What did you ask Santa for this Christmas? I asked for a trip to Montreal and since I was a good boy this year, Santa obliged. Lucky me!
I’m not much of a patriot and Europe has always seemed a better fit for me. The architecture, the food, the culture. I can’t get enough of it. However, the price tag on a trip to Europe is a bit too much for me. Montreal is the closest I can get, so I decided to go for just three nights.
The first night was a bit of a throwaway. After a long bus ride, all I wanted was a long rest. But before that I trudged through the snow to La Banquise for some poutine. The walk was terrible, but the poutine was worth it. Also, I’m an idiot and could’ve taken any method of transportation. Regardless, there were several styles of poutine to choose from and incredibly friendly wait staff, which is surprising for a restaurant that’s open 24/7. I expected more tired eyes and empty voices, but spirits were high and the smiles were wide. So if you’re in Montreal, make sure to stop there at any hour of the day or night.
The next day, I set out, on foot once again, to see Old Montreal and the Contemporary Art Museum. Contemporary art is weird, but even the most conservative among us can find artwork we admire. I’ll show you some photos, but the exhibits are bound to change by the time you get there.
Old Montreal, however, will not change. The neighborhood prides itself on its past. St. Paul Street is especially nice. It has the warm architecture and skinny cobblestone roads of Europe with a myriad of quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants you might expect to find in France. Whether you have a specific place in mind that you want to visit in Old Montreal, the neighborhood is still worth walking around.
I ended the day with dinner at O Noir. As the name might suggest, I ate in complete darkness. Not only this, but the waiters were blind. It was a phenomenal experience; as difficult as it was enjoyable. Without your sense of sight, you cherish every bite.
The next morning took me to the Montreal Fine Arts Museum. If you don’t like contemporary art, the Fine Arts Museum is a better choice. You have popular artwork from Monet, Bruegel, Picasso, Rembrandt, and so on. The main exhibit when I visited was Robert Mapplethorpe. I’d show you photos, but his art mainly concerned homoerotic themes. They’re powerful photos, but I’ll let you Google them on your own. Here are some other photos instead.
After my time at the museum, I headed to Mont Royal Park. The mountain from which Montreal gets its name is a beauty. During the winter, you can crosscountry ski to the top, but if that’s not for you, you’ll have to climb the stairs. Get ready for a workout. It’s all worth it, though. The view is astounding.
All that walking got me hungry, so I descended the mountain and made my way to Schwartz’s Deli. If you don’t know what to get, ask for a medium smoked meat sandwich. Medium doesn’t denote size, but how lean your meat is. Trust me, you want a little fat on it. It’ll melt in your mouth. But be careful. It’s hard to bite off a small piece of the sandwich because the rye bread can be a little stubborn. You’ll eat the whole sandwich in a matter of minutes and then you’ll sit there crying with mustard and grease on your fingers, wishing you took your time. That was my experience anyways. Schwartz’s sandwiches are as good a reason as any to convert to Judaism.
By the time I got back to my hostel, I was hungry again so I headed out to Yokato Yokabai Ramen House. I’m a ramen fiend, and tonkotsu, my favorite ramen broth, is Yokato Yokabai’s specialty. You could also get a miso broth if you wanted, but why would you do that? Exactly. You know, when people eat ramen, they often complain about how salty it is, wish there was another egg, or wish there wasn’t any seaweed. You can control all of that on your menu. All you have to do is write in your level of saltiness and your amounts of seaweed, egg, and so on. Soon enough, you get a personalized bowl of rich, heavenly ramen. You might have to wait outside for a little bit, but the food is worth the wait.
On my final day, I only wanted to relax with a cup of coffee and a tasty pastry. There’s no better place to do it than Maison Christian Faure. Located in Old Montreal, this patisserie is led by a French-trained professional who is an absolute wizard with his pastries. You can get brunch if you like, but I recommend asking for a pastry. They’ll bring out a plate of what looks more like artwork than food, and then they ask you to make a choice. It’s absolutely impossible. So if you pick more than one, who can blame you? I picked two. They’re not exactly cheap, but go ahead and live a little. You won’t regret it.