Montreal – Dos and Don’ts

As a late birthday treat I drove up to Montreal with my sister and brother in law. I’ve been to Canada a few times and have visited two biggies Toronto and Ottawa but never had I been to the french district/area/part/palace/place/mountains/blah.

I guess first of all (if you’re close to the border) make the drive! I feel like nowadays people think the only way to get around is flying but although I do love airports and being on a plane – there is something magical about driving or train(ing). If it is within a decent distance I’d recommend driving to Montreal as the shock of everything around you turning first Canadian and then French is quite bizarre. One minute we were driving amongst these beautiful green mountains and the next we crossed the border and there were farms and little shacks with french advertisements.

Notre-Dame Basilica is a must see and is located in Old Montreal. From the outside it appears to be your average gothic church with a pretty outdoor square (complete with statues of Montreal’s elite and mighty and horse-drawn carriages). However it’s the inside that blew my mind and I’m sure will amaze yours. My photos do not do it justice but the interior is very grand and full of colour. There are purples, greens, blues, golds and silvers that overflow the walls all the way up to the ceiling and around the main altar and organs. They portray different patterns from lines to stars and more intricate pieces. It’s one of the most magnificent churches I’ve been in and it truly felt like I was walking into art. It has an almost gypsy and bohemian decor feel to it which I loved. Go check it out and let me know what you think/if you can put the experience into words better haha.

Of course we stopped off at Timmy’s and devoured the delicious ice caps. Incase you don’t know Tim Hortons is essentially the coffee chain of Canada. They’re known for their timbits which are doughnut holes and also their ice caps aka iced coffee goodness.
Whilst I’m talking about food I guess I should mention poutine. Its a common Canadian dish that consists of fries, gravy and cheese curds. There are hundreds upon hundreds of variants to the dish and most places serve it so you really have no excuse not to try it. I don’t recall the diner we ended up getting it from but I don’t think you can really go wrong wherever you choose to go!

If you want to get outside and either go on a nice walk, bike ride or look over all of Montreal then head to Mont Royal. It’s basically a giant, grassy hill in the city haha. We took the metro (which is very easy to use and cheap) and then walked up Royal Street (which is full of cute shops, restaurants etc.) to the edge of the park. You can take a bus to the top of the hill but we opted to wiggle our way through the different paths and get up there. There is a risk of getting lost haha and there are a lot of stairs/tight hill paths but it’s definitely worth it! At the top there’s an indoor space with drinks and toilets and then the overlook is very nice and you can see most of Montreal. Another highlight up there would be the Cross that sits atop the mountain. From our hotel room we could see it lit up at night so to actually stand underneath it was awesome. I’m not sure of the significance but I guess that’s what Google is for!

We also happened to be there during a comedy festival called Just for Laughs. Unfortunately all the performers were speaking french but we did get to explore the ‘campsite’. There were a ton of food trucks, random performers and rides. It reinstated my initial thoughts that Montreal is a really hip and upcoming city. The fact they’re hosting such awesome events and have such bustling neighbourhoods (you’ll see more on my next post), it’s without a doubt a place to visit and explore.
I guess I should include some don’ts or ‘cautions’. First is the Old Port and t’s a really nice walk along the river but make sure you go to the right part as I honestly think we went the wrong direction and ended up by some abandoned factories haha. Another place to check the location of before you go is the RESO aka Underground City. It’s a bunch of shops and restaurants that are underground and co-sync with the metro. We spent hours trying to find it only to be told we were looking in the wrong place so if in doubt ask! Lastly would be milk in a bag as it’s just weird right?

(Little side note – if you do drive from New England to Montreal then you can probably go past the Ben and Jerries factory. We did and it was actually a little disappointing but maybe you’ll find it more interesting?). I was just expecting the tour to be more exciting and the sampling room to have every single flavour imaginable but nope just cookies and cream.

There will be a part two up next week which features a food tour we went on! Lots of food porn photos coming up!

Discussion

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