Going to Quebec usually mostly means going to visit friends and family so it rarely feels like the other vacations my husband and I like to take together, where we just walk around a new city. This time, we decided to end our vacation with a long weekend in Montreal, a city I had visited briefly as a teenager but that I was generally almost as unfamiliar with as my husband.
We were lucky enough to have points to stay at the Delta Hotel in the downtown area. We were walking distance from most places we wanted to visit, which was nice. We also had access to the club lounge, so that covered our breakfasts and offered a beautiful view of the city.
Of course, my first thought when planning our trip to Montreal was where I wanted to eat. I had asked a few friends for recommendations and looked up a few places online. In the end, we picked at a few great places: Pullman Wine Bar, Kyo Bar Japonais, Vin Papillon…and a quick treat at Chocolats Favoris.
We went to Pullman with my parents, since they were kind enough to drive us to Montreal. We picked the restaurant based on reviews, as well as its close distance from the hotel, since my dad wasn’t able to walk very far, post-surgery. I wish I had paid closer attention to all the food we tried and took more pictures, but we were in the middle of a heat wave and I used all my energy to focus on what I was eating at that moment. We did enjoy calamari, charcuterie, a cheese plate, lobster spaghetti, venison tartare and crab cakes…as well as a few other dishes I can’t quite remember.
The meal was scrumptious, and despite sharing the small plates between the four of us, we still left the restaurant with full belly and a desperate need to go for a walk. My mom and I left the guys at the hotel and walked around at Jazz Festival area for a while before going back to our rooms.
After my parents left, Jeff and I started to explore the city. We walked towards the Old Port and came across a small Japanese restaurant, Kyo, that got our attention. We stopped by for a filling lunch of sashimi, sushi and dumplings.
We worked off the food by walking for a few hours through Old Town and the Old Port. I couldn’t help but stop and look at all the beautiful old buildings. The city, or at least, that specific part, was reminiscent of the Old World, mixed with new business opportunity. We could tell how proud people are of the historic buildings and how they try to preserve them within a modern lifestyle.
Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t feeling at the top of his game during this trip so while he went back to our hotel room to rest, I decided to continue my tourist visit with a trip to Musée Grévin, a famous wax museum. While I didn’t know how it would be to go on my own, I still managed to have a good time, and since the museum wasn’t very busy, I took plenty of selfies with the wax sculptures, without anyone around to judge me. I must admit that most of the statues looked awfully real and a few of them creeped me out. I had a particularly threatening chat with Andy Warhol and warned him that I would scream at the top of my lungs if he started moving. Again, I’m so glad there weren’t too many people around to witness me having a chat (in either French or English, based on the statue’s native language) with the wax figures throughout my visit. Of course, I had a chat with wax Chef Alain Ducasse and he confirmed that as real as they might look, I really shouldn’t try to eat the wax pastries. Bummer… 🙂
The following morning, I started my day with a stroll through the Gay Village, the largest LGBTQ neighborhood in North America. The area was colorful, filled with pride, and kind people. What I loved the most was to see the wide range of people, from young to old, lower class to business folks, and people speaking a wide range of languages and from various backgrounds. Nothing stereotypical about the area. This is the kind of place I wish some close-minded folks around the globe could experience. I’m so glad to come from a province where the government actually promotes and helps places like the Gay Village.
After my walk through the rainbow (literally, rainbow-colored balls created a “roof” over the road), I stopped by a Quebec institution, Chocolats Favoris. I had never been there before, but always saw my favorite bloggers visiting this chocolate shop. I caved in and ordered a blueberry ice cream cone, covered in a thick layer of milk chocolate. I wish I could have stayed there all day and just keep ordering more and more chocolate-covered anything. It was just that good.
We ended the day at the restaurant I was most anticipating, Vin Papillon. Not only was it recommended to me by two foodie friends, it is also named #5 best restaurant in Canada, by Canada’s 100 Best. If that wasn’t enough, it is also the sister restaurant of the world renowned Joe Beef. We went super early as we were worried it would get too crowded. We sat at the bar and ordered about a third of everything on the menu. This was the meal I had been waiting for, and I was not disappointed. While every single bite turned out to be scrumptious, I was particularly excited to try sea urchin for the first time. This was such a perfect way to end our trip.
Overall, there are two things that stood out to me as I reflect on our Montreal stay.
The cultural and linguistic diversity: I saw people of all colors, ages, and social backgrounds interact and share the city in what seemed, from my point of view, like an harmonious way. I was also taken by the many languages I heard. Not only the usual French, English, Spanish, etc….but also a mixture of them all. A man speaking French with an Italian accent, a women speaking English with an Arabic accent. I heard too many variations in 3 days to possibly count them all. And I loved it so much. Everyone found a way to share their culture, their life experiences, to create one big multicultural city.
Local food pride: Another thing I noticed all over the province, but in an accentuated manner in Montreal, was the pride people had to use and showcase local products. I don’t know how many times I heard les fraises du Québec (Quebec strawberries), les fromages du Québec (Quebec cheese). People were proud to offer quality food, grown within the province, rather than imported from far away. And they had a reason to be proud. The strawberries and the tomatoes I ate during our trips, have no equivalent in the U.S. grocery stores. They were packed with flavor, more colorful, and darn it, they didn’t taste like bland watery produce. It was honestly one of the biggest culture shocks as I came back home to Atlanta.
I think I could say this is one of my favorite trips back home so far. I feel like the longer I spend outside of the country, the more I appreciate and notice its differences and what makes it so special.