I’ve had Montreal and Quebec City on my travel bucket list for awhile and decided it was time to check them off that list. 2015 will be happily busy with all things wedding related, so ending 2014 with a great solo trip sounded like the perfect idea!
Why these cold cities in December you ask? Well, I live in the land of palm trees and hot weather, so right about now I’m ready to don some boots, gloves, scarves and down jacket for a change….and boy, was it a cold change! I arrived at the apartment in Montreal that I’d rented on the VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) website on December 27th at around 6pm. I had called the owner before I left the airport so he could be there waiting when I arrived. As I waited 10, then 15, then 20 minutes in the cold with my bags I momentarily panicked that maybe this would be the first time a VRBO rental might be the scam I’d only heard about…and my cell phone didn’t work in Canada. It was only a momentary panic (I calmed myself and realized I could get a hotel if I had to..not the end of the world) when a nice neighbor allowed me to use his phone…just as the owner walked up….thank God! Crisis averted! The place was just as described and in a perfect location. When traveling to a large , unknown, metropolitan city and trying to figure out where to stay I usually use New York City as my guide and barometer…i.e.I love the Upper West Side in NYC, because it’s quieter, more neighborhood-like, but still within walking distance, or a quick subway ride, of great restaurants and attractions. So in searching for a place, I asked a couple of Montreal “destination experts” on Tripadvisor where I should stay and they recommended the “plateau area” based on the above preferences. They were spot on! On a side note…the “destination experts” can be found on the “Forum” pages of Tripadvisor on the right side of the page. They’re usually locals and have been helpful to me on numerous trips I’ve taken around the globe. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
I had done the usual exhaustive research on my destination, so I knew to go out of my apartment, turn left and there would be myriad choices of restaurants right around the corner. I walked over to Prunelle, which had great reviews and also recommended by my friend, Carlin, and it did not disappoint. I got the Menu Degustation, or prix fixe menu, which included an appetizer, main course and dessert with a palate cleanser between the first & second course. Here’s what my meal looked like….Warm Saint-Maure goat cheese salad, marjoram honey, shallot vinaigrette, raspberries and hazelnuts; Rack of lamb with green olive paste, celeriac and Parmesan ravioli, almonds, juniper sauce and green grapes; and finally Soft cake of chocolate truffles. Did I mention I was hungry after a long day of traveling?! Here’s a pictorial journey of my mouth-watering meal….
Sunday, December 28th, was my 54th birthday and I’d need all the fuel that last night’s big meal afforded me for a long day of walking and wandering in Montreal. My day started at 9:30am with a quick stroll over to St. Viateur for what I’d heard was a better bagel than any I’d had in NYC….hard to believe, but ultimately true. You can watch them baking in their open, wood burning, oven…then served warm and not as doughy as their NYC counterparts….delish! I continued up Avenue du Mont-Royal to hike up to the triple peaked hill where Montreal got it’s name…Mount Royal. The park was designed by the same architect as New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted. I started to climb the many, many stairs up to the perch at the top, with it’s birds-eye view of downtown Montreal, but only made it three quarters of the way up because my fear of heights kicked in and I just couldn’t go any further…what a wuss! I got a picture through the trees….
My journey continued down the other side of the hill towards downtown Montreal and the next stop of the day…Musee Des Beaux-Arts De Montreal (The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) where they were having a Van Gogh & Kandinsky exhibit. I got the added benefit of their Paris in the early 1900’s and Warhol exhibits too…what a treat! As I strolled past McGill University and along Rue Sherbrooke towards the museum I was enthralled by the beautiful architecture. It struck me how the art of architecture can captivate just as much, and sometimes more, than a formal display of art in a museum.
I continued my journey through Downtown Montreal, Chinatown, past Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and stopped to rest my weary feet (by now it was 3:00 and I’d literally been walking 5 1/2 hours) at an adorable bistro in Old Montreal, Bistro Le Modavie, situated on Rue St-Paul. I dined on yummy French Onion soup, scrumptious beet salad, plenty of water and a cold glass of chardonnay. Rejuvenated, I wandered the cobblestone streets of quaint Old Montreal….caught the tail end of some NFL football at a sports bar, stopped in at an adorable, eclectic shop/bistro on the waterfront called Magasin General, before making a full circle back to my apartment by 6:45pm. I did a quick wardrobe change for the evening and walked up to St-Jean-Baptiste Church, where I was treated to a stunning 30th anniversary celebration concert by Cirque du Soleil. What a way to cap off the day…amazing birthday!
I set personal record Monday morning by sleeping until 10:00…woohoo, must have been all that walking & fresh air the day before! It was ridiculously cold (10-12F), so I lingered a bit in the apartment before making my way to the Mile’s End neighborhood, a meal in Little Italy and a stop at the Marché Jean-Talon….an indoor produce/cheese/artisan market reminiscent of those in Europe. On my way down Rue St. Denis I made a stop at a chic eyewear/optometry store to see if they could fix a contact/glasses problem I had. I just want to give a shout out to Henri Cohen, owner, who was so warm & generous, remedied my problem and sent me on my way without charge. Thanks Henri!!
Tuesday was just as cold, if not colder, & windier than Monday, so I just walked a block to an inexpensive bistro that the owner of my apt recommended for brunch & packed up my belongings for the train ride to Quebec City. Even the train station in Montreal was festive & has an amazing array of food offering.
Next stop…Quebec City!!…..stay tuned!
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!