Part II of guest blogger Liz’s trek into Montreal with her girlfriends. Check out her travel blog at http://www.travelogged.com
We checked into the Hilton Doubletree and then went off to explore the city on foot, even though we were freezing. It may been October 2nd, but it felt like January 2nd. I don’t know what the actual temperature was, all I know is that I never felt warm the whole time I was there.
First we walked down the famous Rue St. Denis, which reminded me of the East Village. It was colorful and charming, but I wouldn’t call it bustling. Apparently the locals thought it was pretty cold too.
We kept going straight down to Old Montreal. (We did a ton of walking on our trip because we all like to walk.) This historic section was very pretty, lots of stone buildings. It definitely felt very old and we had a late lunch at the funky and well-known Olive et Gourmando (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/67/722050/restaurant/Montreal/Old-Montr-al/Olive-Et-Gourmando-Montreal). There were a few people in there, but the streets outside were completely deserted. The time to enjoy Old Montreal is definitely late spring/summer/early fall, when there’s an abundance of open-air cafes.
We finished off our long walking tour by heading up the hill to the famous McGill University, which I’d always wanted to see. The buildings were beautiful, but I was surprised by how small the campus was and how it was really right in the middle of the city. That said, the college kids must have a blast being surrounded by Montreal.
That evening, we went to the Botanical Garden to see The Magic of the Lanterns. When we got there it was fairly crowded – so that’s where everyone was! Every fall, the botanical garden hosts an exhibit of silk lanterns handmade in China. This year the theme was the circus, and it was incredible. Then we had a late dinner at a terrific Persian restaurant called Byblos – it was a limited menu but it’s excellent. Montreal has a lot of multicultural options, as you can see.
The next morning we had a delicious breakfast of crepes at Chez Jose, a funky little place in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood. It was my favorite meal of the whole trip. Much of Montreal has a bohemian feel, and this captured it perfectly. Then we took the metro to the famous Jean Talon open-air market. It was huge – if only NYC had something like that!
The market is on the edge of town (in the Little Italy section) so after walking around and sampling, we headed back into the center with hopes of touring the famous underground city. Well, we never found it! We kept trying to follow the map that would lead us to the network of tunnels that were developed so people could avoid the cold, but alas, it all seemed to lead to dead ends.
We walked around some more – above ground – and enjoyed the different kinds of architecture. Eventually, all of our walking led us to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.mmfa.qc.ca/en/index.html). I especially enjoyed their collection of Canadian art. It gave me a better grasp of their history.
By the time night came, we were pretty tired after our action-packed day. After much deliberation, we settled on a very cool resto-bar called Helm Brasseur Gourmand (http://www.helm-mtl.ca/index.html) that served Quebecois food in Mile End. We hung out there for a while and then called it a night as we had a big day of driving ahead of us the next day. It was wonderful trip – Montreal is the perfect weekend getaway. But if at all possible, go during the summer.