Ahhhh, Montreal. The universe’s answer for when you want to go to Europe, but not leave the North American continent. I visited Montreal already a year ago this last September with a best girlfriend of mine. It was a “girls’ weekend” I will never forget and a memory I will hold near and dear forever. I truly believe this trip to Montreal is what catapulted my life into change – change that ultimately culminated with me packing up my life in NYC and moving to the West Coast. It’s always funny when you start to look back and seeing how the puzzle pieces all came together.
Anyway – this post isn’t meant to focus on me, it’s meant to focus on the stunning city of Montreal. We crammed just about EVERYTHING we could in the short 3 days we spent here, and here are the experiences that made my Top 5. Ready to dive in?
1. Marché Jean-Talon
Stand back Whole Foods – you ain’t shit compared to Jean-Talon Market. Jean-Talon is one of Montreal’s many Farmer’s Markets. Only, it’s like the damn Disney-land of farmer’s markets. The open air market is the biggest I have personally visited, and the locally sourced veggies, fruits, meats, and cheeses were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
We stopped in, expecting just to browse, but we ended up leaving with plenty of groceries to see us through the weekend as well, as plenty of snacks for the train ride back to NYC.
While this next photo primarily focuses on the GORGEOUS blueberries (#nofilter) – check out the little biddies in the upper right corner. Those beauties are called physalis – otherwise known as “ground cherries.” Visiting Jean-Talon Market was the first I had ever encountered such a thing. I really consider them to be nature’s candy – they even come contained in their own individual wrappers. Hard to describe the taste – subtle and sweet, but absolutely delicious. I confess, I bought a small basket and ate the whole thing before our feet touched down back in NYC.
2. Fairmount Bagels
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. This former New Yorker is indeed featuring another city’s bagels on this blog. Sorry, not sorry.
You see, Montreal approaches their bagels a little differently than us in the US. They actually boil these little biddies in honey water. The result is a beautifully crispy exterior, soft and gooey interior, with just a touch of sweet to your otherwise savory bagel.
There are two bagel places often debated as the best bagel in Montreal. We tried both Fairmount and St-Viateur’s and I’ve got to say…Fairmont won my vote. My best advice when trying Fairmount – order whichever flavor JUST came out fresh. Luck of the draw served us sesame bagels – and they were absolute heaven. Still warm and smelling of all things amazing.
3. Mount Royal
Yup, as always, the standard “where I hiked” of every travel list.
Where NYC has Central Park, Montreal has Mount Royal. It’s the biggest, main park of the city and it’s full of dense trees to quickly get lost in. Dare to climb to the top for a spectacular view of the city.
Remembering this adventure, this was at the start of my finding a hike on every trip. I admit…I did not plan accordingly. Not that it is a tough, long, or strenuous hike, but you can definitely plan to wear smarter shoes than I did. At the time, I foolishly thought it more important to embrace the Fall season and wear brand new boots on the trip. Between this hike and all the additional walking we did around the city those three days…my feet were broken, battered, and bruised.
Warning: A pretty gross foot photo to follow…
Be better than me and wear some clothes/shoes that you can get down and dirty in 😉
4. Notre-Dame Basilica
Looking back, I’m pretty sure seeing photos of Notre Dame Basilica is what inspired me to plan a trip to Montreal. I couldn’t believe that a man-built place so beautiful in photos could actually exist in real life.
I was partially right…because photos cannot do it justice.
Photos could not hope to capture the atmosphere, the smells, and all the intricate detailing around the massive basilica. I’ve never considered myself particularly religious, but stepping into a space like this always causes me to take pause. Despite attracting plenty of attention from tourist, the space maintains it’s respectful house of worship. Watching individuals quietly pray and go through their routine of lighting candles actually made me weep. You could sense their willingness to open themselves up to their devotion and belief. To witness such a practice was incredibly striking and affected me greatly.
5. Dragon Flowers
When exploring the many neighborhoods of Montreal – be sure to pop over to Dragon Flowers in The Mile End.
Such an odd little request, I know, but trust me – you’ll thank me for it. Such a treat for the eyes – Dragon Flowers decorates their shop with an elaborate series of bird houses that is fun, quirky, beautiful and enticing.
Directly next door to Dragon Flowers is a charming, children’s book shop. I absolutely adored pining over a few of the French picture books. My personal favorite at the time was “Ada – La Grincheuse en Tutu” – which translates to “The Grumpy Tutu.” Truly, I feel Ada is a spirit animal of mine.
Bonus: Le Robin Square
Last but not least – please, Please, PLEASE find your way to dine at Le Robin Square during your time in Montreal. Located around the corner from Notre Dame Basilica, the restaurant is amazingly convenient, and one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. No – truly. This meal was so impossibly good – I cried. I’m not even kidding you. I literally shed tears between bites. Beyond the impeccably delicious food, the ambience is charming, the wine, a perfect pair, and I admit I had some of the best company a girl could ever ask for sitting at my table.