Last week, I shared part one of our yearly Canada trip to Bob's Lake, Ontario. We had the best time just relaxing at the cabin, and refueling with cold beer and Sam's grandmother's stories from her childhood. After a few, incredible days in Ontario, Sam and I headed onward in search (literally) of the beautiful city of Montreal. I say in search of because this was the first year that our "smart" phones decided not to work all together once we crossed the border - totally fine with us until... we got into the city and couldn't locate our hotel because I didn't write down the address or phone number (oops! #travelfail)
We had fun driving around, exploring the city briefly in our car before coming to a stop and asking a very irritable, French man for directions. He led us finally to the Le St-Martin Hôtel Particulier. Vowing to leave our car at valet until we left again on Thursday, Sam and I were happy to roam around on sweaty, rented bikes and by foot, navigating the crowded sidewalks.
Since we were only staying in the city Tuesday and Wednesday night, Sam and I decided to upgrade our room to their master suite which had the most beautiful view of downtown Montreal, a luxurious bath tub, and a cozy fireplace. It was such a dream. The lobby was remarkably done and the service was phenomenal - even when I made rash requests in the middle of their busy dinner service downstairs like "bring me a cutting board from your kitchen" so that we could make our own, fancy charcuterie in the room. I definitely recommend the Le St-Martin Hôtel Particulier to anyone who is traveling to Montreal and wants a fantastic experience in the heart of the city.
The first thing that I noticed about Montreal upon arrival is that, like Quebec, almost everyone speaks French - one of my favorite languages to listen to. I've always found it so beautiful and romantic. Needless to say, Sam and I had fun picking up on little words and phrases from those around us throughout the trip. Another thing that we noticed almost immediately is that, because their downtown is crowded and hectic in a way similar to New York City, there were an overwhelming amount of people riding bikes to and from work. It was refreshing to see and it made Sam and I wish that we had toted ours along that much more.
On our first night in Montreal, Sam and I explored the city center by foot. We grabbed our first street-vendor style food of the trip, churros, of course and wandered around aimlessly clutching onto each other and reminding ourselves that we were really there after a full year of anticipation. We made late dinner reservations at the 2nd best restaurant in the city to properly celebrate our 5 year anniversary. When we got to the top of the street where this fancy restaurant seemingly was located, all we saw were signs for Chinatown along with abandoned store fronts and an old school, electronics store. It wasn't looking promising. That is, until we got a look inside the little electronics store and realized that it wasn't an electronics store at all. It was a black tie restaurant packed with people, mainly locals, enjoying champagne and eating tiny, colorful desserts. It looked like some sort of secret club and, Sam and I decided that as long as we were in on it, that was okay.
We had the most phenomenal dinner at Bouillon Bilk, enjoying French wine, scallops, and perfectly crispy duck before finishing our meal with a dessert resembling more as an art piece and less as a cube of cheesecake. On our way back to the hotel, we were drawn in by the sounds of a music festival going on and wandered over to where 5 or so stages were set up with young couples swaying, groups of friends clinking cocktails, and excited voices igniting the crowd over the loud speakers.
On our second day in Montreal, stirred awake by the light filling our hotel room and the sounds of business people bustling by on the street, we were anxious to begin on the list of places that we wanted to visit before dinner. First on our list: the Notre-Dame Basilica. We rented two, clunky bikes from the BIXI street-side service beside our favorite coffee shop in Canada, Second Cup, and rode over to the church to get a better look at this bucket-list must.
We made our way into the church, shuffling in with a group of excited tourists and locals coming for their morning prayers. The moment that we stepped foot inside, my heart began to flutter and we knew that everyone else's had too because it became eerily quiet and serene; the chaotic, traveling crowd seemed to go mute as we all admired our first true look at the intricate details inside.
It was overwhelming and beautiful and like nothing we had ever seen before. Photos can't even do it justice; it was truly one of those things that you have to experience first-hand to get the full effect of how moving it was. Sam and I made a lap around the church, admiring every tiny, elaborate detail; oohing and aahing about how it must have felt opening the doors for the first time to the public in 1829. Afterwards, with no desire to rejoin the rambunctious crowd outside, Sam and I sat in the chapel pews in silence and soaked it all in for a few moments longer.
After finally stepping foot back outside the church, we wandered through Old Montreal, letting the cobblestone roads jerk us up and down, giggling every step and trying not to bump into each other. In and out of the touristy shops, we scooped up quirky gifts for our family members back home and picked up a genuine, Cuban cigar for after dinner. Later on, we made our way to the old port where a line of food trucks were seemingly awaiting our arrival. We grabbed the one thing that I had been craving since the moment we drove across the border: poutine. It was deliciously indulgent and we scarfed down every last bite while overlooking the water.
Our last night in Montreal, we decided to skip out on another fancy dinner and instead do something a little more spontaneous. With our baseball caps on backwards, we dressed in the comfiest clothes we had packed, left the camera in the room, and roamed the streets for a smorgasbord of treats. First stop was a food truck right outside the Notre Dame Basilica where we grabbed a pair of dumplings. Then, onto Chinatown where we tried bubble tea for the first time ever, perplexed by what in the world the "bubbles" actually were... (if you know, please tell me!) After that, we wandered back over to the music festival that was still going on - in full swing at this point. I had my eye on the most delicious looking dessert: a fried waffle on a stick smothered in dark chocolate, whipped cream, and topped with powdered sugar. Oh. My. God. This was good; so good I felt tears welling in my eyes on the last bite which is a bit dramatic, I know, but apparently I'm a fat, dessert hoarder on the inside, so...
We finished the night puffing on the Cuban cigar, wrapped in each other's arms while we swayed to the charming French music outside, and downed a pair of classic margaritas.
On Thursday morning, we began our 10-hour car ride back home, anxious to pick Oliver up from Sam's parents. We took the scenic route through Vermont and had amazing lobster rolls with clam chowder on the water before we began planning out next year's big, Canadian adventure in Ontario, Niagara Falls, and Toronto.
Have you visited Montreal, Canada? What were your favorite things to do in the beautiful city?
xo Anna Elizabeth
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