The stereotypes are true. It’s cold in Montreal in the winter. Nevertheless we were looking for a few-day, road-trippable getaway and this is where we went. It was just in the wake of our epic ice storm, so long hours of driving at least had this fairy-tale, coated-in-ice scenery to enjoy along the way.
It was so great to have suggestions for what to do from friends that had been in Montreal before. So here is a little pay it forward. A run down of what we did for you to bookmark for your future trip to Montreal. Because I do highly recommend that you go sometime. Even the ice and freezing temperatures couldn’t detract completely from the amazing historic and European vibe the city offers.
Where we stayed…Hyatt Regency. Booked via Hotwire, the location was amazing and the amenities perfect for what we needed. The rooms were basic but kept up enough and clean, and I was happy they were able to accommodate our request for adjoining rooms. The pool was a great diversion for Personally Junior while the rest of us had time to work and do homework some evenings. The lobby and lounge areas were gorgeous, the food and wine in the lounge were perfect for a late-night date. We had a delicious and beautifully presented cheese plate and an excellent red wine.
Where we ate…We aimed to hit some the genres Montreal is famous for. Cafés, bagels, Montreal smoked meat and Old Montreal dining. Breakfast at the Café Humble Lion…hot coffees and hot chocolates and huge rich chocolate scones. A classic student study and coffee space with exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood counters and high ceilings with industrial lighting. The barista designed a dragon in the surface of PJ’s hot chocolate. Seriously. Bagels were tested for lunch one day at St-Viateur Bagel and got a unanimous thumbs-up. The shop is equally charming and funky, again with exposed brick, cozy booths and tables, copper tile ceilings and a huge brick oven in view where the bagels are baked. Then Montreal smoked meat, of course at Schwartz’s Deli. A classic Montreal dining experience not to be missed, and with world famous smoked meat sandwiches on the menu. Reading up on the place, I found out that Celine Dion and her husband were part of a consortium who invested in the restaurant when it was in danger of going out of business in 2012. Interesting, n’est-ce pas? Old Montreal dining was experienced at Stash Café. The menu is home-style Polish comfort food…think perogies, cabbage rolls and beet salad. The vibe is perfect Vieux Montreal…again exposed brick walls (I might have a bit of a thing for that), church pews for seating at rustic tables and live music at the piano. Also with our hotel being on the edge of Chinatown we had one night of fabulous authentic Chinese food at KanBai. I think their General Tso chicken was the best I’ve had.
What we did…The main event was Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. Cirque du Soleil has never failed to impress us, and this show is no exception. The combination of incredible costumes, scenery, music, theatre, circus acts and comedy offers something entertaining for everyone, so this was a great family event for us. The other event was an organ recital at Notre-Dame Basilica. After Christmas till the end of school holidays it’s possible to buy tickets to sit in the organ loft right under the pipes while the organist plays an hour-long Christmas recital. What a fantastic experience. We took it in as part of a walking tour of Vieux Montreal, adapted from Frommer (a great source for sightseeing in all cities). We had to laugh when we came out of the cathedral, obviously a stunning architectural landmark, to find a large group of tourists taking photos and video, not of the cathedral, but of a passing snowplow plowing the street. What???!!! We went skating at the Old Port one night where you can skate to music on an outdoor rink and have a really good fireworks show as well. And part of the Luminothérapie trail was kitty corner to our hotel so we took that in as well. It makes for a cool photo op but truthfully we were almost frozen solid at that point. I could hardly press the shutter down on the camera.
There was no shortage of interesting places to see, great shopping to do and cozy little café’s to warm up in the rest of the time. And then a long drive back for New Year’s Eve and the rest of the school holiday.
Wow tons of writing and linking back, but hopefully a good resource if you do a Montreal trip yourself someday. If you’ve been it would be great if you’d add your favourites in the comments below…word of mouth is always the best resource.
Happy Monday, and au revoir till next time.