Honeymoon to Canada: Montreál
Virtually my entire life, I’ve lived in a state that shares a Canadian boarder, but it wasn’t until semi-recently ( when I took a year of French language classes in college ) that I’ve had any desire to travel there. When we were brainstorming where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we realized that a beach getaway wasn’t very “us,” but a transatlantic trip sounded too exhausting/expensive/long for the amount of time we could afford. But Canada was unexplored territory for us, and with some of the oldest settlements in the “New World,” we could certainly spend our honeymoon among cobblestone streets and historic buildings.
Our first day in Montreál was passed in a zombie-like state. We landed in the morning after a red eye flight and had each accumulated maybe 4 hours of sleep through the night. This coupled with the horrible news of the death of a very close family friend just the day before left me emotionally confused, exhausted, and eventually crying into my iced coffee at a random Montreál coffee shop after dropping off our luggage at a bus station locker and walking around the city in the hot sun all day (we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 4pm). Later that evening after a nap and a bit of unpacking, we decided we didn’t feel bad about staying in with a bottle of wine and a Netflix movie just to get our bearings, let some emotions sink in, and relax.
Day #2 of our honeymoon, we set out on a quest for poutine…more specifically, vegetarian poutine (not as easy to find, but certainly not impossible). But first, we decided to work up an appetite by re-tracing our steps (and then some) that we glazed through the day before. We walked along the Old Port of Montreál to get a preliminary view of the city from the top of the Montreál clock tower (Tour de l’Horloge) which was built as a replica of London’s Big Ben and marked the entrance to the harbor/served as a lighthouse for incoming transatlantic ships.
Then, we moved slightly inland to snake back through Old Montreál—what is left of the 17th century settlement that became a gorgeous victorian showcase. The streets of the old city were delightfully European, but all-together too touristy for our tastes. We navigated our way through the cobblestone streets, admiring the gorgeous architecture and skipping the souvenir shops and inauthentic restaurants that have largely taken over their interiors.
While there certainly is an “old town” in Montreál, probably my favorite part of the city was the juxtaposition of old and new: the statue of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve across the street from the 19th century Notre-Dame Basilica, but immediately next to a glass-covered skyscraper and the colorful and modern Palais des congrès de Montréal rounding off the north end of the old city. There was definitely plenty of history to appreciate, but at the same time, Montreál gave me a “young urban professional” sort of vibe. If we had a bit more time in the city (and had not been so exhausted on our first day), we would have definitely rented bikes and ridden through one of the most bike-friendly cities I think I have ever seen.
Finally, feet aching and stomachs growling, we jumped on the train to take us a bit further north in the city where we could eat our poutine and then climb the “mountain,” Mont-Royal, to watch the sun set over the city (recommended to us by our wonderful Airbnb host).
We made our way to Resto La Banquise, a Poutine shop with a crazy menu of every variation of poutine you could possibly imagine! We got vegetarian poutine with green peppers and mushrooms and also a Mexican poutine with tomato and guacamole (surprisingly gravy + guacamole is a decent combination).
After we’d had our fill we made our way through the Mount Royal park for a small, winding hike (naturally, me in flats + a sundress…oof) to the top of the hill for a gorgeous view of the city. The hill reminded me a lot of Mount Tabor (for all my Portland peeps) and if I were a Montréalaise, I think it would be one of my favorite hangout spots. At the top of the hill was a beautiful observatory deck filled with other people waiting for sunset. We were a bit confused when we arrived because we realized the sun was actually setting on the opposite side of the hill as the city, but once it began to go down, the colors that settled among the buildings and that reflected off the windows was breathtaking.
After our “hike,” we walked back to the hustle and bustle of the city for an evening snack + drinks before an early turn in for our adventure to Quebec City the next day as the square nearby began to fill with dry ice and strobe lights from an outdoor summer music festival.
What We Ate in Montreál
It didn’t take long for us to rename our “Honeymoon” our “Cheesymoon” because we ate SO MUCH CHEESE! Even though Monreál is not part of France, the attraction to cheese definitely carries over and we had no hesitations to make it a part of—literally—every meal we ate.
Crêpes: Not a uniquely Canadian food, but definitely part of the French-Canadian flair and deliciously ideal for any meal or snack. This was our first meal in Montreál off one of the cobblestone streets of the old city. We were all about the brie crêpes—mine with asparagus and mushrooms, Alex’s with chicken.
Poutine: Answer me this oh Midwest friends…WHY HAVE WE NOT TOTALLY STOLEN THIS FROM THE CANADIANS?! French fries + cheese curds smothered in gravy? Does that not scream Midwest? Get on it!
Stay tuned for Honeymoon Part Deux: Québec City…