MONTREAL

BACKGROUND

My husband asked me what my plans were for the weekend. Having spent the previous two weekends in other states, I decided to keep my schedule clear. My expectations were Netflix, Chinese food and wine. So he brings up Rhode Island. Block Island to be exact. Not having been to the beach yet this year I figure it’s an excellent idea. Totally unaware of what it’s like to plan a trip for Block Island, we were in for a surprise. It’s NOT that easy. Too complicated for a spontaneous trip. I simply did not have the patience to figure out the ferries, fees, and hotel in such a short amount of time.

After weighing our options we set eyes on Montreal. It would be a straight 5H 45M drive if we left at midnight. It was 10:30pm and we had 1.5 hours to shower and pack. Talk about anxiety. I’m a planner. If you’ve read my other blog posts, then you also know I do extensive research. I like to use up every minute I have while I’m in a new place. And I like to pack at my leisure, but this wasn’t going to allow for that kind of preparation. Granted I had been to Montreal twice before. But those were my underage years. And traveling with your husband is very different than traveling with your parent.

All packed and showered, we hit the road. We only stopped twice to fill up the gas tank and purchase a pair of Redbulls. Once when we first left and once around 3:30am at a Sunoco. The bathrooms were clean FYI. As you can see below it was dark. And yes, that’s a nasty bug splat on the windshield.

After what felt like a very short trip (due to the very entertaining conversation) we were at the Canadian border. There were zero lines to cross the border, but we were questioned more rigorously than last month when I went to Niagara. He wanted to know where we were staying (address and all), where we were coming from, what the purpose of our trip was, and what we were going to do until businesses opened at 9am. We answered his questions and were on our way.

Sunrise was a pretty one that morning too.

DAY 1

We parked in the hotel’s parking lot at 6:00am. We both broke night and it was time to sleep. We parked the car in the shade and wrapped up in the blankets. I knocked out until about 9:30am. I 100% flat-ironed my hair in the car in the front seat. Don’t judge me! And Tony woke up around 10:30am as I was finishing.

I was so happy to have stayed at the hotel we picked. They graciously let us check in at 10:30am. Check in wasn’t until 4:00pm! And the hotel is conveniently across the street from the olympic park and the botanical garden.

Once in the room I hopped in the shower while Tony went to the barber shop for a shape-up. After we freshened up, we were both ready to find some food for lunch. 

Tony found this neat little place called Copper Branch. They serve 100% plant-based, gluten-free, all-natural, organic food. So I ordered a dish with quinoa, turmeric tofu scramble, carrots, beets, chick peas, spinach hummus, and I don’t know what else. I was stuffed and I only got the mini. The regular size bowl could easily have fed Tony and I.

After lunch we headed over to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is $24 CAD per adult, which converts to $18.22 USD per adult.

We decided to go straight to the top floor and work our way down. I did not know Thierry Mugler had a temporary exhibit here. How lucky is that?!

The first room was intense for me. I won’t ruin it if you plan on visiting by posting the photos or videos I have of the room. It’s definitely meant to be an experience. Just know that it was dark and I’m a big chicken so I hate the dark. Otherwise, the exhibit was amazing. So much talent! And obviously I knew who he was because my fave Cardi B wore one of his archived pieces to the Grammy’s. Cute video on Vogue’s page about that process here.

The rest of the museum was pleasant. We saw a couple of Monet’s and some more contemporary pieces. One that stood out to me was Speaking for the Light by James Turrell. I had seen one of his installations in Seattle in March at the Henry Art Gallery. This piece made a beam of light look tangible. Like I could go into that room and touch that green shape. Total mind fuck.

Not far from the museum you have Mont Royal. This park has plenty of hiking, running, biking space and viewpoints. Not having planned to do any of those activities we found the highest viewpoint we could drive to for vistas. Low effort+high reward = crowds. It took us quite a bit of time to reach the parking lot at Belvédère Camillien-Houde. After all it was Saturday and they had only one lane operating due to construction. When we finally got to the lot we were lucky to find parking right away.

You can see the city from the lot. But if you’re willing to do some cardio you can enjoy other vantage points without the crowds. Seemed like most people didn’t want to break a sweat that day. We climbed these stairs and veered left at the fork. And it didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to get there.

Old Montreal was next on the list. Parking was a real pain to find so we gave up after about 30 minutes of looking and parked at the lot on Clock Tower Quay Street. It cost $25 CAD and was for 24 hours. We walked south past zip lines, bars, restaurants, paddle boats, etc. There’s a little something for everyone in the port area and it’s family friendly. The cobblestone streets and shops are at the turn of every corner. Some were under construction, but nothing that derailed the experience. The nice weather also made it enjoyable. We found plenty of outdoor seating and beer gardens. My favorite being the Hoegaarden tent obviously. Below you’ll find a slideshow of a few pictures captured there.

Running on approximately 3 hours of sleep it was time to head back to the hotel. No amount of Redbull or coffee was going to keep me awake! I read somewhere that people don’t go out on the town until late anyways. I napped for a little more than an hour. I woke up just before 11pm and we were at our first bar by midnight.

We decided on the neighborhood of Hochelaga. Our first stop was Blockhaus. It was such an unassuming spot. From street level all you see is a bouncer and a doorway leading to some stairs. Once inside there was a full bar and plenty of dancing patrons. I don’t think it’s necessary to state this, but for anyone who wants to know: it’s a gay bar. And it has gender neutral bathrooms. More importantly, it has a pool table good music and drinks. That’s all we could have asked for 🙂

Our second stop for the night was Bar Davidson. This bar had slot machines and a pool table. Hip hop going back to the 90s was blaring out the doorway. We let nostalgia kick in and had ourselves a good dance off.

I know we went to a third location on this road, but honestly I can’t remember the name. All I can say is we had a blast! Good night Hochelaga!

DAY 2

After getting to bed at 3:30am neither of us cared to get up early. So we slept in until 11:00am as check out was 12:00pm. We left the car parked in the hotel lot and walked over to Olympic Park. This stadium is where the 1976 Olympic games were held and its 45 degree slanted tower is a site. The park connects to the Saputo stadium, planetarium and Biodome.

Across the street you’ll find the Botanical garden. Having been to one in California, New York and El Salvador I was excited to see what this one had to offer. My first error was underestimating how large it is. Definitely the largest one I’ve been to thus far. It has large exterior gardens and a very large greenhouse. We spent 2.5 hours walking around the grounds and didn’t even see the whole thing.

I won’t even try to pretend to be horticulturalist. I don’t recall the names of all these flowers or plants or what part of the world they’re from. But these living things exist all over the world. It’s good to think about that for a moment. How lucky are we to live in a time where you can see plants found in other countries? Or found in areas very far from home? All in one dedicated space!

This botanical garden is definitely one I would want to visit again. There’s just so much to see I’m sure I missed some gems. Also it’s not a bad way to get your steps in for the day. I walked over 10K in this garden alone lol. For those concerned about the walk, there is a trolley dedicated to the elderly and disabled.

Having burned plenty of calories it was time for food! Le Blind Pig was our next and final stop in Montreal. Beers were $3 CAD and the food was good. Tony had been talking about eating poutine the whole drive up and was finally getting it. His was served with shredded chicken and peas.

With outdoor seating on a summer day I had plenty to be happy about. People watching wasn’t crazy busy but enough to be entertaining. Some passer-by’s were coming back from grocery trips while others seemed to be rolling out of bed. There were a few runners and music coming from apartments on the second floors. Some businesses were still in the process of opening up shop.

And then it was time to go home 😦

We left Montreal at 5:30pm and there were 4 other cars at the border. The crossing was smooth and we were asked one question. We stopped for food around 9:30pm and were home by 12:30am.

The drive home always seem so dreadful. The idea of having to go to work the next day after enjoying a weekend in another country just doesn’t sit right with my soul. So as I write this I’m getting up to ask my husband where we’ll be going this weekend lol.

I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.

Walt Whitman
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