2017 is going to be the year of the weekend trip for us. At the beginning of the month we were in Vegas, and a few weeks ago we were in Montreal. Weekend trips are my favourite – they’re short but you can pack a lot in, get a good feel for a city and they’re a lot easier on the wallet!
We had such a fantastic time in Montreal – it’s such a beautiful city with super friendly people. As per usual, I wanted to share our trip with you all, so here it is!
WHERE WE STAYED
Because we are Starwood members we try to stay in a Starwood affiliated hotel when we can. While Starwood hotels are typically nice and well-appointed, they aren’t always my first choice, especially in older cities like Montreal where there are so many boutique style accommodations. However, we actually were able to use our points here and get our entire stay for free so I can’t complain.
Our room was a pretty basic Westin room aside from the fact that we were on a corner so I suspect it was slightly more spacious than normal. The bed was amazing – once I fell asleep I didn’t wake even move well into the morning. Westin beds are usually very comfortable but this seemed even more comfortable than normal. In addition they had blackout drapes which I will attribute to the fact that we slept in almost everyday until 10:00 am.
The only complaint was the tv didn’t work – it’d turn off at random. But we weren’t there to watch tv anyway.
Our hotel was a little over a a block away from Notre Dame, a 5 minute walk to Old Montreal and about a 15 minute walk to St. Catherine Street. Overall it was a good location and I’d stay here again.
WHAT WE DID
Notre Dame Cathedral
There were lots of old churches in Montreal but this was the only one we visited; it was amazing – the pictures don’t even do it justice. I could have stayed there all day staring at the murals, stained glass and detailed architecture – it was so peaceful and serene, even with a ton of people milling around. Definitely a must-see while in Montreal.
Polished & Inspired recommended this to to me and it was a great suggestion! It’s basically a lookout point but be warned it’s a bit of a workout to get there; it’s a relatively easy stroll through a park and then up a long set of stairs. Honestly though it wasn’t that bad and the views were absolutely worth it!
While up there we discovered this interesting factoid on how Montreal got it’s name – pretty cool!
Montreal Impact Game
I’m not a big soccer fan but my husband wanted to go to this and since we’ve never been to one I agreed. I’m still not a soccer fan but there was definitely some good acting to be seen 😉 and I enjoyed some decent stadium food!
Just for Laughs Festival
The fact that our trip coincided with the first week of Just for Laughs was a nice surprise; we went and saw 2 comedians while we were there: Debra Digiovanni (you may remember her from MuchMusic’s Video on Trial) and Vladimir Caamano; both were really funny, although Vladimir was much more vulgar (I was cringing at the people behind us who brought their six year old to a 10:30 PM comedy show – #commonsense). I’d love to go again another year and see even more comedians. There’s literally someone doing standup somewhere most times of the day during the festival.
Montreal Botanical Gardens
This place is amazing – I didn’t expect it to be as extensive or as beautiful as it was! We spent a good hour and a half wandering through here; we probably could have spent longer but my feet were killing me from walking the entire day. Unfortunately the Chinese Gardens and Aquatic Gardens were both closed when we were there but there was still plenty to enjoy with those being closed. Very much recommend a visit here!
Wandered the Streets
Part of the magic of Montreal is just wandering and exploring their streets; walking through Old Montreal made us feel like we were transported back to Europe with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings.
We also loved St. Catherines and Rue Crescent – shopping and restaurants galore! I found it really interesting that The Bay still uses their “old” logo on all their stores here – I can’t remember the last time I saw it used in their signage!
Other things we did: Biodome (cool but wouldn’t recommend unless you have kids); Montreal Forum (stopped in for a quick visit, mainly to take pics for my Dad – kind of a sad place), Old Port (nice place to people watch!).
WHERE WE ATE
Bagels, poutine and montreal smoked meat were all on my list to eat while in Montreal and on our first morning in Montreal we made the long walk from our hotel to St. Viateur for breakfast. The lineup was ran outside the door, which we always take as good sign. While waiting in line we watched them make the bagels which was pretty cool!
We ordered two – a sesame and a cinnamon raisin. Because these are handmade they have a much different shape and texture than we were used to; not as dense and quite a bit thinner. The sesame one was still hot while I was eating it but I think I preferred the cinnamon raisin.
I’ve had smoked meat before and not really been a fan but when in Montreal, you just have to try it. We stopped in here after a late night comedy show on our last night because it was open 24 hours and read that it was good. It was! We were starving when we got there so we ordered an appie of Smoked Meat Egg Rolls which were delicious! We then each ordered our own meals which was a bit of a mistake – the portion sizes were huge! We each ordered sandwiches (me the original Smoked Meat sandwich and D a Smoked Meat Club Sandwich) and sides of poutine which was a bit of mistake. We could have easily split an entree – the poutine was literally in a salad bowl. On the bright side everything was really, really good – the smoked meat was thinner, less fatty and salty yet more flavourful than any smoked meat I’ve had at home. That said, I’m still not a fan of the traditional smoked meat sandwich – it’s just too much meat for me.
While we were there we read up on their history – turns out Dunn’s is a Montreal icon, it’s been around since 1927! They have multiple locations and even sell their smoked meat at Costco. The interior of the restaurant is pretty cool and diner like and the service was prompt and friendly. If I was in Montreal again I’d definitely pay them a second visit!
Our most memorable meal came courtesy of Garde Manger. If you watch Food Network Canada at all, you may be familiar with Chuck Hughes and his show Chuck’s Day Off. I’ve watched his show quite a bit and have always wanted to try one of his restaurants. We made reservations week in advance as they book up super fast; we were seated at the bar in the back of the restaurant which actually turned out to be an amazing experience. There was no one else sitting at the bar so we basically had our own designated bartender and server for our meal.
The menu here changes daily and it’s written on chalkboards placed around the restaurant; we took our server’s recommendations and started with the orichette pasta with veal sausage (best.pasta.ever) and foccaccia with mushrooms and onion rings.
Our mains consisted of the scallops with pork belly and hanger steak with peppercorn butter.
Dessert was to die for – peanut butter and chocolate profiteroles.
This definitely wasn’t a cheap meal but it was beyond memorable – the food, service and ambience were incredible! 100% recommend this!
On our last day we decided to try something different – a Polish cafe. I read that this was a very popular restaurant with Montrealers and celebrities alike and we were kind of feeling like something different. We split perogies and beef stroganoff; both had that home-cooked meal kind of feel but neither were good enough that made me want to return or recommend it to anyone. The service was slow and we had asked them to include a side of kielbasa with my dish and take the beet salad off of D’s dish but they didn’t do either. Overall it was disappointing – I expected way more based on the reviews I read online.
We had such a great weekend in Montreal – I can’t wait to go back someday. Have you ever been?
Thanks for reading!