I arrived in Montreal with high expectations. I had asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends what to do in the city, and the answer was unanimous: poutine, strippers, and partying.
But we stepped off the train and into rain and drizzle. Our view of Mont Royal from our Omni Hotel was entirely masked by fog, and when we went out to find breakfast with our buddy Kendra, the restaurant she suggested had an hour line-up…outside. I was beginning to think I had gotten my hopes up, even if I had never heard anyone say anything bad about Montreal. Ever.
Fortunately, Kendra proved to be an excellent guide and we ended up in the Old Town, spying on weddings being photographed in front of the Notre Dame and wandering through tiny alleyways where artists had set up shop. And by the time the sun came out to play and we found ourselves drinking sangria on a terrace overlooking a square where buskers performed for hundreds of people, I had fallen helplessly, hopelessly in love with Montreal.
I am not a big city girl. St. Johnâ€™s suits me well, and despite having a fantastic time in Toronto last night, we drove away on the busy 400 towards Sault Ste Marie with me thinking, â€œI canâ€™t understand how anyone lives here with all this chaos.â€ But even with 1.5 million people, Montreal didnâ€™t intimidate me in the slightest. The Metro (â€˜Tro) is fantastically easy to figure out, speaking French wasnâ€™t an issue, and everyone was gushingly nice. Gushingly. Plus for its size, Montreal is surprisingly affordable.
Cheri Lucas summed it up perfectly during a brief Twitter chat: St Laurent craziness, parties spilling out onto the street, hot men/women everywhere.
Saturday evening, Cailin, Kendra and I went out for a night on the town. We started in the touristy area of Crescent Street, eating appetizers and drinking beers on the deck of Sir Winston Churchill. We witnessed the table next to us get kicked out of the bar, a brief cab collision in the street below us, and fire trucks cruising by filled with handsome men apparently just surveying the scene in plainclothes. (We witnessed this a lot, actually. Whatâ€™s up with that?)
Then Kendra took us to where more of the locals hang out: the area of St. Laurent, and a bar named Biftech, where the three of us had the luck of sitting down next to three incredibly HGs. (Our friend had been referring to “hot guys” as “HGs” since we got there, so we stuck with it.) We made new friends, drank some beers, and headed on over to Tokyoâ€™s rooftop deck. Then we partied until the wee hours of the morning…hence the previous sleepwalking post.
By the time we boarded our train to Ottawa, I was plotting ways to live in Montreal short-term within the next year. Cailin and I talked about how we have only seen a small percentage of the country so far during our trip, but each city and town we visit has a distinctly different feel than the previous one. Montreal is young, busy, filled with party people; Ottawa is clean, beautiful and family oriented. Toronto has the â€œcentre of Canadaâ€ thing going on, an air of self-importance which is pretty warranted, I think.
We didnâ€™t spend all our time peering down the neck of a beer bottle, either. We visited the Biodome, checked out some shops and walked everywhere we possibly could. Sunday afternoon, we watched the Tam Tams performing at Mont Royalâ€”an organization of hippies of free spirits all gathering in one spot to smoke pot and participate in one hell of a jam session. There were some seriously freaky-deaky people there.
Okay, so maybe we spent most of our time peering down the neck of a beer bottle. But itâ€™s research.
So who wants to make Montreal their temporary home with me?