Patisserie Les Anges. I heard they have fantastic egg tarts called Natas. So divine and different from anything I have ever had! A crisp exterior with a custardy interior, and just the right amount of sweetness, wish we had a Portuguese bakery in Albany!
The day was getting on and it was past 1pm, so that meant the best brewpub in town was open. We made our way to Dieu de Ciel and outside to sip on the rosée d’hibiscus beers we ordered. Coming from a girl who only drinks PBR & bud light (even though I try other beers, I can’t get my palate to enjoy them!!), a compliment to a craft beer is a big deal. I really enjoyed this brew; it was light and floral, without any trace of bitterness. It was a beautiful color, especially when the sun hit it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much being in another city on vacation, but I grabbed a few from a nearby convenient store because they don’t sell it at the pub, and I brought it home to the BF and impress him that I drank good beer (he really liked it too, said it was similar to magic hat #9).
Soon it was time for lunch, and Schwartz is the place to go. The line was down the block, so we knew we were at the right place. It moved pretty fast, and soon we were inside and sitting at two counter seats. To order like a local you have to get ‘a smoked meat sandwich and a black cherry cola.’ My friend got the famed smoke meat sandwich, but neither of us tried the cola. She loved it! Huge servings so the food held us over for a long time.
After a long time in the Plateau neighborhood it was time to head back to Old Town. We wandered around a bit and got to the Basilique Notre-Dame. We intended to go in, but there was a service going on. That goes to the top of the list for next time I visit the city.
Dinner in Old Town was at a quiet place Olive & Gourmando, only open till 6pm. This small place had a cozy atmosphere and everything is homemade. They were out of their chicken sandwich, so I went with the baked truffle mac n cheese. It was super rich and tasty. My friend helped me finish it, and also enjoyed a potato and leak soup.
After a bit of relaxation, it was time to head out for a drink and observe the nightlife. First on the list opening at 9pm was a joint called Snack & Blues. Sounded like heaven to me. They had assorted snacks like pretzels, chips & salsa, and goldfish in little bowls along the bar. They were playing B.B. King & Clapton’s album Riding With the King, which is currently in my cars’ CD player so I felt at home. Looking at the pictures on the wall of some of my favorite blues artists while sipping on a rum and coke popping a pretzel it was fantastic. They often play live music, which would have made the situation even better. After that we went to a bar that had a bit more of a college feel to it, Chez Serge. If riding a mechanical bull is something you’ve had on your bucket list but you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself at City Beer Hall, this is the place to go while in Montreal where nobody knows your name.
After an unfortunate hostel breakfast, it was time to head to Mount Royal, the highest point in the city. Montreal was actually named after Mount Royal! The hike was nice, paved paths or dirt if you want to go a different way. Not a whole lot of signage, so you have to just head UP, and you know you’re going the right way. Once you’re towards the top you get to an overlook with beautiful sights of the city, but you’re not at the summit yet. The actual view at the summit is covered by trees, and much more quiet than the popular overlook. If you’re looking to have a picnic, this is a much nicer spot to do it. We walked to another area with a different overlook of the city, and it was very picturesque.
After asking a few people for directions since the maps in the park were unhelpful, we made our way back down the mountain and into the Tam-Tam’s. Every Sunday in the park there is a huge drum circle unlike any you have seen before. It isn’t the sheer number of people participating or looking-on, but the characteristics of the circle that make it so mesmerizing. Weed is smoked openly in the park (and seemingly around the city), and people are clearly tripping on anything/everything without any police intervention. To me this is what I envisioned Golden Gate Park to look like during the summer of love, but without all the people looking, judging, and photographing as if it was a museum exhibit. We stayed for a while enjoying the music and the scene. From bongos, to cowbells, all sorts of ever-changing instruments and characters make this circle unique. This even goes on from 11am until sunset.
We planned on going to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Redpath Museum, but we were hungry and the day was getting on, so those will be on my list for the next trip. We headed for lunch at Rotisserie Romados where the line was out the door. When we got to the front of the line I saw the chicken in the back of the kitchen spinning, and it smelt good. I made the mistake of ordering poutine instead of just chicken, whoops. Just like pizza, you really have to get poutine at the right place, and this wasn’t it. It wasn’t bad, just not nearly as good as my awesome experience the previous day. The chicken in the mix however was delicious, and I know it would have been really great all on its own. We headed to the Cardinal Tea Room to get a much needed caffeine kick. This was a lovely tea house. The décor was perfect, and luckily our tired bodies were able to sink into a comfy couch and wait for our order while taking in the scenery. We got earl grey lattes which were dubbed a ‘London Fog,’ and slices of cake with homemade whipped cream. We took our time enjoying our tea and dessert on our table which was a large trunk. My plate had a picture on it and I wasn’t able to see it until I finished my cake, but it was a clock! Neat surprise.
After a long spell of rest and relaxation, it was time to grab a light dinner before drinks. With nothing on the agenda, we walked out of the hostel and came upon a place called Holder right down the street, and it looked packed. We entered and were promptly seated. I had wanted to try French cuisine while I was in the city, and this was the time to do it. We weren’t starving after the day, but needed a little meal so we ordered soups, and split Foie Gras, which was on my bucket list to try. It was seared and placed on top of gingerbread with a red wine reduction and dried fruit, and really tasty. My ethics always tell me no, but my curiosity usually gets the better of me. I will try foods like this once, truly enjoy it, but never eat it again. It was a great experience, and a delicious little meal.
Drinks this night were at the Mad Hatter. This place was a trip. It was really empty on a Sunday night excluding the staple characters of the bar. The employees, and the regulars who thought they were employees. And my favorite character of all, the old burn out who reminded me of Tommy Chong. He only had two phrases, ‘Ya Man!’ and ‘Amen Man.’ He agreed with most every statement people made. The décor in the joint was interesting. Lots of old artifacts and advertisements, the walls were painted, and many interesting pictures were up.
Monday, Day 4:
Our last we had a little cereal and coffee for breakfast, and headed out to the markets to supplement our meal. The Jean Talon Market has been open since 1933. It’s pretty big and in an interesting neighborhood that reminded us of the borough of Queens. The market had lots of fruit to buy or sample, it was delicious. No fruit or produce that I had never seen before, pretty similar to our grocery selection. There were many desserts to oogle over and I had been talking about enjoying a croissant just about the entire trip, today was fate. I had heard the best bakery for a croissant in the city was Premiere Moisson. I intended to get one on Friday when we got in, but they were closed by the time we got there. The bakery had multiple locations, and one happened to be in this market (in the other market we went to as well!). I was beyond pleased. We went in and I got a chocolate croissant, took it outside and savored it in the sunshine. This was PURE BLISS. It was flakey, slightly buttery, and fresh. The chocolate was rich and there was just enough without it overpowering the croissant itself. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said this was perfection. I brought half a dozen home for my man and some friends. After the heavenly experience we looked about some more. We enjoyed looking at the flowers, the cheeses, the mushrooms, spices, teas, and different desserts. This was a great place to get souvenirs that are local, unique, and fairly priced.
We stopped in a store across from the market called Le marche des Saveurs du Quebec and perused artisan locally made goods. We headed over to the Atwood Market to see how the other major market compared. This market was much smaller, but in a lovelier location close to the water. It would be an ideal place to bring a market purchased lunch to picnic. This market also had the Premiere Moisson bakery and many similar stands, but it had a larger selection of flowers.
Since the day was moving fast, we headed back towards Old Town, and there we walked around a bit until it was time for lunch. Café Titanic was the spot for huge delicious sandwiches. The place was empty at the off hour we arrived, so we enjoyed relaxing in the quiet atmosphere. I was only able to eat half my sandwich, and the other became dinner on the bus! Delightful lunch and dinner for $10 can’t beat it (they are only open during the week). We looked about the stores near our hostel for an hour until it was time to head back to the bus station.
The street art in the city is something we had fun keeping an eye out for, lots of unique scenes about.
We had such a lovely time in this city. It was clean, friendly, and just the right size for a long weekend and two best friends to explore. I can’t recommending taking the trip enough, and can’t wait for my next Canadian adventure (I plan on visiting Toronto this Summer).