This year’s summer holiday trip destination was Canada. I’ve never been to Canada before and when in November 2017 I spotted an ad for cheap flights to Canada, I knew that it would be a matter of minutes to talk my boyfriend into it. 😀 We wanted to fly from Helsinki to Montréal and back from Toronto, so the flights for two people cost 952,32€. The price ended up not including the checked-in baggage, which wasn’t clear at the time of booking, so we needed to add 50€ for every checked piece of baggage, so this raised the price for the flights. My boyfriend also paid for an upgrade to the exit row, which I hope he enjoyed, because I certainly didn’t. It was a nice gesture and would’ve been nice in a smaller plane where you just get more legroom, but on cross-continental flight the seats are more narrow, because the trays are stored in armrests and a constant barrage of people standing in line for the bathroom right in front of your nose was annoying. I know, I know, first world problems, but I will never spend money on this again.
We arrived in Montréal around four o’clock in the evening and took a taxi from the Trudeau airport to our hotel. There was a fixed price for the ride from the airport to downtown Montréal, which I love, because I don’t want to think whether I’m being scammed out of money the first thing when I arrive into a new country. I think the price was 41 CAD.
Hotels in Montréal were pretty expensive not in the least because I’ve been putting the planning and booking of everything until the last minute. And by last minute I mean just three weeks before the trip, which was insane considering that July is probably the most popular holiday period. I just had such a crazy spring and early summer at work that I simply couldn’t make myself to do anything requiring mental energy after I got home from work. In the end, I chose Best Western Plus Montreal Downtown-Hotel Europa, which was a very generic Best Western hotel, but in a pretty ok location and air conditioning, which turned to be a life-saving feature as the temperature during our entire stay in Montréal was +33°C. I had this great idea of traveling north during the summer because it’s bound to be not that hot there, but I was seriously proven wrong during this summer. 😀
So the first evening we decided just to get something to eat and go to bed early as sleeping on the plane never seems to work. We chose La Société Montreal, which was located just a short walk away. The food was actually very good, and the French fries were one of the best I have ever tasted. It was a nice surprise as we chose the restaurant mainly because of its close proximity, but after we’ve eaten in Montréal a few times, I think that it’s almost impossible to get bad food in the city. The people seem to expect good food and the city’s restaurants are really delivering on that front.
You are expected to tip in Canada (apparently 12-20% is a good range), but it is made to be very easy if paying by card, as the payment terminal suggests the percentages and you don’t have to calculate anything in your head unlike in the USA. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so things might’ve changed.
The next morning we headed to have breakfast at Le Passé Composé. It was a Wednesday and we arrived around 10 a.m. when there were still a few tables available. By the time we were leaving, all the tables were full and there were even a couple of people in line. The place is popular and for a good reason. The food they serve was delicious and really nicely presented. Juice was freshly squeezed and French toast was yummy. Would totally eat here again.
We didn’t have any fixed plans for today, so we just started walking around and getting the feel of the city. It seemed that absolutely everything in Montréal was under construction starting from the highway that led from the airport to the city to big part of roads, and ending up with a lot of building construction sites everywhere.
The city seemed to be like a quilt. Here and there were some old-looking buildings, but right next to them were either very modern glass high-rises or dilapidated shacks.
Finally we ventured to the old town where we had to take a break. It was unbelievably hot! I mean, according to the weather app, it was +33°C, but there wasn’t any shadow anywhere and not even a smallest breeze. We needed a break and went to Terrasse Nelligan because I found some good reviews about it online, but mostly because it was located on a rooftop, so I hoped that there might be a bit windy, which would have been heavenly in this weather.
We had a couple of cocktails at Terrasse Nelligan, which were really good, but unfortunately it was still too hot and not really a breeze to speak of. I heard that their food is also good, but we had absolutely no appetite in this weather.
We tried to walk around the city a bit more, but it was too much. It seemed that the heat radiated not just from above, but also from every wall and from the street. I started feeling a bit nauseous and we returned to the hotel to cool off for a bit. What happened instead was that I fell asleep and slept for like three hours in the nicely air-conditioned hotel room and it was almost impossible for me to wake up. Not sure if this was due to jet lag, spending several hours in the sun or both. I barely managed to get up in time for dinner.
As we were in Canada, we absolutely had to try the poutine. I googled and asked for recommendations from a Canadian colleague and they were unanimous that La Banquise has the best poutine in Montréal. The place is open 24/7 and their busiest time happens to coincide with bar’s closing time. 🙂 We arrived around 7:30 p.m. and there was just a few people in front of us. They actually have two lines, one for take away orders and one for eating in, so there were a bunch of people outside, but only like three parties before us wanted to dine in. So we waited I think around 10 minutes before we got seated.
My boyfriend went for La Bacon and I chose La Sud-Ouest. I mean this dish had like a million calories, but it was actually very good. 😀 I’m quite happy that it doesn’t exist in my part of the world, because I would seriously be tempted. 😀
By the time we left La Banquise about an hour later, the line was already much bigger, so the later it gets, the longer the line.
We started at Crew Café, which is located in a splendid building, that used to be a bank. We were served Montréal bagels there and I must admit that they were really good! The cafe has a co-working space, so there are a lot of people sitting with their laptops.
Second stop was at a gluten free bakery called Cookie Stéfanie, where we had carrot cake, which was very good especially for being gluten free. 😉
What was different about this tour was that the guide, Ronny, did a decent tour of the city as well. Other food tours I’ve been on, have focused on the food and traditions around the local cuisine, but here we learned a lot about the city as well. He did waaay overuse the expression “you guys” and was trying to appear younger than he was, but I really liked how he embedded the surroundings into his stories while we walked from one place to another.
In the old town, we stopped at Taberna to try poutine. This had a Portuguese twist to it and had apparently chicken and chorizo, but to be honest, I didn’t spot any chicken in the dish and just a hint of chorizo. Poutine, nevertheless, was very good.
Our next stop was at Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises. There was an option of trying locally brewed beer or cider with smoked duck breast and local sausage, which were really good.
Our last stop was at Soupesoup, where we had a Québécois classic “pouding chômeur”, which means unemployed man’s pudding, which was created during the Great Depression. It was extremely sweet itself and was served with maple syrup on top. It seemed more like a winter dessert rather than be enjoyed during the +33°C degree heat, but it was still very good.
After this, our tour ended and we headed to Mile-End neighborhood, which was really recommended to me by a coworker. It turned out to be a super cool residential neighborhood with a plethora of local shops and restaurants. We started with Kem CoBa, which served super good ice cream with some unusual tastes like salted butter and mojito.
We walked around some and there was a lot of cool graffiti everywhere. I would totally love to live in this neighborhood!
To make this day to be all about food, we stopped at Le Réservoir to try a few craft beers and some snacks. The bar had wall-wide windows, which were open and it was so nice just to sit and watch people. I’ve never really understood this before. I’m always more focused on getting to see as much as possible, but it was nice not to have any places to be for a change. It was funny though to notice that every single Canadian guy had a hipster beard. Like men over 40 were all clean-shaven and literally everybody else was sporting a beard.
We walked back to the city via Parc du Mont-Royal and via Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, which was a big shopping street, but which was somehow shabby and filled with just you basic H&Ms and other general retailers.
We got back to our hotel and I was decidedly not hungry after eating the entire day. The moment I relaxed, I fell asleep. I guess I really need to start factoring jet lag into my holiday planning.
My boyfriend went out to Reuben’s Deli to get something to eat. He brought me back a smoked meat sandwich in a doggie bag as the portions at Reuben’s were too big. It was actually a pretty decent sandwich, but I agreed that half a sandwich was enough.
The next morning we had breakfast at Chez Cora, which was adjacent to our hotel. The breakfast was ok. I usually dislike places which have mile-long menus because they have too big a selection and as a result cannot do anything truly well and this place was no exception. The breakfast was okay, but nothing more. It was just convenient as we needed to check out and pick up our car.
I really wish that we would have stayed in Montréal at least one more day, preferably even two. This is the kind of city where you enjoy just being there and not for the epic sights it has to offer. And also the food! We never made it to even half the spots we wanted to eat at. I keep telling myself that I’m okay with not being able to see everything when I travel, but it does keep bothering me when there’s clearly so much left unexplored. I guess I just have to go back to Montréal at some point. 😀