Weekender Series – Montréal
It seems to me that 2017 is the Year of Canada as far as my travels go. I’ve been 3 times this year with 2 trips to Toronto, followed by my most recent trip over the border to Montréal for Labor Day. The main purpose of the trip was a Bachelorette party so we didn’t do all of the touristy things, because, well, there are other things to take care of on a Bachelorette party! Montréal is great because its an easy flight from the East Coast and is like jetting off to Europe, yet much cheaper and faster to get to. I knew French was spoken there, but didn’t realize how prominent it was until I was walking around and feeling like an idiot for not sharpening my skills.
Where I Stayed –
We stayed at Le Centre Sheraton, which is centrally located and not overprice. We had a double / double room and had plenty of space for the 4 of us girls. Its also located right by a bus stop, making is so easy to get around. We bought a 4 day metro card, which is totally worth it to get around and includes airport transfer!
Just down the street is the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, which just underwent a year long renovation. The outside is not that impressive, but the interior is sleek and welcoming. The price here is also really great in comparison to some of Fairmont’s other locations.
Where to Imbibe & Dine –
The #1 thing to remember about Canada is POUTINE! I love it and its hard to find in the US. One of my brides few demands was a trip to La Banquise, so obviously we made that happen. The line looks really intimidating outside but don’t worry, it goes by quickly. The four of us each tried a different poutine, we were starving and our eyes were WAY bigger than our stomachs. I think really you could split a regular between 2 people and be satisfied. I also have gotten on a tendency to try funky menu items thanks to my foodie boyfriend, so we had la classique, le sud-ouest, la festival, and la taquise. All were delicious, but in my humble opinion, sticking with a classic poutine here is your best bet.
We also heard that Montréal bagels were out of this world – hard for me to believe, I do live in New York and nothing beats those. But had to try it so we sauntered off to La Fabrique de Bagel. I had a sesame bagel with proscuitto, cheese, walnuts and a balsamic glaze. It was good, but nothing special and I don’t get the hype about the actual bagels.
I’m not one to normally check out a chain but for our last brunch I was at a loss. I hadn’t made a reservation anywhere so naturally the top places were booked up. We were stumbling around Old Montréal when we saw an Eggspectation, which I had seen a dozen of around the city. They had breakfast, mimosas, and a table ready so away we went. I didn’t realize the chain was also in America, but I’m glad that it is (around DC in Maryland and Virginia). We had such wonderful service, the food was soooo good and we had a really funny gay bachelor party at the table next to us who quite enjoyed the phallic straws we were using. The menu here is a bit overwhelming because it is so extensive but I believe you can do no wrong. I had a Waffle Bacon Benedict and holy moly. I don’t know how I had the will to finish it, must have been an adrenaline rush but it was the most savory, delicious breakfast I think I’ve ever had. It hit every flavor and sensation you could want in a breakfast.. and now I’m hungry again.
For dinner though, you have to check out Gibby’s. My boyfriend had been to Montréal for a bachelor party a few years prior and everyone recommended we go to Gibby’s for our nice dinner of the trip and I am so glad they did! It is a beautiful restaurant with great stonework and two levels. We went downstairs which gave off an old cellar feel. The place was packed, I would definitely make a reservation here. They bring out a bowl of pickles and a bowl of bacon bits, which really confused us. After looking around it seemed that everyone was doing something different with them so we ate them together for a bit, before asking what they were for – the potatoes to come with our meal, duh. They recommend sharing a steak there and you do get 2 sides instead of 1 if you do, at no extra charge which I think is fabulous. In New York City you would be charged a sharing fee and full price for an extra side so I was really into this place. The bride and I split the Rib Steak, which was huge and had Monte Carlo potatoes (twice baked). Everything was so good and our service was impeccable. I highly, highly recommend checking it out if you are in town.
What to Do –
Going out on Saint Catherine’s is the classic answer for what to do in Montréal. Everyone will tell you to go here for the shopping, bars and infamous strip clubs. Another suggestion is going La Distillerie No. 1, which is a popular bar. Get there early, the line can be quite intimidating if you don’t! Across from La Distillerie is the Teddy Bar. Its hidden and more so known by locals. Its in the basement of a walk up so unless you are really looking for it, you don’t see it. Once inside there are bears everywhere, even a large stuffed on sitting on the couch. Its small and there was only 1 bartender working, so anticipate your drinks taking a while.
As I said, we were on a bachelorette party, and the bride had found out about these mermaid classes you can do in Montréal. Turns out, there is a school called Aquamermaid that does parties as well as regular workout classes, done like you are a mermaid. You literally put on bottoms and a fin and swim through the water doing mermaid tricks. It was absolutely hysterical and an insane workout.
Across from where Aquamermaid does its classes is Saint Joseph’s Oratory. In case you didn’t feel enough of a workout during mermaid school, you can hike up these stairs and see the beautiful basilica, which is Canada’s largest church. From here you are not far from Mont Royal Park. We took a bus through the park on our way to eat but you could also spend a day walking through it.
My favorite part of Montréal I believe is Vieux Port, Old Montréal. There is a Notre Dame Cathedral here, with cobblestone streets and rows of shops and restaurants. It was raining a bit while we were here so it was just so romantic. We did pop into Philemon Bar for a bottle of bubbly while waiting for our dinner reservation. It was a Sunday night, so a bit quiet but the bartender was great, really helpful in selecting a sparkling wine that was not overpriced and friendly.
The whole trip made me feel like I had been transported to France, which I think may be the beauty of Montréal. You turn a corner and you’re in another lifetime, another city, and its quite magical.