Sleep-deprived. Grumpy. Hangry all of the time. These terms encapsulated my student experience in the last weeks of the Fall 2014 semester. I had four term papers due in a ten-day span, three of those within three days of each other, with three final exams, two of which were on back-to-back days. It was hectic, it was messy, I went without sleep like all good Uni students do. Additionally, I was working additional hours at my part-time job to save up for tuition money, not taking time off for my exams or my papers. The light at the end of the tunnel was that my family and I were going on a trip to Montreal from the 22nd to the 25th of December! I had never been, and to be given the opportunity to go with nice accommodations + plane tickets was nothing short of a dream.
Our flight was 8PM on the 22nd of December, and so we arrived at the airport early, around 5.45PM, to avoid being caught in the last-minute crush. My Mom, a veteran of airport ways, had wisely advised us to pack lightly so that we would have nothing to check in, thus saving us a lot of time and effort. I’m glad the weather was a forgiving +5C, so my jacket was of fall thickness – I did not want to deal with carrying a full backpack plus a messenger bag and struggling with full winter regalia: puffy winter jackets, scarf, mittens, and a hat.
We were a bit hungry, so we roamed the airport for a snack. My brother had chicken fried rice from Thai Express, while my Mom and I had fries from A&W. We also dropped by Starbucks, where she had a cappuccino and I had a green tea. We were all settled in, relaxed in the knowledge that we were early for our flight. The closer it was to 8PM though, the more anxious we became about our flight number not showing up on the terminal screen. When the attendants began boarding, I went up and asked if maybe our flight had been cancelled. Turns out that the gate for our flight had been switched and we didn’t know! Luckily it had only been moved one gate over, but there was definitely more than a little sense of urgency in the lady’s voice when she told us to hurry. Didn’t help that the person who boarded us mentioned that it was the last three minutes of boarding that particular flight when we made it, breathless, to her counter. How could we have missed the PA announcements?!
We got to the Hotel Loews Vogue safe later that night. We were incredibly tired from the flight (I had also been working that morning, as had my Mom), but we were also starving. Thank goodness for room service – we were able to have dinner without leaving the cosy interior of the hotel room.
The meal was delivered by a cute server who totally made my night because of how perky he was. He came in, plated with a flourish, and finished quickly – “Et voila, dinner is ready!” Hungry and tired, the three of us made short work of the lobster and steak, but we weren’t so sure about the soup. Since I have never had it before, I’m not quite certain if it just wasn’t particularly good at the restaurant, or if I’m not into it at all. The lobster was delicious – buttery and garlicky, and sweet in the way that good seafood is. The steak was the crowning glory of that particular dinner, though – medium rare, savoury, thick and juicy. That peppercorn sauce was the best.
We went to bed shortly after dinner, happy to be safe and sound with full bellies. Hello and good night, Montreal.
The morning of the 23rd, we decided to explore the city. We got three-day passes, $13 for unlimited travel. The Metro was incredibly easy to navigate, considering that we didn’t speak a lick of French. Every single person that we approached for help was helpful and polite and seemed to want nothing more than for us to get safely to wherever it was we were supposed to go.
The first place that we visited was the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal. It was gorgeous in a very ornate and Catholic way, and also gave me weird flashbacks to my Catholic educational upbringing. It reminded me of my high school oratory – candles and icons everywhere, as well as an atmosphere pervasive of formality and respect.
I was also totally not expecting to see the White Tree of Gondor at Montreal, but there it was. Can you look at that and not be reminded of Gondor? Can you? Nope, I thought so.
Afterwards, we went back to the hotel. I was told that I fell asleep for the entire afternoon, which was sad because I had been hoping to go shopping with Mom. I woke up just as she came back with bags from Forever 21, which was just down the block from where we were staying! I was rather hungry upon waking up, so we went in search of dinner. We settled on the Firegrill Restaurant and Bar, which was two blocks away. Their calamari was alright, as were the ribs and chicken. I shouldn’t have gotten the ribs though, as something about sweetish barbecue sauce really doesn’t agree with my taste buds.
The morning of the 24th, we woke up nice and early for breakfast because Tracy (a family friend’s daughter) was coming down to hopefully show us around if the rain let up. We had breakfast at La Societe – they have really good french toast. Best I’ve ever had! Our server for both days we ate there was this stick thin, unceasingly cheery man who always wore suspenders and had a magnificent moustache.
After breakfast, which was decadent and rich and not something we should be doing everyday, Tracy took us to the Musee des Beaux Arts Montreal, which, for me at least, was the highlight of the trip! The van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism exhibit was going on, so we went to see that in addition to the regular museum exhibits.
I had the most fun in the Warhol Exhibit, which was surprising to me. That’s the exhibit where the painted pig below is from.
The best thing, however, was that my brother got me my Christmas present at the Museum! He bought me a necklace, which I had been looking longingly at while we were browsing the gift store. I love the necklace, and I’m wearing it as often as I can.
After the museum, we got a hankering for rice after all the rich meals we’d been having, so we trekked to Chinatown! We got egg drop soup, roast chicken, Asian-style lobster because we wanted to contrast it with the thermidor we had at the hotel, crunchy pan fried fish, stir-fried beef, and chicken fried rice. Man, was that meal heavenly. We also got free green tea face masks and Chinese calendars, just for being there on Christmas morning. Great customer service at that place!
These are the photos I took of the city from the overlook, plus some street shots.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the city, and I am in fact going again this summer with my friends. I feel like in order to really experience all that the city has to offer, it’s better to come when the streets are walkable and it’s less damp. We only really got to explore two places, and I’m looking forward to crossing off more items on my to-visit-in-Montreal list.
Thank you for an amazing Christmas, Montreal. Hopefully, I get to see you again in a few months. Merci beaucoup, beautiful city!