I have never been as cold as I was on my first night in Montreal. Never.
And I’ve been to some fairly cold places in my life.
We arrived in the snowy city in the early evening, checked into our hotel and headed straight for the Old Port and dinner. In the 50 yard walk from the hotel doors to the taxi rank we felt as though we were going to freeze to death in an instant as the baltic wind whipped past our ears but soon we were in the warmth and safety of Barocco restaurant.
Montreal’s Old Port in winter is like going back in time. Narrow, snowy, cobbled streets are dimly lit by glowing lamps as small restaurants with steamy windows welcome wanderers in from the night.
Barocco is a tiny, quaint little place which plays funky music in a complete juxtaposition to its antique French décor. The cocktails are a work of art, as is the food. We both started with the soup which burst out of the bowl with full flavours and textures, followed by rich mains of steak, duck and foie gras. Delicieux!
We left before we could be convinced to order desert, in favor of keeping enough room for a few more cocktails. Stumbling desperately across the road to the nearest watering hole to minise the amount of time we needed to spend outside, we raced into FlyJin - Montreal’s answer to Mahiki, only slightly less pretentious and considerably cheaper! When we arrived the bar was still relatively quiet so we settled into a booth by the bar in a prime people watching spot. As stunning people swayed into the club wearing boob tube dresses and cut out tops I pulled my cardigan tighter around my shoulders, wandering how on earth people survive in single layers in this climate! Apparently they do and I am now totally soft and dress like a Grandma. But Grandma’s can still have a good time! :)
The next day we treated ourselves to a lie in before taking a refreshing dip in the hotel’s pungepool. The pool is heated and if you can bear to run across the outside patio to get in, it’s well worth going for a little swim. My one complaint about our hotel was the times that the pool was open: 8-11am and then 8-10pm at night. Now I don’t know about you but when I’m on holiday, from 8-11am I’m usually sleeping or eating breakfast . And by 8pm I’m going out for drinks and dinner. I would have loved it to have been open from 5-7 so you could come back from your day’s activities, take a dip and enjoy an early evening cocktail. Instead we only had this one opportunity to splash around.
Grumble over. It was a nice lithe plunge pool.
Suitably refreshed and nourished after a big breakfast at the hotel Bistro attached to the hotel (guests get a 20% discount) we headed out into the cold in search of the cities sights. The metro is a great and cheap way ($12 buys you an unlimited weekend pass) to get around the city and is linked by shopping malls and underground walkway, and on the weekend you’ll get those to yourself!
We headed once again for Old Port, first stop: Notre Dame de Montreal. The cathedral isn’t even listed on many “Top 10 things to do in Montreal” lists you’ll fine online which I think is criminal. As it hadn’t been well advertised we went in with zero expectations. We actually almost didn’t after a couple of photos outside.
But OH MY am I glad we did.
One of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever been in. If you’re planning a trip to Montreal this should be on the TOP of your list of things to see!
Next on the tick list: Ice Skating.
Confession time. I used to go to ice dance lessons as a small child. I was actually pretty good and at the age of 5 was invited to be part of the ice dance team in a pair with my brother before his 9 year old “lad” honor slammed the door on my skating career. And here’s a little fact. Just because you were good at ice skating when you were 5, doesn’t mean you’ll be good when you’re banging on the door of 35. I was rubbish. Woeful. After an akward moment at the start when I genuinely thought that I’d have to ask for a refund for the skate hire because I just.couldn’t.do.it I managed to shuffle my way around the main rink. Then, with larger strides I made my way out to the “natural” skating loop where snow has been shoveled off to the side revealing a layer of ice a few feet deep over the ocean. I (almost) nailed it and after a good hour of it was definitely beer o’clock!
On the way back to the cobbled streets we stopped to watch some of the local sports fanatics take part in a rowing race, cutting through the freezing waters, smashing through ice bergs and then skating along ice shelves! They are NUTS!
Shivering at the thought of taking part in their sport we headed for warmth and comfort food – Olive & Gourmando. It’s worth waiting in the queue that is ALWAYS spilling out the door – trust me. The Ruben will change your life.
That was the first of 2 incredible meals we were to enjoy that day, but more on that in the next post!