Adventures in Montreal: Part Deux

E and me getting ready to party!

If there is one important fact you must know before you visit Montreal, it is this: it is a party town! These people have a party ethic like none I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, I wasn’t at Sodom or Gomorra, but I imagine it’s similar. After 4 straight nights of partying like rock stars, a day of sight-seeing, and two days of travel home (we had to stop over in CT to pick up the baby), I am pooped!

But let me back up and recap some of the highlights of the trip…

Food

Montreal, like New York, has a ton to offer in the food department. And it just so happened that my picky, non-adventurous hubby all of a sudden decided that his palate was ready to try all kinds of new things. The best meal we had was at this amazing restaurant in Old Montreal called Bar & Boeuf, but since we recently started eating fish, we decided to call it Bar & Boeuf & Pesche. And that’s what we had that night – the most amazing halibut dish with spatzle and some other stuff that I was too drunk to remember.

What the pho?!?! 😉

We also ventured into Chinatown and had Pho (pronounced FUH, contrary to popular belief) for the first time! But it will certainly not be the last, and now we’re preaching of its goodness to all who will listen. So light and yummy, it’s practically the perfect food!

Our final night in Montreal, we strolled through the streets, debating what to eat, when the Portuguese waiter at the Portuguese restaurant started talking our ears off. We decided we might as well eat while he chatted us up. It had been almost 12 years since I had eaten Portuguese food, and it was just as good as I remembered. Wood-fired chicken with rice and french fries, followed by my all-time favorite dessert, uma nata. Natas are little custard cups – almost like having a creme brulee inside of a croissant. You really couldn’t dream up a more perfect dessert, in my humble opinion.

Savoring the carrot cupcake…mmmm...

We also went back to that adorable cupcake shop and scooped it for the NYCupcake Guide. True to the name, the cupcakes were “d’liche.” Plus we got to hang out with the owners and “talk shop.”

Culture

I’m sure many of the things I’m about to talk about are also part of our culture here in NYC, but for some reason, it just felt different in Montreal. With their influences coming from American, French and Canadian cultures, they simply have the coolest melting pot of…stuff!

Sunday was the day we really got to wander around, and our wandering took us to Park du Montreal where we heard there would be a famous drum circle on Sunday afternoon. Indeed there was…and it was pretty great. At least 20 drummers gathered in a semi-circle near the giant monument, banging out primal rhythms for a large crowd. Women and children danced in the middle and an old lady in red clicked her castanets like there was no tomorrow. It was an “anything goes” feeling – so free, so fun!

We decided to walk further into the park where we found hiking trails (which I scaled like a spider monkey) and then…we found them. LARPers. That’s right, people, real life Live Action Role Players. With costumes, swords, shields, armor…they were gearing up for what we assume was going to be some kind of battle later in the afternoon. When we found them, they were divided into their camps, scattered about the lawn, some sparring for practice, some napping on their shields, resting for the battle that was to come. I had only heard tell of these people, and occasionally seen them in movies, but seeing them in the flesh was quite a treat.

As our walk through Montreal continued, we enjoyed a New Orlean’s-style jazz band playing on the street while we had lunch, an entire block cordoned off for performance art, unique shops and, of course, Montreal’s famous graffiti’d buildings!

Throw in all that good food and you have the recipe for a fantastic work/play vacation! I hope you’ve enjoyed my Adventures in Montreal. I put together a super short video of some clips I took of the trip – it starts with the big, blow-out party of the week (that’s an office, people!!!), drum circle, LARPers, Castanet Lady and the jazz band 🙂 Enjoy!

Adventures in Montreal…

Well, we’re finally here, and I’m finally settled enough to sit down and write a blog…for the first time in a couple weeks! Preparing for a trip is a nightmare for me, so most things get put on hold while I contemplate things like packing and travel arrangements.

But now I’m here! And it’s wonderful! The baby is with Grandma and Grandpa, so I’m free to live in my own little (Regency) world for a few days.

Since it was cold and rainy yesterday, I spent most of the day in my hotel room, staring out at the rain while reading Regency Christmas stories for the upcoming Danby Christmas Summons anthologies. To say these stories are putting me in the mood (and by mood I mean Regency mood…get your mind out of the gutter!!) would be an understatement. I’ve felt so whimsical and romantic these last couple days – a feeling I don’t get to feel very often with a 20-month-old underfoot at home.

Last night, I donned my new empire waisted top, (all flowy and chiffon-y, but cut to make “the girls” look like a million bucks) and I couldn’t help but think of myself as a Regency heroine, mingling at the ball, dining with handsome lords, but having eyes for only one, of course 😉 I ate too much and drank just enough to make me say something scandalous. Okay, fine…almost everything out of my mouth was scandalous. I know, I’m such a rebel.

I woke up this morning after a great night’s sleep and decided, since it was a beautiful sunny day, to venture out into Montreal. Now, I’ve been here twice before, but we always stayed in Old Montreal, which I know pretty well. This year, we’re downtown. And I know nothing about downtown. Still, I was pretty confident in my navigational abilities as I set out on my walk.

I crossed the street toward the restaurant we went to last night and kept going, reading menus and window shopping along the way. I came to a cafe, but I wasn’t ready to sit and have another coffee, so I turned right toward what looked like a park. It was! I found the fountain in the middle and nestled onto a bench in the sunshine, opened my iPad and began to read the next story on my list. And that’s when the fun began…

The smoke of a particular herb wafted my way and enveloped me in its skunky goodness. I looked to my left and saw the culprits – two middle-aged men, totally strung out, toting that joint like there was no tomorrow. The older of the two departed for another bench where another middle aged man and a middle aged woman joined in the fun, while the younger man stayed near me. He walked around the fountain, stared into it as if it held all the answers to the meaning of life, took his shirt off, put it back on, took it off again…you get the picture.

And then, just as a gaggle of nursery school children came through the courtyard, tethered to their teachers, the police arrived. They left my weird-o guy alone, but the other three were thoroughly searched, cuffed and carted off. With the police gone and the strung-out guy still hanging around, I decided it was time for me to go.

So I exited the other side of the park and started walking…and walking…and walking…

Until I was certain I had no idea where I was. I didn’t have the convenience of 3G, either, since it would cost me $15/minute on data roaming, so I just had to keep walking.

I passed by some exciting things, like this cupcakery, which NYCupcakeGuide will certainly return to for tasting purposes. And some not-so-exciting things, like construction and slums.

But then, at last, like a shining beacon in the darkness (except it was broad daylight), I saw a map! Just a random map on the edge of the sidewalk with a large red arrow that said “Vous etes ici.” Okay, it didn’t really say that, but I figured that’s what it meant.

After carefully studying it for a few minutes, heading off confidently and then turning back once more to make sure I should be confident in my confidence, I turned left at the next street, walked a block or two and VOILA! Behold, the cafe I had passed more than an hour earlier, right near the hotel. Not only did they have coffee, but they had a bathroom, which I needed desperately.

Finally, I was able to return to the Regency Christmas story I was reading. *sigh*

I hope to have more adventures to report tomorrow!

 

Romance Abounds in Montreal

Montreal is truly one of the most romantic cities I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit. I can’t wait to show you the pictures, but until I’m back home, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Old Montreal’s rich history dates all the way back to 1605, though it’s unclear to me how much of what is here is original architecture. When you walk the streets, you feel as if you’re perhaps in Westminster. It truly feels ancient. However, my research indicates that because of wooden constructions, this area saw great destruction over and over as the homes, churches and other important buildings burned to the ground.

Either way, this area reeks of romance. You can’t resist the urge to grab your partner’s hand and swing them toward you for an impromptu kiss in the middle of the sidewalk. You simply must gaze through all the windows into the dimly lit restaurants serving expensive French food to couples who gaze deeply into one another’s eyes. You’re drawn in by the suave Frenchman who uses his powers of enchantment to lure you into Le Piano Rouge for a drink and smooth jazz. And if you close your eyes and listen to the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the cobblestone, you truly feel transported to another time and place.

I’m so inspired by the city that I’m actually thinking of working on my historical fiction again! Unfortunately, there are other things I have to work on first, so I’ll just have to hold these memories in my mind and heart for when I’m finally able to get back to those stories.