In late June, we made a trip up to Montreal, which was the first time I had visited our northern neighbors. I heard great things about Montreal and was excited to see if it lived up to my expectations. We flew in late Friday night, unfortunately our flight was delayed so by the time we landed, it was already 1 AM and since it was so late, we opted to stay at a hotel near the airport.
We woke up early on Saturday and took the metro into downtown. It was drizzling in the morning, but we didn’t let that stop us from exploring the town. We first stopped by Notre Dame church, which was beautiful as it sat up on a hill in the city and then made our way down to the St. Lawrence river. We grabbed lunch at a quaint sandwich shop near the river and fortunately it had stopped raining so we were able to sit outside.
After exploring a bit more of the cobblestone streets filled with shops and markets, we decided to take up our favorite traveling activity in order to see more of this wonderful city – rent bikes! Montreal is actually the city that BIXI originated in – after so much success in Montreal the company quickly expanded to other cities around the world. Needless to say, the bike share program in Montreal is extensive and very popular in the city. We hopped on the bikes and decided to make the trek across the river to Isle Saint Helena to visit Jean-Drapeau Parque. After taking in the views of the city from across the river and exploring the park, we biked back into the city and took the metro over to McGill, a neighborhood that houses the city’s university and also the financial district. We stopped for some coffee and got to chatting with some locals who gave us recommendations of areas to visit as well as mandating that we try poutine (basically fries with gravy and cheese curds – sounds weird I know) before we left. After saying goodbye to our new friends we got back on our bikes and headed back into downtown and discovered that the International Jazz Festival had just begun that weekend. The International Jazz Festival is the largest of its kind in the world and over the course of 10 days from noon until midnight 3000 artists perform 650 concert. We were very fortunate to have been able to visit Montreal to witness this amazing festival. Many of the streets were blocked off and restaurants had set up elaborate booths selling local cuisine and more importantly, alcohol 🙂 We spent the next hour listening to live music enjoying the now beautiful afternoon weather and walking around to the different stages.
We decided to bike around a bit more of the town and wandered onto Rue Sainte-Catherine, a street lined with bars and restaurants which was also blocked off with live street performers and musicians. We decided to grab some beers at a local brewery, Les 3 Brasseurs; we got lucky and found a seat by the window so we could enjoy the live music and ended up staying for a couple of hours just talking and enjoying the evening. We even ordered poutine and a few other items off the menu and while the food was decent, the atmosphere and ambience of the restaurant made up for it.
Finally, we got back on our bikes (which was probably a bad idea after a few too many beers – I may have fallen off my bike once or twice) and went to enjoy some more live music at the jazz festival. An artist was performing whose music resembled John Mayer or Jason Mraz and we spent the remainder of the night enjoying this wonderful city. Before heading back to our hotel, we walked past Notre Dame and were surprised to see it glowing in this beautiful blue light and stopped to try to take a few artistic photos.
Unfortunately, due to all the people visiting Montreal for the festival we had a hard time making it back to Atlanta so while I got lucky and made it on the non-stop flight Sunday morning, Cole had to fly to Detroit and Cincinnati before finally making it back home. Overall, my first trip to Canada and specifically Montreal, thoroughly impressed me with its beautiful European architecture, festivals and outdoor restaurants.