We arrived in Montreal at about 1:00 in the afternoon and by dinner time we were thoroughly charmed and already labeling it a place we could happily live. We rented a little studio apartment on the plateau, which turned out to be a fantastic location (mostly by sheer luck, since availability was limited for vacation rentals when we went to book it) allowing us to walk basically everywhere we wanted to go.
On our first full day there, we visited Old Montreal, which really feels more like Europe than Canada with cobblestone streets, quaint squares and alleyways, and tons of cool old stone buildings.
While having a drink on a restaurant terrace at Place Jaques-Cartier we even saw a crew setting up a prank for Just For Laughs Gags. We waited around in hopes of seeing the gag in action, but it seemed to be taking a while, so we gave up and moved on.
Basically, we spent most of our time wandering around different neighbourhoods and soaking up the atmosphere, while at the same time discovering how incredibly fashionable just about everyone in the city is and thinking that our clothes alone flagged us as tourists.
One morning we walked up Mont-Royal and got a view over the city from the Chateau Montreal. Our calves hated us for it the next day, since this was the first real incline we’d walked up since Banff National Park (damned prairies and their lack of any variation in topography!).
And, of course, our visit would not be complete without sampling the holy trinity of Montreal food: bagels, smoked meat sandwiches, and poutine (for the non-Canadians reading this: poutine is a French-Canadian dish that consists of french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. It’s either amazingly disgusting or disgustingly amazing, depending on who you ask).
I have to say, I was actually a little disappointed with how little I got to practice my French in Montreal. Interactions would often start in French, but people would quickly realize that their English was better than my French and switch. With more than 12 years having passed since the last time I was in a Francophone community, I’m pretty rusty to say the least, but I think I did OK with the little French I did speak and the rest of Québec will give me some time to practice.
When we left Montreal we were good and ready for a little quiet time outside of a big city. Montreal is actually very calm and quiet for a city its size, but after being in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal in the span of just over a month, a little solitude was just what we needed.
From Montreal we went north into the Laurentians, a mountain range (well… let’s be honest here, they call them mountains, those of us from the West would call them hills) known for skiing, snowshoeing, etc. in the winter. We went for a little hike (our first successful one since we left Calgary – we’ve tried to go for hikes multiple times, but were always thwarted by weather or, more often, an inability to actually find the hiking area) which was beautiful and refreshing. The leaves are just beginning to change, and you can tell that it’ll be stunning in a few weeks.
We spent that night in a charming little town called Val-David, then moved on the next day because we’d booked a cabin to celebrate our first anniversary. The cabin was amazing. About half an hour outside of Trois-Rivières, it was a cute little log cabin with a lake view and a private hot tub. It was the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary, and we spent a fabulously quiet couple of nights there.