February 21st – February 23rd
- Mont Royal Park
- Vieux Port (Old Port)
- Outdoor ice skating
- La Grande Roue de Montréal (Ferris wheel)
- Food & Drink:
- L’Avenue (breakfast / brunch)
- St. Viateur Bagels
- Cabane a Sucre
- Queues de Castor (BeaverTails)
- Jean Talon Market
- La Banquise (24 hour poutinerie – I have mixed feelings)
Wow! A real travel post! Don’t get too excited because this might be the last one for a while.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve been trying to go to Montréal for a full year. So many times, I’ve come so close, and every time (EVERY TIME!) something has fallen through. I was no less than thrilled when this trip finally happened, and I found people who wanted to drive 8 hours with me to Canada during the winter. So, this weekend getaway was both a long time coming and spontaneous in its own way. We only had a few days, but we were determined to get away from Philadelphia even for a short time.
We sacrificed trunk and seating space for all-wheel drive on our rental car, which was probably the right move given the snow and ice, but the backseat was less than comfortable and quickly, the entire interior of the car smelled like chicken tenders we had stopped for at lunch. We took turns sitting in the middle bitch seat and swapped drivers every once in a while, barreling down the left lane at speeds that were just barely safe enough.
Fortunately, we were not pulled over, and arrived at our AirBnb, which was located a short walk from Mt. Royal Park. What may seem like a pretty typical trip, turned out instead to be an extremely memorable one. It was still winter, so we dragged ourselves out in winter coats to see some of the spots that were on our list. We took some time hiking through Mont Royal Park and visited the Vieux Port, where there is a large outdoor ice-skating rink (though it’s a bit expensive). We also stopped by the famous Jean Talon Market, which was honestly a bit underwhelming, perhaps because the off season.
What did not disappoint, however, were the BeaverTails, or Queues de Castor, which are essentially giant flat donuts served with all kinds of toppings. Perfect for two people. We also visited a cabane a sucre, which is worth it for the experience, but the syrup really is quite sweet, so we passed it among us like a joint. Sweets that are definitely worth a try but bring friends to split them with.
What also did not disappoint (mostly) was the legality of marijuana in Canada, along with the comparatively low prices and, wait for it, delivery service. Apparently, you can text a dispensary and your weed will arrive at your door in no time at all. In this case, make sure you acquire lots of the good stuff, but also make sure that your AirBnb’s hot shower is on.
A strange experience indeed, also stemmed from my friend Elizabeth’s desire to watch a minor league hockey game at a sports bar. Finding a sports bar proved more difficult than expected, and we found ourselves in a weird little place, which had TVs – our only real criterion. We apparently got more than we bargained for in the dimly lit bar with a live band set up, a row of electronic slot machines, and a pool table in the very back. The owners tried to talk us into staying longer (we were the only ones in there for a good while), promising us a live band while a few more people trickled in and played the slots for way too long. In a bizarre series of events, Taras quickly became entangled in simultaneous games of chess and pool while Elizabeth and I sipped on weak vodka sodas and watched the game.
But not to worry, we sustained ourselves with more than just substances on this trip, including with a truly humungous brunch (even by American standards) at L’Avenue, unfortunately subpar Montréal-style bagels from St. Viateur (eaten with Philadelphia cream cheese), and of course, obscene amounts of poutine at La Banquise. This last spot is a 24-hour poutinerie, but trust me when I say there is no way you will not not feel slightly sick after eating there. Honestly, I felt a little queasy even scrolling through pictures of poutine while writing this post.
Jokes aside, it takes very little convincing to get me to go on a semi-spontaneous trip to Canada, and no amount of persuasion will make me think a weekend roadtrip is a bad idea. Montréal is beautiful in the winter – everything shimmers with snow and the streets are still bustling despite the cold. It is also a place I want to experience in the summer, for what I believe will be a completely different experience. Expect more meanderings from this trip!