I can remember it like it was yesterday, when P and I first met. It was a classy encounter… on the dance floor… of a reputably trashy Boston club / lounge in the Theater District… while one or both of us may or may not have been just a tiny bit inebriated. Today marks our one year wedding anniversary, and I couldn’t feel more blessed! For what many considered a romantic love story, I was always reluctant to share the story of how P and I met because let’s be real… meeting at club while intoxicated is not romantic… at all. In fact, I was terribly embarrassed. But, it is what it is…
To celebrate our one year of being married, P and I decided to head north to Montreal for the weekend. I had never been to Canada before, and we’ve had so many friends tell us what a unique city it is. So, we packed up our car and drove the five hours up to Montreal.
48 hours was definitely not enough time to explore everything that Montreal had to offer, but P and I tried to make the most of it with what little time we had (darn work…).
Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, second to Paris. The biggest difference between the two cities is that almost everyone in Montreal also speaks English. Everything written in French was also written in English. Sure made getting around in a car a lot easier… Montreal is also a popular international gastronomic destination with a diverse selection of foods. So while in Montreal, P and I practiced our “Frenglish” and noshed on a variety of delectable grub, from the city’s ever so famous bagels to a more unique delicacy, Duck in a Can.
With the sun setting and both of us a little bit tired from the drive, we decided to stay close to the hotel and wander around Old Montreal. The neighborhood was quaint, but also very touristy. I didn’t really mind it because it reminded me a little bit of the many villages we visited in France.
We had an early dinner at Jardin Nelson, a neat find during my Montreal trip planning. I wouldn’t give it five stars for the food because the food was really just mediocre. But, the atmosphere more than made up for it. The restaurant had an outdoor tented seating area with a stone wall facade lined with flowers and planters. I felt like I was eating in a secret garden… well, with 50 other people. The numerous heat lamps kept the area cozy, and the best part was the four piece jazz band on an elevated platform jamming to Sinatra classics. It was all very special and a must when visiting Montreal!
Old Montreal at night was quite the beauty:
For our only full day in Montreal, it was pouring rain for most of the afternoon. We took advantage of the dry morning and headed to Mile End for some of the city’s famous bagels. The two best bagel shops, Fairmount Bagel and Saint Viateur Bagel, are within a few blocks of each other. So, P and I wandered the neighborhood and got bagels from the first shop we ran into, which for us was Saint Viateur. I’m generally not a huge fan of bagels, but these Montreal bagels are amazing! They are boiled and then baked in a wood-fire oven to get that crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside texture. They went deliciously with the smoked salmon spread that we purchased with the bagels. Try the sesame or poppy seed bagels! They were our favorites. We loved these bagels so much that we ended picking up half a dozen before we headed home. They were that good…
If you want coffee with your bagels, definitely check out Cafe Olympico, just 2 blocks away from St. Viateur Bagels. The cafe was highly recommended by the girl at the bagel shop register and is popular among locals. There were plenty of tables and chairs and big screen televisions showing different soccer games around the world. Students were sipping their lattes and reading the paper or on their laptops. Everyone knew one another. The atmosphere was so welcoming and the coffee is wonderful. There is usually a line, but the coffee is worth the wait. The cafe uses the traditional espresso machines to make the beverages and the staff are pretty efficient in quickly serving each customer.
After our bagel and coffee breakfast, we strolled south into the Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. The houses and apartments were so unique with its spiraling staircases. We enjoyed the neighborhood park as long as we could before it started raining.
With the rain coming down harder and harder, we scurried back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. We stayed in Old Montreal at the InterContinental (We got a corner king suite on the 20th floor for a steal on Expedia and got free wi-fi for our entire stay and a late 2 p.m. check out when we signed up for their rewards club. I love me a good deal!). Despite being in a new city and having the urge to explore, it was also easy to enjoy our awesome hotel room, and we took a dip in the hotel’s indoor pool. We attempted to swim off our bagel bellies, but the pool was really only wide enough for one person… So, we laid out on the pool deck chairs while watching the rain pour down on the ceiling windows.
To celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, we had dinner at Au Pied de Couchon in the Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. When we arrived at the restaurant, people were crowding the doorways hoping to get a table without a reservation. Rumors were that even if you had a reservation, good luck getting seated at your reservation time. After I had checked in with the hostess and had chatted briefly with a couple from Toronto, P and I were seated, with no fuss or drama. It seemed that other patrons were not so lucky.
The menu was filled with all things foie gras. This restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise. Vegetarians are not welcomed here because there is literally one dish, a beet salad, on the menu that didn’t incorporate some part of an animal. The menu entailed dishes such as duck carpaccio and a Flinstone looking bison rib. Fancy an entire pig’s head to share? Well, they’ve got it.
P and I ordered everything the waiter recommended and enjoyed each and every one of the savory dishes. Cromesquis de foie gras (delectable fried foie gras balls, my favorite). Poutine au foie gras (a Montreal dish of french fries, gravy, cheese curds, and of course, foie gras). The melting pot (different pig parts in a pot over cheesy mashed potatoes). Finally, Duck in a Can (duck breast, foie gras, with balsamic demi glaze, garlic, and thyme in a can over french bread, mashed potatoes, and pickled cabbage). We finished off with a pecan pie… stuffed. So stuffed that we skipped the dancing that we had initially planned altogether and slowly rolled our way back to the hotel. Au Pied de Couchon is probably the most unique and delicious dining experience I’ve had in awhile. Since P and I both love trying new foods, it was a perfect one year wedding anniversary celebratory meal.
With the weather being amazing the next day, P and I tried to fit in the things we didn’t get a chance to do the day before, like riding a bike along the Lachine canal. We rented BIXI bikes (Montreal’s shared bike system) and biked along the canal to the Atwater Market. The bike ride was relatively flat and the views were so different from any other city. The surroundings were industrial, yet filled with plenty of green. The graffitied concrete buildings seemed to be purposely incorporated into the canal scenery. We rode along the canal to the popular Atwater Market.
Atwater Market is one of Montreal’s public markets. Fruits and veggies. Cheese and meats. Homemade jams and maple products. You can find it all here.
There’s also a small outdoor food court with a fantastic selection of international cuisine. We settled for Satay Brothers for some Asian fusion where we chowed down on Laksa lemak (coconut curry soup with quail egg, bean sprouts, noodles, shrimp, and french bread) and some pork buns, both of which hit the spot after our bike ride.
Then it was time to head home… I always hate this part of going on a trip. At least we were welcomed back stateside with a glorious sunset in Vermont…
Happy one year wedding anniversary! Love you 10,000 times around the sun!
Here’s a glimpse of our Montreal trip in a video here.