Arriving in Montreal in the Winter

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As of yet, I haven’t finished my Nashville series on this blog, but I want to share photos and stories from my most recent trip: Montreal,

About Montreal

Montreal (and Quebec as a province) are different from the rest of Canada. While they do love hockey, it’s a predominantly French-speaking region referred to as “the most European City in North America”. It’s also a sub-$300 flight from Chicago direct which moved it to the top of our list for winter break trips.

Most people want to go to warm climates over the winter months, but not us. We live in Chicago, so when we booked, the cold didn’t scare us; it was only about 10 degrees colder than here. We packed more layers, bought new jackets, and prepared to see the Great White North.

But as is our luck would have it, the week we arrived experienced record low temperatures not seen in a decade. The warmest day while we were there was -5°F with lows dipping into the -20°s. Our trip would therefore not only be in a new city, but also in an environment from which we would normally hide.

This was also the first real-world test of my new Nikon D3400 camera.

Upon Arrival

Because we’re both cheap, we booked an AirBnB a little outside the city center in the Plateau Mont-Royal area off the Orange Line train. I’m a little spoiled coming from Chicago with our public transit system, but Montreal’s wasn’t bad–just old.

Lionel Groulx Station - Montreal Public Transit

Because I don’t speak a lick of French, I called most things on this trip something that sounded close, but was completely different. I’ll post this later, but I jokingly called the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City “Chateau Fromage” which means “Cheese Castle.” This station pictured above was called Lionel Groulx Station, but I called it “Giroux Station” after Claude Giroux.

Our AirBnB was a quaint old apartment inhabited by two artists. The whole place was very trendy, if not drafty. The heat in the old building was on full blast, but it was still frigid. It reminded me of some old apartments I’ve lived in here in Chicago.

AirBnB in Plateau Mont-Royal

They had a third roommate who kept barging into our room. It’s okay because he was super cute. His name was Michel.

Michel the Cat

A Walking Tour of Plateau Mont-Royal

We hadn’t planned on it being this cold when we booked our tickets, but we couldn’t let that stop us. We bundled up for the cold, and headed out.

Before the trip, we bout bought a Lonely Planet – Montreal and Quebec City Guide. Our new ‘hood was in there, so we set out on one of the recommended walking tours to see the neighborhood. It wasn’t the most exciting walking tour I’ve ever been on, but it gave us a good feel for a neighborhood that was primarily residential but with a neat history.

Plateau Mont-Royal Street

Plateau Mont-Royal Street

Our first stop was the Eglise St. Jean Baptiste. It was closed, so we couldn’t go inside, but apparently it’s gorgeous. “Closed for the Holidays” was a common theme amongst sites in Montreal.

Eglise St. Jean Baptiste

Eglise St. Jean Baptiste

Eglise St. Jean Baptiste

But we wouldn’t let the biting cold or things being closed get us down. It was still a very pretty city despite all of the slush and snow.

Directly across the street from the church was Les Cours Rachel, which used to be a boarding school. Today, it’s condos so no tour either.

Les Cours Rachel

Our last stop on the walking tour was the 1918 Italian Renaissance building.

1989 Italian Renaissance Building

This is a good time to bring up an unexpected wrench in our plan: the darkness. The above photo was taken at about 4:30 in the afternoon. The lights had just flicked on while we were standing there, but nevertheless, it was officially dark outside at this point. As I upload more photos, you’ll see that it got dark around 4 or 4:30 here. The sun never made it more than 45° in the sky, I swear.

Poutine at La Banquise

For those who are unaware, poutine is fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy. I’d never had it before, and I wasn’t going to start with some cheap stuff. I wanted my first time to be with the Cadillac of Poutines so we heeded the advice of everyone we asked and went to La Banquise.

Sure, the line was long. And sure I asked for a Ginger Ale and got an India Pale Ale beer. But all was forgiven when I received my poutine with ground beef and pepperonis.

Poutine from La Banquise

It was everything I wanted it to be and more. If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend this place 100%. In fact, I still recommend it even if you have to drive there.

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