It’s been a busy few months. Final exams, term projects, tight client deadlines, spring campaigns, a breakfast sampling event, award entries, the SOS Children’s Village Run at River Green on May 30th, and to top it all off…we moved! It’s becoming a recent trend that we book vacation and then end up having to move shortly after– last year we sold our apartment but had booked a trip to Paris and London right before the completion date. Moving with jet lag = not fun. This time around we had a full week between landing at YVR and the big move to Steveston. We’re both looking forward to a nice big deck with room for a BBQ this summer! Living so close to Steveston means weekends walking into the village, shopping at the local farmers market, sipping coffee on the boardwalk and browsing boutiques. But In the craziness of everything, we managed to take one week off and visit Montreal from May 16th to 22nd.
It was fabulous. It was my first time visiting the city and the weather was perfect (if not a bit too warm), our accommodations were comfortable and the food was amazing. I love exploring somewhere new. Getting a feel for the surroundings is like making a new friend as you adapt to one another’s personality.
Here are some of the places we discovered.
Alexandre Logan is a fabulous bed and breakfast in a heritage home located downtown, just outside the Village. Our host Alain restored the building to its original glory about 10 years ago. In 1870 it was a doctor’s home and office that was divided years later into three separate apartments, as many homes in Montreal are. We stayed in Room 1, which was a huge suite on the second floor with stunning plaster work on the ceilings and shutters that opened up to a view of the peaceful street. We were very happy with our choice, but would give Room 2 a try next time. The washroom had been added and wasn’t fully enclosed to the ceiling, so although beautifully decorated, it didn’t offer a lot of privacy. The common areas were marvelous and the breakfast room was my favourite in the entire house. Alain told us that to restore all the plaster work on the ceilings throughout the home, the tradesman (I would call him ‘artist’) was working full time on the project for something like 8 months… unbelievable! The food each morning was delicious, creative and fresh. Alain is a kind and sincere host – who, even though we had checked out at 11:30, offered us use the common washroom to freshen up later that evening before our 6pm flight home.
L’Academie came highly recommended to us by friends who had lived in Montreal for years. Their menu features offerings of both Italian and French cuisine. The atmosphere is elegant yet not stuffy and with 3 floors of seating we didn’t have to wait long without a reservation. Lucky for us, and our wallets, there was a special the evening we visited – any pasta course with a soup or salad to start was only $10.95! I ordered the lasagna, which was delicious. It could have done with a bit less sauce and after all the soup and bread I had already enjoyed, the portion could have been smaller.
But the real selling point of this restaurant is that they ask you to bring your own wine! And how convenient… there is a liquor store right next door. With the windows ajar, a breeze passing through the restaurant, the setting sun and a full bottle of wine, the evening was bound to be wonderful!
Although we didn’t have the pleasure of visiting all of Montreal’s amazing markets, we were very satisfied to spend an
afternoon at Atwater browsing the stalls with rows upon rows of fruits and vegetables and enjoying freshly baked pastries from La Premiere Moisson. There were little cheese and meat shops and a huge gourmet store where every wall was lined with different types of olive olis, sauces and spices – a cooks’ paradise! This would be the perfect place to grab lunch on a sunny day and eat picnic-style along the river.
Okay, honestly – what’s a trip to Montreal without a smoked meat sandwich? A visit to Schwartz’s, a Montreal institution for 80 years, was in order. We were lucky not to encounter a long lineup for weekday lunch, and were jammed into a table with 4 strangers after only about 15 minutes of waiting. No problem! I’m friendly enough and was there for the experience. To be honest though, it was a bit overwhelming! The waiter fires questions at you one after the other, and for a first timer it was great to have other patrons to rely on. “Lean, Medium or…” he asked. “Lean!” I said, when the lady on my right interjected “No, no. You want medium! Lean is too dry.”
“Okay, medium!” – I’m trusting.
And it was delicious!!!
Gibby’s, Old Montreal
Gibby’s restaurant is located in what used to be horse stables in the stunning area of Old Montreal. Overall we had a decent dining experience, and although the prices are expensive you get almost-too-big portions! We both had the Petite Filet Mignon (9 oz is NOT what I consider petite) with a Gibby’s salad to start. Looking back, we should have shared one meal between the two of us. The restaurant is dark and the atmosphere really is romantic.
Probably our favourite discovery while in Montreal was the Bixi Bike system. We spent lots of time leisurely pedaling along the river and it was a great way to get around cheaply and quickly while enjoying the sites above ground. Not unlike Velib in Paris, riders can pick up a bike at one of many digital stations and drop it off at any other station throughout the city. The rates are extremely affordable, and if you return the bike in 30 minutes or less there is no charge. What I loved about Montreal though was the ample amount of dedicated biking lanes! In Paris the whole experience was a bit scary when biking alongside Parisian drivers, but in Montreal cars weren’t a worry. We biked a lot along the water, exploring the islands and the paths from Atwater Market to Old Port. It was a great way to take in the city while getting from point A to B.