Early in the morning (very, very early in the morning) Jordan and I arose to catch the train to Montreal. Our friend Sophie had suggested taking the train there and I’m glad we did – what a comfortable way to get around! It was sad to say au revoir to Quebec City but we were both looking to the next stage of the trip. Unfortunately, by the time we got to our hotel the light drizzle had turned into a substantial and impressive downpour! We checked into a lovely hotel room with a huge jacuzzi tub and set forth to seek food. Old Montreal was only three or four blocks up from us, and along the way we found a crepe restaurant called Muru Crepe. We had savory crepes with cheese – SO GOOD!
After our lunch we happened across the Bonsecours Market, which is a long indoor market with artisan and gift stores. A textile gallery full of vintage designer gowns was in the basement of the market. On our way back out into the rain Jordan spied the above apropos umbrella, though we ended up purchasing a much smaller brolly. At that point the rain was absolutely torrential, so we stopped once more for a bottle of wine and allergy medication and high-tailed it back to the hotel. Luckily the hotel had an amazing italian restaurant next door called Pacini’s, so we didn’t have to travel too far into the downpour.
The weather was much improved by Monday morning. We started off our day with brunch at SoupeSoup (“quel bon temps pour de la soupe!” Jordan exclaims in memory). The first part of our day was spent camped out at a laundromat, which was actually great because I managed to finish my committee thesis revisions while we were there (sooo clooose to being doooone!).
After the laundromat we finally ventured into the heart of Old Montreal. Place Jacques Cartier was an active pedestrian square lined with restaurant patios and full of caricature vendors. Extending from both sides was Rue St Paul, which had dozens of amazing restaurant options – everything from poutine to The Keg, gelato shops to high end open-front restaurants. The cobblestone road took us for several blocks towards the Basilica Notre Dame. What a breathtaking building. The main construction happened in the 1820s, and the interior in the 1870s. Jordan and I spent a long time inside the basilica – it reminded me very much of Notre Dame in Paris in its beauty.
We came back to reality with poutine and beer on an outdoor patio at Montreal Poutine. I seriously love the patio culture in Quebec! The Montreal Science Center is along the waterfront and we went to an IMAX show called Flight of the Butterflies, which made me cry. We finished our first real day of sight-seeing in Montreal by walking along the harbour Quays. Montreal is lovely when it isn’t pouring rain!
By Tuesday I was feeling a bit Starbucks deprived and I’d seen people with Starbucks cups so it must be somewhere – so off we set to find my fix. It happened to be along the way to McGill University, which we were both pretty excited to see. McGill is actually right downtown in the heart of Montreal, surrounded by huge skyscrapers and close to/on top of part of the underground city. It was a neat campus with a decent amount of green space for being so urban. The Eaton Center was a few convenient blocks away (I had a Sephora gift card, you understand) and it was really nice to get into air conditioning.
We walked a bit further downtown and found the Museum of Fine Arts, which to my complete surprise and delight was hosting a Dale Chihuly exhibition! My family and I first saw his glass sculptures in England eight years ago, and it is incredibly inspiring. Rooms and rooms full of intricate, intensely beautiful glassworks in the most interesting shapes. It’s hard to imagine the skill level required to create such art and I was so happy to see so much of his work on display. The Museum of Fine Arts is huge, and I think we only saw half of the displays – there was a neat design exhibition Jordan was interested in, and an exhibition of baroque paintings which I could vaguely recall from my art history classes.
We figured out the Metro from the downtown Concordia campus back to our neck of the woods, where we finished our day with pub food at St. Paul’s Pub in Old Montreal. After a day of hard walking, that beer was probably the best thing we’d ever had.
Wednesday morning we couldn’t help but repeat our crepe experience at Muru (mine had an egg and smoked salmon in it?? heavenly). We spent the early part of the day at the Science Center where we learned that children are noisy and sharks are friends, not food. Having been reminded of Marcelle Ferron in Quebec City, I swooned my way over to the Champs-de-Mars metro station, which houses some of the stained glass she developed in her later years. It was smaller than I expected but absolutely beautiful. We caught the metro out to the Biosphere on Île Sainte-Hélène, which is an environmental awareness center inside a giant steel ball. The island also houses L’Homme, a huge metal sculpture overlooking the Montreal harbor.
We had dinner at a restaurant in Jacques Cartier square before going to “And Then There Was Light,” an evening light show at Notre Dame. They block all the windows and put up huge sail-shaped projection screens and tell the story through images and narration of how the basilica came to be. You can see a gallery here. It was especially neat when they retracted the screens and lit up individual pieces of the interior sculptures and pulpit to talk about the meaning behind them.
After breakfast at Eggspectation in the downtown core, I bid adieu to Jordan and set forth into the glorious world of shopping in Montreal. I spent a very very long time in Anthropologie, and a block away at Urban Outfitters. The whole street was lined with fantastic stores, from Fossil to Guess to H&M and everything in between. Despite the dissociative fugue I managed to find my way back to Jordan, who had been working at Starbucks for a couple hours. I regret nothing!
Sophie the Montreal tour guide sent us up Mont Royal, the tallest point in Montreal. No buildings are allowed to be built taller than the top of the hill, and the tallest building is only four inches shorter than the peak of the hill! We didn’t quite make it to the top, but we did find ourselves along the street that Sophie used to live on. Our hike back down the mountain took us to Buvette Chez Simon, a trendy little tapas restaurant. We managed to snag a spot on the patio and passed the evening happily by with tapas and wine.
Our last day in Quebec was Friday. Despite the abundance of delicious restaurants in Montreal, we couldn’t help but go back for one last round of crepes. Jordan had found an amphibus tour of Montreal, where you spend half the time on land and then drive right into the water and become a boat for a while. The tour guide was really entertaining and we learned a lot of neat things – for instance, that the designer of Habitat 67 did the architectural design as his Master’s thesis. Back on land, we climbed the many stairs of the clocktower on the aptly-named Quai de l’Horloge.
The archeological museum offered some respite from the sun. The basement of the museum houses the actual original walls and streets of Montreal. Upstairs we were able to see an exhibition about tea, as well as an exhibition about The Beatles and the fangirly mania they induced. We were famished and had reservations for a late dinner, so we passed the time (and lowered the bar a bit) with hot dogs from Montreal Poutine.
To finish off our trip on a high note we had dinner at Verses Restaurant in the Hôtel Nelligan. The restaurant was indoors but had wide open windows onto the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. I’ve had a lot of fantastic food experiences but I think this was among the best. Jordan had butter-poached halibut and a trio of desserts, and I had truffle-crusted beef tenderloin with a Quebec ice wine. We walked by the shining basilica one last time in the twilight stroll back to our hotel.
Our flights home were uneventful and we’re back to the grind with my thesis defense fast approaching. Quebec City and Montreal were a fantastic getaway and a wonderful experience for the both of us!