For those of you following me on social media, you know that I went on a trip to Montreal this past weekend. A friend of mine asked if I wanted to go, and since I have only been to Quebec for work, I figured it was about time that I go see what the hubbub is all about. After some careful planning (it’s the only kind of planning I do) we got ourselves a room at a nice hotel in Old Montreal, booked a brewpub tour, and were ready for our adventure.
The drive from Toronto to Montreal is potentially one of the most boring trips ever. It’s all highway, all the time. We got stuck in traffic, grabbed gas at one of the many OnRoute stops along the way, and started to get a bit stir crazy. Finally, we reached Montreal, where suddenly all the signage is only in French, which definitely tested our barely-remembered French literacy skills from earlier days. Luckily we have smartphones with GPS, so we managed to get into the city without getting lost.
Old Montreal is absolutely lovely, with two major issues. First, everyone parks on the side of the street, so there is often just enough room in the middle of the road for any cars to get by. This leads me to the second issue, which is holes. So many of the manholes have either caved in or are on their way. We were stuck trying to get by a truck that was parked right next to a manhole that looked like it had already swallowed a few errant children. Driving over it was an act of extreme bravery… we had to do it twice because we got turned around. Many of the gaping holes were covered with large slabs of metal, but this one was not, and it was scary!
Our hotel was the beautiful Hotel St Paul, which was unfortunately also under a bit of construction. We only realized this when we went in the front door (which really needed a permanent doorman and not just the guy who only seemed to randomly show up for the more affluent guests) and saw the very sparse looking lobby. Since we were already running a bit behind in our schedule, we quickly checked in and headed to our room. Now it’s time for a bit of imagination because I didn’t get a photo of the hallways, but try to picture the inside of a spaceship. White walls and doors, blue lights, no decorations; it came off as a bit more creepy than it did modern.
We had made reservations at the restaurant attached to the hotel, so we went down to Hambar for expensive wine and charcuteries. The restaurant was much smaller than I expected and was rather loud, so talking to each other was harder than I like in a restaurant. But the meats were good, and it’s something that I wouldn’t have tried normally, so in the end, I call it a success.
With the sun still up and no immediate plans, we headed out to wander the streets. My friend wanted to find somewhere to buy a bottle of wine, so we went on an adventure. We found ourselves just outside of the Notre-Dame Basilica, which looked especially nice in the dusky evening. The Place d’Armes square is located right next to it and has some amazing statues, which I completely forgot to take photos of, but it’s easy enough to Google them.
After we found the SAQ (Quebecois liquor store), we needed to find a bank, so our adventure through dusky Montreal continued. We saw a statue with a GIANT Canadiens jersey, but very few people as everyone was still at home or in a bar watching the game. Through many back streets and up a few hills, we finally found our way to the bank, only to realize we had our phones had made the walk far more “scenic” than it needed to be because our hotel was just a quick walk down the street.
Foot sore and ready for bed, we made our way back to the hotel, drank some wine, and were just settling in when the charcuterie plate suddenly didn’t seem like enough for dinner. Luckily we had spotted a Five Guys just down the street from us, so we threw on some clothes and made a quick trip to grab some poutine before bed.
Come back tomorrow to learn about Day 2 – The Montreal Brewpub Experience (with WAY more pictures)