Like I said in my eating in Montreal post, Quebec is all of the great things about Western Europe and France and none of the crappy parts (minus sub-zero temps and wind chills, brrr). All those things people go to Europe to see – churches, castles, cool old buildings – you can see in Quebec (especially Quebec City, which is third on my next-trip to Canada list after Toronto and Vancouver).
To forget you’re in Canada for a moment (but honestly, why would you you want to – maple syrup, everyone’s nice, SIDNEY CROSBY – the country is a utopia, basically) and see where Celine Dion was married, head over to the Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal. I’ve been to a lot of churches and basilicas in the world (Notre Dame, the Vatican, basically every other church in Italy, one or two that I was kicked out of in The Philippines for not having on enough clothes, and even the ruins of St. Paul’s in Macau to name a few), and this one was one of the best.
They had an organist playing Christmas songs and we made an offering and lit some candles for a couple special people in our lives and ventured back out into the cold.
From the Basilica, you can walk down to the Old Port and Old Montreal. We spent an afternoon there, ice skating and wandering in and out of shops. There is some place to ice skate on every single corner in Montreal, which is a real surprise for a moment until you remember hockey.
One morning we decided to hit up a yoga class to get our vinyasa on. Using the Lululemon Om Finder app (I seriously recommend having it if you travel + love yoga) we found Enso Yoga. Disclaimer – Enso is expensive for a drop-in ($25 USD + tax). The space is really cool and really nice – it reminds me of YogaWorks in NYC. Their studio is heated but the class was pretty restorative to me rather than a crazy hard workout, like my studio in Pittsburgh, (Amazing Yoga, if you’re ever in town) but it was just what we needed after walking around and being cold (and towards the end of my 35-day run streak).
If you don’t have a mat, don’t worry. Enso provided a mat, towel, block and afterwards you could use their showers. Enso is right on the corner of Rue Peel and Rue St. Catherine, so you can do a little post-yoga shopping at all of the stores that you probably have in the States if you live in a bigger city.
For a bird’s eye view of the city, you have two options (that I know of): you can go to the top of the observation tower at the Olympic Park or you can drive to the top of Mt Royal to Summit Park. When we ventured out to Olympic Park the tower was closed (despite them allegedly being open until 6 p.m. according to their website), so the next day we drove to the top of Mt Royal.
Olympic Park is somewhere that we also didn’t get to check out to thoroughly but I will make a point to get there next time I’m in Montreal. I’m totally into eerie, abandoned things (I want to visit Chernobyl, is that weird?). There was a lot of folly around the Olympic Park in Montreal – the stadium is empty after the Montreal Expos were relocated to DC. You can actually see a lot of creepy abandoned Olympic venues on Huffington Post.
There was in true French-Canadian fashion, a strange Christmas market at Olympic Park. Not deterred by plans gone awry, Carly and I purchased marshmallows and had fun acting like 6 year olds. Also on my life bucket list is Quebec Winter Carnival. We learned about it in French class in high school and I was so intrigued by something so insane.
The art scene in Montreal is pretty big. There are a ton of museums, exhibits and galleries. We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see an exhibit on aborigines and hip-hop, Beat Nation. It was pretty awesome, to say the least. There’s a student discount, too, if you’re twenty-four and have no shame about using your ID that hasn’t been valid for two and a half years (not pointing fingers here…).
Nearby, they have an installation called Montreal en Lumiere. There are thousands of reflectors with colored lights in the boulevard that you can walk through that feels like wheat fields.
If you want to check out a food market, we went to Marche Atwater. It’s a great place to wander around and buy meat and cheese and bread for a picnic.
Davida from The Healthy Maven gave us a ton of awesome recommendations for bars and we made it to two – Apartment 200 and Big in Japan. Apartment 200 feels like your parent’s lake house/cabin of your dreams. They have a ton of games – Canadian Foosball, air hockey, Pac-Man, skee ball – all surrounded by big wood tables and huge leather couches. The scene is a little fratty so it feels like your favorite college bar, just elevated and cooler than some dump that you think is awesome is terrifying to be in when you’re sober.
Big in Japan was really hard to find… probably because it is a speakeasy. Everything I read said to look for a red door. Fun story, that door is now painted grey. We walked up and down the street for five minutes until we just tried a door then immediately noticed it had Japanese characters. You can buy a bottle of Japanese whiskey and if you don’t finish it, you write your name on it and they screw it in to this thing in the ceiling for the next time you come back. I would have taken a photo but I was trying to not look like a tourist.
On New Year’s Eve, we went to the port (bundled up in a million layers) to see the fireworks. It’s the first time I’ve done something like that for New Year’s (re: remembering what midnight was like). Afterwards, we went to Pub Sir Joseph to get our champagne drinking on. The DJ was playing all the best hip-hop of the early 2000s, minus R. Kelly Ignition, but we called it a night around 3:30 when Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” started playing. How Quebec.
Before we left, we also had the opportunity to meet Davida in person! I basically have a girl crush on her that just increases my blogger crush on her. She is super awesome and I can’t thank her enough for all her recommendations and for meeting us!
I have some other exciting trips in the works for the first half of 2014 but don’t want to jinx any of them yet!
Chat with me:
Where are you traveling next? Where do you want to travel next?