Saturday, April 9, 2016

Travel Review: A Weekend in Montreal

Due to Daniel's graduate program, we had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Montreal while he attended the American Counseling Association/Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association conference. Thanks to my dad sharing some of his hotel points, and the Holiday Inn being directly across the street from the convention center, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Centreville, right near Old Montreal and Montreal's Chinatown. While it was pricey (we had to pay even after using some hotel points), the location was perfectly within walking distance of lots of delicious restaurants, and an afternoon's entertainment - which was about all we had time for while also juggling Daniel's conference sessions.

This was my first time crossing the border into Canada in my adult life, so that was pretty cool! We crossed at the Thousand Islands bridge, and it was a beautiful, sunny first day of April! We had to wait about a half hour to cross, which wasn't horrible, but did allow time to snap a selfie :-)

From there, we were in Canada! Time for $2 coins, Tim Horton's everywhere, and both French and English!

It was a couple more hours after the border before we got to Montreal. It's always exciting getting close to a city and seeing its skyline! I forgot my camera for this trip, so unfortunately all the photos are iPhone quality, otherwise I would've zoomed for a cooler shot!

Friday night was checking in, and I hit the hotel gym while Daniel went to check out the conference. After that, we wandered out in search of crepes at Chez Suzette Crepes and Fondue in Old Montreal!

I got their Vegetarian Western Crepes which had eggs, some veggies, swiss cheese, and came with a cute little cup of Quebec maple syrup! Daniel went with the chicken and ratatouille crepes, which were smothered in cheese! They also have a pretty eclectic smoothie and milkshake offering, so Daniel tried out their key lime pie smoothie - I stole a sip... it was really yummy!

Saturday afternoon, we had about two hours' time between Daniel's sessions to explore, and then we also had the evening after all his sessions. First, the afternoon! We walked around Old Montreal. I consulted this post for suggestions on where to walk around in Old Montreal, and it proved to be absolutely perfect!

We specifically walked down Saint Paul Street (also where Chez Suzette is!)...

To Place Jacques Cartier...

Saw the Montreal Town Hall...

I feel like these pictures make it look like we go to Harvard! 


From there, we walked over to the Notre Dame Basillica. Wow!

It costs $5 per adult to go in, and it is more than worth the price. They run 20 minute tours every so often throughout the day, so if you happen to time it right, your $5 can also include that! Another time I really wished I brought my camera!

Daniel and I both hold degrees in music and were in complete AWE at this organ... wow!

Another room, another amazing organ
After that, we grabbed some coffee and ran back to the hotel/conference center since it had decided to start pouring on us! Which reminds me... Would highly recommend visiting this city on a good weather weekend, or packing for the weather better than we did. We did bring some layers, but for all of the walking we wanted to do/did, we were not as prepared for cold/rain/etc as we could've been.

With that, Daniel went back into session, and I hung out at the hotel, did a quick run and some homework! Then it was off to dinner at Kyo Bar Japaonais... which I'm pretty sure served me the best food I've ever eaten in my life. I have an adventurous spirit about trying lots of different new things, but new food is NOT one of them, so that tends to leave me eating a lot of the same things, and thus, not experiencing new, delicious food as much as I wish I could commit to. That being said, Montreal has so, so many amazing restaurants, and being outside of America and in such a cultural city really forced me outside of my comfort zone - and right into something delicious!

The concept of Kyo is that it's all small-sized plates, so most people eat 2-3 plates of food, which I can get with - the more variety, the better! Daniel and I ended up each getting two dishes for ourselves, and sharing another one.

Daniel got miso soup, and an udon noodle dish with chicken and kimchi.

Neither of us had ever eaten with chopsticks for an entire meal, but we didn't want to be those stupid tourists from America who asked for silverware (and even worse, ask and get told they don't even have any!), so we stuck it out and it turned out all right!

We split the gyoza dumplings,

And I got a plate of sushi that had beef, avocado, spicy mayo, tempura cheese, and cucumber (which was AMAZING... still dreaming about it), and then I also got tempura shrimp and vegetables.

After dinner, we went to take a walk through the shops and restaurants in Chinatown, since our hotel was right on the edge of Chinatown. We ended up getting dessert treats at Patisserie Harmonie. Chinese treats, where the signs were in English, French and Chinese... talk about cultural!

Sunday morning Daniel had quite a few more sessions until noon. After that, we had a few things we had been thinking about doing - walking by the Old Port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, and visiting the Biodome (which looked really cool)... But, remember how we didn't pack well? Well, Daniel somehow forgot to bring a winter jacket, or any thicker winter-ish layers in general, and it was a ripe 18 degrees on Sunday. Coupled with that, Daniel was pretty beat from being up early for conference sessions starting at 7:30AM, so we decided to skip out on doing any afternoon activities and just headed home. We didn't get home until 5PM, so with some afternoon activities it would've been more like 9PM, so it ended up being a decision we were both quite okay with, but I would love to check out those two things if we ever make it up there again, for sure!

All in all, a great city, with a lot to do and see, especially if you like being in a walk-able area.

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