One of the things the Dutchman and I do to spend as much time as we can together is to tag along on each other’s business trips. Whether it is Tampa or Melbourne, we try our best to make it happen. Most recently, we spent three days in Montreal as the Dutchman had a conference to attend. This city has been on my list for a long time. Everyone I have spoken to about it, squeals in excitement about this cosmopolitan city. I am here to say, I absolutely agree! This slice of Europe in North America leaves you hungry to return.
Highlights of our Three days in Montreal:
Tour of Montreal: One of my top Dining Traveler Tips is taking a tour of a city, especially if you’re a business traveler on a short schedule. We did this our first day in the city. It was a sunny crisp fall day, perfect to wander and learn. Our tour guide, Francoise was an elegant French-Canadian woman who knew every little detail of her hometown. We did a car/walking tour combination. We began with a drive to Mont Royal, which was absolutely stunning. I highly recommend visiting the highest point of the city during your visit. We concluded our tour with a walk around Old Montreal. It is interesting to see the contrast of the city from the tall shiny buildings to cozy brick buildings. It gave us a good idea of which areas we wanted to focus on during our trip.
Cocktails Please! One thing is for sure, the locals love a good cocktail bar. We enjoyed beautiful craft cocktails at Sparrow, a cozy bar at the hip Mile-End neighborhood. If you love live music, check out Dieze Onze, it has live jazz music every day. We arrived on a quiet Monday night where it seemed as if we were the only ones at the bar. Within thirty minutes, the Cuban music began to play and the venue magically came to life as the crowd came in around 10pm. The energy was amazing with the furious sound of the trombone, ladies dancing salsa in the background, and the crowd waving side to side on the beat. The most eventful Monday night I had in a long time. As for hotel bars, I enjoyed having drinks and a gorgeous haute poutine at the Sofitel Montreal Bar. I was surprised to see the lively crowd on a Wednesday night at the hotel. Three days in Montreal are definitely not enough to dive into the amazing music and cocktail scene…
The Markets: Although I missed the famous Jean-Talon Market, I did get to experience the Atwater market. Although not as well-known as the Jean-Talon, it still packed all the beautiful flavors of the region. Fall was in full swing during my visit. The stalls were filled with local pumpkins, apples, and pears. We bought a can of maple syrup at one of the stalls. When I opened it, it changed my whole perception of the product. The scent of pure maple syrup with a slightly burnt caramel note is simply fall in a can.
Rue Notre Dame: After our Atwater visit, we decided to walk back to the city center via Notre Dame Street. We were sad that we waited until our last day to do this because there were so many beautiful cafés, shops, and restaurants to explore. We were bummed that we didn’t get to dine at neighborhood favorites such as Joe Beouf or Restaurant Grinder as many people recommend these establishments.
The Food: Montreal is a foodie city. Full stop. One of the things I noticed in all the places I visited was the quality of the food. From the midnight bagels at Fairmount Bagels to the farm to table feast we had at La Coupole, there was an amazing attention to detail accompanied by friendly service. I noticed in menus all over the mention of locally sourced products. We had a great local charcuterie and cheese board at Bier Markt. Don’t be fooled by its kitsch décor, the food and the selection of beers were pretty good.
Old Montreal: This part of the city truly transports you to Europe. The cobblestone streets, small shops, and architecture reminded me of Brussels a bit. We took a tour of Notre Dame and were taken by the detail of the church. I was a bit hesitant to pay the $5 entry fee as my personal belief is that church should be open to all, but I enjoyed that it was not overwhelmingly crowded when we were touring this beautiful space. The detail of its paintings and sculptures is incredible. In Old Montreal I also experienced the best dining experience of my trip at Chez L’Epicier (a more detailed blog post coming soon). The tasting menu ranged from fresh Canadian oysters to a fantastic pumpkin soup.
Spa morning: I enjoyed a spa morning at the Bota Bota Spa. This place is worth going just for the inventive architecture. A former boat converted into a spa, Bota Bota has multiple chambers filled with steam rooms, hot baths, and a large pool area in its garden. Don’t leave the spa without having lunch! The tuna tartare is a must order.
The verdict: Three days in Montreal are not enough to experience all that the city has to offer but long enough to fall in love with it. There are plenty more restaurants to be discovered, more bars to drink at, and more parks to explore. Hoping to return very soon!