When you think of Montreal, food probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind. It’s probably not even the second, but it should be! Montreal is a great place for foodies to explore French-Canadian fare, eat at a local institution, and visit some haute patisseries. And if you’re staying at an Old Montreal hotel, most of these things are within walking distance!
First thing’s first: local favorites! You can’t visit Montreal and not eat the following things or visit the following places.
Montreal in the Winter
When you think about Montreal in the winter, what comes to mind? Streets and sidewalks covered in a blanket of snow, turning into a solid sheet of ice when compacted by feet and tires? Frozen nose hairs, burning eyes, tingling and numb limbs? You aren’t too far off.
But what are you missing? Christmas lights adorning every tree and building; piping-hot and amazingly satisfying poutine; an endless supply of hot chocolate; the Christmas tree and wreath market outside of Jean-Talon Market; and the fireworks displays and ice skating at the Old Port.
Ah, Montreal, a city that quickly captured my heart last winter despite its arctic chill. I wasn’t prepared for the level of cold I was in store for traveling there in mid-December. I thought that coming from Pennsylvania would be preparation enough–how different could it be? But oh, how I was wrong. The bone-chilling, eye-burning, and nose-freezing sub-zero temperatures were a bit more than I bargained for. I often prefer traveling in winter months because you get to see a side of cities that you don’t during summers when they’re overrun with tourists, but I don’t think I’ve ever willingly chosen to travel to a city as cold as Montreal in the winter months. That being said, with the proper clothing, it is possible to combat it a bit.
It’s absolutely necessary to pack a thick, warm coat, scarves, gloves, hats, etc. I also packed a pair of leggings to wear under jeans on particularly cold nights when I was out and about. Beyond that, my tip is layers. Lots of layers. One of the most miserable aspects of winter anywhere is how warmly you have to dress to deal with the outside temperatures and how you instantly melt and turn into a sweaty mess when you go inside where the heat is blasting. That’s why layers are your friend–just continue removing until you’re comfortable.
Also, be sure to pack boots that you don’t mind wearing in snow. The weather forecast before I left called for a couple of inches (2-3, tops) of snow, but you and I both know how quickly those things can change. We ended up getting about 2 feet. So, it’s best to be prepared for anything.
A few other quick tips:
- If you’re planning to use your cell phone maps app, I recommend getting those cell-phone friendly gloves so that you don’t have to remove your gloves every time you consult your directions.
- If you have sensitive eyes, you may want to pack some sunglasses. They can protect from the wind, the sun glares off the snow, and can help keep in some heat to keep your eyes from freezing/burning.
- Lastly, if you’re as sensitive to cold temperatures as I seem to be (my friend who went along didn’t have nearly as many issues as I did), take some of those little hand warmers that you can throw in your coat pockets.
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Let’s face it—sometimes being single can be a totally awesome thing. Like those times when you don’t feel like showering for two days or leaving your couch because you’re glued to a crappy crime show marathon on TV. Or, you know, like when you decide you want to quit your job, put everything you own in storage, and leave your “real” life behind for a while.
But then, after a few weeks of being totally alone, you realize that sometimes being single sucks a little bit. Especially when you’re in those horribly romantic places where everyone around you seems to be in those first few weeks of puppy love and they’re sucking face and you’re thinking, “Jesus, now I just want to go home and listen to James Blunt” (who my local radio DJs dubbed, “the music you want to slit your wrists to”).
So, if you’re single and don’t want to be constantly barraged by those gross couples who are madly in love and want to show it to the world, don’t visit any of the following places. And, on the other hand, if you are one-half of those gross couples who are madly in love, maybe you should go to all these places.
As my 30th birthday loomed, I knew that I wanted to do something kind of special for it. It was my entrance into spinsterhood—a life destined to be lead in solitude—one in which I’d acquire a lot of cats without realizing it, and spend my days eating lean cuisines, sitting in a La-Z boy, and learning how to crochet (okay, so I learned how to do that at about age 10). My sisters and I joke about how we’ll all end up sad and alone, sitting in chairs in front of the TV watching old episodes of Golden Girls.
But honestly, as the time grew closer, and Bridget Jones quotes started to become not only more relevant to my life, but also things I found coming out of my mouth, I knew I wanted to go on a “full-blown mini-break holiday” (Bridget Jones quote for you) to a new and fabulous city.
Schwartz’s Deli, a Montreal institution, was opened in 1928 by a Jewish immigrant from Romania. The deli specializes in smoked meat sandwiches, typically served on rye bread with yellow mustard. I visited this landmark deli when I spent a long weekend in Montreal to celebrate my birthday in mid-December. Typically, the line is out the door and there’s a long wait even when you make it inside, but I guess when the temperatures are way below freezing the idea of standing outside and freezing to death isn’t all that appealing.
It’s almost the new year, and while I look forward to the adventures and self-discovery that 2014 will bring, I think it’s also a good time to reflect back on 2013. I can’t say that 2013 was an especially good year for me, all things considered. The first six or so months were some of the hardest I’ve experienced in my entire life, but when I finally put in my notice at work, boarded that plane to Europe, and started feeling like I was actually living, things began looking up. So, with that, here are some of my favorite moments from my travels this year!
Last week I visited Montreal for the first time to celebrate my birthday (more on this later) where I ended up eating my weight in delicious foods. But, probably the best thing I tasted was the latest craze in Montreal–the cronut. This awesome pastry is a concoction of a croissant and donut, and is kind of crispy and flaky on the outside and deliciously doughy and soft on the inside. The bakery where I got mine had two different varieties, so I obviously had to try both–custard and nutella. Each were lightly dusted on the outside with large piece of granulated sugar, and were filled with just the right amount of their respective flavors.
As much as I love nutella, I have to say that the custard was a better cronut. Nutella might just be a little too dense/sticky for the inside of a pastry, whereas the custard is like the perfect consistency.
I was informed recently that Twitter was aflutter with the cronut craze a few months back, but apparently I missed out on all of that and only heard about them when I got to Montreal. So, I’m a little late to the party, but these little things are seriously fantastic and I’m so grateful I don’t live anywhere close to where they are sold because I’d likely end up eating them for every meal. Every day.
“Everyone raise your glasses for a champagne toast!” And with that, my trip to Toronto officially kicked off beginning with a few days at the BlogHouse (which was actually a castle, just for the record).
I expected Toronto to have milder weather than Austin. Sadly, when I was there it was the same temperature, with about 50% more humidity. Do you know what that’s like? It’s like the difference between being baked and broiled.