I almost titled this post “Poutine on the Ritz in Montreal” because I’m a goddamn genius, but I wasn’t sure how many people had been introduced to the incredible, edible cheesecurds/gravy/meat/fries party-in-your-mouth that is poutine.
Over Labor Day, my man friend told me that we were going on a trip. Somewhere. And to bring my passport. That was it. No hints, no cutesy clues, only the very helpful suggestion of “bring normal clothes.” Visions of lounging on the beach in the Bahamas or sneaking into Cuba swirled in my head. When we got to the airport, I saw we were headed to Burlington, Vermont. Okay…I thought…that’s cool. Not entirely sure what the F is in Burlington and why somebody would want to vacation there, but I can get down with it.
Plus, we got bumped up to first class and they serve you unlimited wine in REAL glasses and I felt like the queen of England as I ate the mixed nuts.
Burlington, it turns out, is an adorable, quaint, market-loving, hippie-infused town nestled among rambling roads and gorgeous greenery, a hidden gem of the northeast. But! We were headed north, so we rented a car and headed out of town the next morning, driving the back roads to Canada (takes you twice is long but is 4,000x more serene and beautiful).
A couple of hours later we made it to the border. We were second in line.
The line OUT of Canada, on the other hand, stretched for miles in the opposite direction, with many people out of their cars, throwing footballs, and settling in for a long winter (or just a few hours wait).
We rolled into Montreal, booked a slightly sad hotel room in the suburbs (note: if you’re visiting Montreal, stay in Old Town. And don’t book the day you get there, as they will all be sold out/so expensive you’d have to sell your eggs to pay for it). But no matter, we were in another country! On Vacation! First things first, we loaded up on the Canadian essentials – Molson, candy and weird ruffles.
We spent the next 36 hours exploring Montreal’s cobblestone streets, winding our way through the old part of the city. The official languages are French and English, and most people can speak English very well. My French is tres mal, and I had absolutely no issues navigating the city, ordering from a menu or asking for another Molson.
The great thing about Montreal is that there aren’t an over abundance of “you GOTTA see this” monuments or attractions. Once you’ve checked off the biosphere ($15 to enter, so we just walked around the outside), the Notre Dame (not that one) or the bell tower (free, and a long ass climb up winding stairs), you’re free to just wander around the town, settling into beer gardens for a drink and just taking the city in.
Also, be sure to stroll alongside the St. Lawrence river. There’s a plethora of vendors and food trucks and for some reason, a manmade beach complete with people in bikinis and volleyball and absolutely no way of getting into the fast moving water a few feet away. It’s weird, but fun.
When in Rome, you do as the Romans do. But when in Montreal? You eat as much French food as you can get your grubby little hands on.
After our last meal in Canada (a brazillian steakhouse in the suburbs – don’t ask), we made our way back to Vermont and headed for the tiny, 8-gate airport in Burlington. They actually have a bar upstairs where you can hear your plane arriving, so you can drink any leftover beers before scooting through security. What a wonderful way to spend 36 hours. I love you Montreal (and you too, Burlington!)