It’s no secret I love to travel. There are so many places I want to see, but not enough time or resources. Well time is something that my latest travel destination had going for it. From Philly, Montreal is only an hour or so flight away. Being so close was definitely an advantage in its favor when deciding to go there. So what else did I think of Montreal before I arrived? I knew it was in Canada, and that was about it. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t even know that Montreal is an island. So for those of you who like to go on island vacations, Montreal can be added to your list. It just may be a little bit colder than what you’re accustomed to when visiting an island.
So let me tell you about what Montreal had. First, a show called AURA at The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is reason enough alone to visit Montreal. This spectacular is a must to attend for anyone coming. No words, pictures, or videos do it justice. You have to see it in person in order to understand. It can only be described as something you feel like you have VR goggles and 3D glasses on, but you don’t. If you can, grab a pew in the middle of the building. That is where the best view to catch the full experience for the second half of the show is. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Next, their Metro system is fantastic. You can grab an all you can ride pass for twenty-four hours costing only $10 CAD. With a Metro card in hand, and staying in the heart of the city Centreville between Downtown and Old Port we stayed at the Holiday Inn Centreville Downtown in Chinatown that has the Metro right across the street while also being within walking distance to many attractions. It was a perfect match (or Yin and Yang since we were in Chinatown). The hotel has a lobby that is amazing. The koi pond that surrounds the entire lobby floor was great to just sit around, relax, and enjoy just being there in tranquility. The staff was friendly and attentive, room was clean and modern, and also the indoor pool\hot tub\sauna facilities were better than many hotels I have stayed at. As nice as the hotel was, we still decided to explore the city.
With a plan in place, we visited the Montreal Botanical Garden that had hands down the greatest bonsai exhibit I have ever seen. The indoor greenhouses were spectacular and just walking the grounds were a pleasure. In the same vicinity is the Montreal Insectarium that housed wonderful displays of insects of every kind, and was a fun way to see crazy looking insects from a safe distance while learning about them. The opposite end of the city we stopped by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This is an enormous facility with many stunning pieces of art, priceless artifacts, and a dazzling, bold, innovative, and caring museum. You could easily spend days on end in this museum being wowed. Moving down to the waterfront Old Port area we explored the Montreal Science Centre which was surprisingly entertaining for all ages with really high-tech stations and hands-on learning displays to acquire an understanding of science and technology in and around your daily life and in history. A little further down in Old Port we boarded the La Grande Roue de Montréal which is a gigantic climate controlled observation wheel offering a panoramic 360 degree view of the city and its surroundings. It was truly breathtaking and highly recommended. Some other highlights included seeing the Northern Lights in the sky while strolling, the video mural arts projected on the side of buildings you see wandering the city as soon as it gets dark, many of the historic buildings illuminated with wonderful colored lights at night, Montreal Biosphere, walking around Parc Jean-Drapeau, seeing Olympic Stadium and Park, and the list could go on and on.
Last, but certainly not least is the restaurant scene and dining. Fun fact is that Montreal has the highest number of restaurants per Capita in Canada and the second most restaurants in North America after only New York City. Yep, lots of places to dine for someone who loves to eat like me, and Montreal did not disappoint. As we all know food is subjective, but here is my list of some places I visited. If you are a foodie, you really should give La Banquise, La Gargote, and Restaurant Ethan a try when in the city. Each one was far different than the other, but they also showed Montreal’s diverse and delicious dining scene.
La Banquise – Classic Poutine
La Gargote – Lobster Bisque with cognac, Braised short rib with maple syrup and red wine, and trio of crème brulee
Restaurant Ethan – Dim Sum Combo A, wonton shrimp soup, Imperial roll, Shrimp Dumplings, Pork & Shitake mushroom dumpling, Pork & napa cabbage dumpling, pan fried minced pork dumpling, salt and pepper shrimp, General Tao Chicken, Chinese broccoli, roasted duck, and bbq pork
Bistro Modavie – French Onion Soup, Seafood Risotto with crab, lobster, clams, and scallops in a bisque sauce
Restaurant Beijing – Wonton soup, Shrimp and pork dumplings in hot peanut sauce, Beef and broccoli, and beef with black bean sauce with peppers and steamed rice with a pork egg roll.
Lester Deli – Smoked meat sandwich with mustard and a side of poutine
Le Chat Noir – French Onion Soup, Snails with Garlic butter and Gruyere, and Beef Bourguignon with mashed potatoes, carrots, and green beans
Tim Horton – many visits here! Hey, they are the Dunkin Donuts of Canada and all over the place.
We were welcomed like family as soon as we arrived in Montreal and many countless thanks and gratitude go out to the following individuals that really made our visit extremely special.
Sebastian Neradilek – Project Coordinator for Tourisme Montreal
Jean-Philippe Rochette – Public Relations Manager for Le Vieux_Port de Montreal
Andrea Holden – Account Director for DQMPR
Michelle Dias – PR & Communications Manager for IHG
Joanie Desjardins – Holiday Inn Centreville Front Office Manager