Expats · Toronto

Weekend Getaways: Montreal

Last weekend consisted of a slightly longer weekend away to the French speaking province of Canada – Quebec, and specifically Montreal.

We flew from Billy Bishop airport Thursday after work. Even though the weather was pretty stormy when we left, the city airport didn’t disappoint with spectacular views over the Toronto skyline on take-off (even more special at night in my opinion). I was overall very impressed with the ease of the journey and Porter airlines – free tea, coffee and snacks in the airport lounge and free wine, beer and snacks on the flight!

Day one involved exploring Montreal’s old town. I loved the smaller, cobbled streets – something you don’t find in Toronto. Montreal generally feels much more European – probably partially because everything is in French.

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Montreal Old Town

We stopped for lunch in a beautiful restaurant just off what I believe is a market square in old town. There was a jazz band playing as we ate and we ended up spending hours just sitting and relaxing. Realising all of a sudden it was nearly 4pm we rushed to Pointe-à-Callière Museum and fitted in an hour of learning about the history of Montreal before the museum closed.

We then rather ambitiously headed to Mont Royal, but half way up realised the short-cut steps to the top were closed for maintenance and there was no way we could make it to the top via the longer route before dark.

Day two therefore consisted of a re-visit to Mount Royal, which was much more successful than the previous evening. The top of the hill offers stunning views over Montreal and the trees were just starting to turn for autumn – my favourite season.

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Clambering back down, we felt we had earnt some lunch, so walked to the famous poutine hotspot ‘La Banquise’. I am still yet to really understand the poutine craze here (to me it’s just chips and gravy!) but seeing as we were in Quebec I felt it was somewhere we had to visit. The menu was huge (and the portions too) – who knew you could eat so many different combinations with chips, gravy and cheese curdles.

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Poutine!

We’d been hoping to visit the botanical gardens the same day, and even though time was pushing on a bit, we decided to hop on the subway and make the journey. I’m so glad we did as this was a personal highlight of the trip. The gardens were huge, and we spent hours wandering around. The best part however was once night fell – we had unexpectedly stumbled across a wonderful light show held in the Chinese and Japanese gardens.

On our last day in Montreal, we were out of luck with weather and it was raining and gloomy. Instead of walking around town again and risking getting soggy, we had a delicious brunch close to our apartment (Montreal does some extremely tasty food), and then got the subway to the Olympic Park.

It’s been 30 years since the Olympics were in Montreal, and now one of the stadiums has been turned into a biodome. This is kind of like an indoor zoo, with lots of birds flying around.

Following that we took a trip up the viewing tower, but unfortunately it was a bit too cloudy to see all too much at the top. The journey up the lift was good fun though!

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It was really nice to be able to get out of Toronto for a few days, and it has definitely inspired me to plan more trips. We are off to Collingwood tomorrow for the long thanksgiving weekend, so hopefully I can write about that next week!

And to any Canadians reading this, Happy Thanksgiving!

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