72 Hours In Montréal

People always ask me, and by people I mean the four who read my blog, why it takes me so long to write a post after returning from a trip. My first reason is laziness. Something I hope to improve on in 2018. My other reason is that I put off writing posts for days on which I need to mentally escape. When I’m writing a post about my most recent trip it allows my mind to wander back to a more blissful time than last week.  I desperately needed to escape last Thursday, especially, because as I stepped outside my Brooklyn apartment and into the North Pole, that real feel of 9 degrees, according to Loni Quinn, immediately gave me the urge to return to bed and call out sick. Then I remembered that this was just one of many days during which NYC will be in what Loni described as a “deep freeze, ” so I thought I might as well suck it up.  The extra layer in the form of thermal leggings I had to fight and struggle to get my jeans over was no match for the wind chill. I stood at the bus stop with a brain freeze as snow flakes stung my face, cursing the MTA for 6 straight  minutes, because, once again, the bus was behind schedule. And when it finally pulled up it was packed. Hardly anyone came out, and the 8 of us at the stop forced our way toward the back because people refused to follow the driver’s instructions of moving back to make room for newly boarded passengers. As I stood on that crowded bus with some woman’s pocketbook continuously poking me in the ribs, I closed my eyes and reminisced about a time, not too long ago, when I was nowhere near this fuckery.

I love October. It’s easily my favorite month of the year, because the weather is usually perfect. The air is crisp (God that’s cliché), the leaves are a mixture of green, gold and copper, and I get to wear my ankle boots and leather jackets (yes, I’m vain). As much as I love autumn in NYC, I needed to get away. Since Montréal had been on my bucket list forever, and I did not have to spend money on a flight to get there, I figured why not?

Road trip!
We left the Bronx on a Friday around 5:30am and got to our hotel around noon. The drive up was actually tolerable. Hildon drove most of the way while I deejayed – I dusted off my old CD collection and we jammed to some classic hip hop. It was a beautiful fall day and we enjoyed the changing colors of the foliage.

Accommodation
We stayed at Novotel in the city center. It’s a small hotel when compared to the Sheraton, which towered over us from across the street, but I was impressed. First, by the smell of the lobby. It reminded me of really expensive shampoo. Every time I entered the lobby I felt like I was in a high class salon. Secondly, by the friendly and helpful staff,  and thirdly, by the spacious the room. The parking, however, was a bit pricey. They were charging $30 a day to park in their garage. I used the website bestparking.com to find cheaper parking nearby. We found one less than a block away that charged us $58 for the 3 days. The only caveat was that we couldn’t go and come as we pleased, which was fine because we intended to use public transportation using our 3 day Montréal pass that we purchased on expedia.com.

3-Day Passeport MTL
If you’re like me and you want to experience as much of a place while you’re there, get this pass. It grants you access to 23 Montreal attractions, including the The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Botanical Garden, Insectarium, and Biodome. What really sold me about the pass is that it doubles as a metro card. You just scan it and you can ride the trains and the buses. Granted, we were only able to visit 6 or 7 of the attractions, but it was still worth the money to me because it opens up so many possibilities. It gives you options. But if you manage your time just right you should be able to visit at least half of the attractions in 3 days and save a lot of money.

After dumping our bags in our room, we headed to Dorchester Square and Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral.

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Then walked to The Museum of Fine Arts, where I took in Jean Paul Gaultier’s “Love Is Love”  exhibit. It’s a celebration of love in all forms.

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There was also a Western exhibit dedicated to the film genre. I love a good Western. It was a fun exhibit.

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And there were other pieces that caught my eyes as well.

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“The Embrace” by Picasso. He was 90 when he painted it.

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“Simeon the God Receiver” by Kehinde Wiley. Wiley is known for painting young, black men in heroic poses and was recently tapped to paint Obama’s  official presidential portrait.

Just outside the museum has great pieces too.

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Chihuly’s “The Sun,” for instance.

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Sherbrooke Street is lined with all the flags of the world.

For dinner we had poutine. I mean you can’t go to Montréal and not have poutine. Poutine is French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy and it originates from Quebec. We just had to have this for our first meal in Montreal. We got dressed up and headed out. Luckily, we were staying just steps from a restaurant called Vladimir Poutine. I told Hildon, I don’t give a shit if it only has a 3.8 rating on Google. That name is hilarious.

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And so were the names of the dishes. I had the Fidel Poutine: lobster bisque, lobster meat, cheese, shrimp and scallops.

Hildon had the Vladimir Poutine: smoked meat, beet confit, crispy onions and Russian dressing.

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He made the better choice.

The food was great – I haven’t had poutine anywhere else so take that with a grain of salt – the drinks were strong, and I learned it used to be a funeral parlor, which made sense.

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After dinner, we walked to Crescent Street, where all the action was (I did my research) and I was not disappointed. Bars and nightclubs lined the street. We were still undecided which bar to go into as we stood outside Thursday’s, from which T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” was blasting, when we saw a little Asian woman being escorted out,  fully hammered. As I watched her friends struggle to get her limp legs to work, I turned to Hildon and said, “We’ve arrived.” Thursday’ s. Was. Lit. It was so nice to see people from all ages and backgrounds come together with the sole purpose of getting completely shit faced. And shit faced is what I was when we stumbled out of there at 3am.

Saturday
I woke up hungover and I needed something rich to soak up the liquor, so we got dressed and headed to Paris Crepe.

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Then we took the metro across town. We basically spent our entire Saturday at Maisonneuve Park, where the garden and insectarium are located, and Olympic Park, where we visited the Biodome and the Observatory Tower. Both parks are across the street from each other. Hildon and I are idlers, which is why we were only able to visit about a third of the attractions the MTL pass gave us access to. But it was a day well spent. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone would be able to breeze through these attractions, especially the Biodome, which allows you to walk through replicas of four ecosystems found in the Americas. I could have spent all day in the rain forest section alone. It was absolutely breathtaking.

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The botanical garden was beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pics. I felt the need to capture everything. Then we moved on to the insectarium where I limited my camera use and focused on not feeling like I had spiders crawling all over me. It started out nice enough.

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Then this happened.

It smelled my fear.

The Observatory Tower was cool.

The Biodome was impressive.

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Seeing a lynx in person was worth all the walking.

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My feet were so sore when we returned to the hotel that evening. That’s what I get for wearing heeled boots to sightsee. But after a quick nap we got dressed and headed to Upstairs Bar & Grill. In terms of jazz, Montreal is to Canada what New Orleans is to the U.S. I heard great things about this restaurant and I learned that Norman Marshall Villeneuve would be performing on the 21st of October. I booked our table weeks in advance because Villeneuve is a Canadian jazz icon and a native of Montreal. Good thing I did, because people were being turned away at the door. The restaurant is in a cozy basement. We dined on steak, drank red wine, and enjoyed Villeneuve and his band. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

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That’s Mr. Villeneuve, sitting second from the right,  at his drums.

Sunday
All the locals we met suggested that we head to Mont Royal Park on Sunday. Even the waitress at Eggspectation in Old Montreal said it was the place to be on Sundays. But since we were already in Old Montreal, we headed to the Old Port, which stretches along the St. Lawrence River. Hildon flew his drone, something he had been dying to do all weekend, and I walked the entire length of the port and people watched. Lots to do here. There is a ferris wheel, zip lining, and other activities for kids. Hildon bought me a silver ring with amber stones at a souvenir booth and jokingly said, “Don’t worry. It’s not an engagement ring.” As if!

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We then headed to Notre Dame Basillica.

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I mean…

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After painfully tearing my eyes away from the Basillica, we took a bus to Mont Royal Park and hyked to the peak, with a stop at the chateau along the way to enjoy the view of Downtown Montréal from above.

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I was a frolicking fool.

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Hildon flew his drone and enjoyed the stares he got from passersby – some of whom stopped to ask questions – while I sat on the grass and rested my feet, because I don’t own a single comfortable pair of shoes,  apparently. Mont Royal is huge. We thought we were done after taking pics of the cross, but on our way to the bus stop, we saw everyone heading further down the hill, so we followed the crowd. We found this whole other section of the park that looked like paradise.

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Hildon could not resist pulling his drone out again. We sat on the grass and inhaled the second hand smoke coming from the couple smoking weed behind us, then strolled around the pond and took it all in.

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Giving 90s R&B video realness. The bird was a nice touch.

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It was the best way to spend our Sunday afternoon. After a day of walking and hyking, we were too tired to go home and get dressed for a proper farewell dinner, so we just popped into Brasseur de Montréal for a quick bite and headed to the hotel to pack.

Monday
Monday morning we went shopping for souvenirs. We hit up the Underground City, a network in which buildings are connected by tunnels that are also integrated with the city’s underground transit system. It covers twelve square kilometers of Downtown Montréal. Technically, it’s more of an indoor city, since most of the access points are at ground level, but there are some businesses that are entirely underground. When we were there, the place was kind of dead. I understand that it is mostly used during Montréal’s brutal winters (it is definitely poppin’ right now), but it is still pretty cool. We only stopped at Eaton Center.

I was pressed for time, because Hildon was actually timing me and reminding me about traffic building up if we leave after noon, so I hurriedly bought chocolates at Jeff de Bruges – a must – and loaded up on soaps and lotions that were on sale at Yves Roche. We practically ran to our car in the garage and hit the road for what was a surpringly smooth trip back to the Bronx.

As the doors to the bus opened and the gust of freezing wind slapped my face, I silently wished that NYC had an underground city. It was back to reality as I carefully walked like a newborn giraffe so as not to fall on my way down to the train station.

I thoroughly enjoyed Montréal. We could not have picked a better weekend to visit. The weather was sublime at around 70 degrees, the people were warm, and the metro stations are unnaturally clean.

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Seriously?

Needless to say, I have every intention of returning to Montréal. I encourage you to visit, and not because it’s a cheaper alternative to Paris. Yes, you do get that European vibe without having to cross the Atlantic, but Montréal has its own charm and lots to offer.

Anyway, here is some drone footage from our trip. Enjoy!