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May 2019
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Montreal Getaway

For several years we’ve talked about heading to Canada for a weekend getaway. We’ve mostly discussed taking a ferry over to Nova Scotia or heading to Quebec City which we’ve heard is full of old world charm. Now that our friend Dan is making regular trips to Montreal we decided to tag along and do a good old fashioned road trip. Another benefit of Montreal is that we get a built in tour guide in our new friend, G.

We left Friday morning from our house and within 5 miles I had already taken a wrong turn and set us on a path to downtown Lowell. A quick correction, and we were on Rt. 3 North heading to Canada. The weather was mostly sunny giving us some great views as we passed trough Franconia Notch. A quick stop for gas (since it’s more expensive in Canada) and coffee in Littleton, NH and we were on our way once again.

The border crossing was non eventful and despite a little rush hour traffic heading into Montreal we were at our hotel in about 6 hours. We decided to stay in the lovely boutique Hotel Gault in Old Montreal. Montreal is a collection of islands in the St. Lawrence river with Montreal island being the largest. Old Montreal is the location of the original European settlers and has great old architecture, cobblestone streets, and is rich in history.

After settling in we went out to a wonderful dinner at Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins. Fortunately we had a native French speaker with us to help with the menu translation but based upon what we ate we couldn’t have gone wrong with any order. The food was served on small plates and we ordered enough for the table and shared with each other. The cheese and meat plate we had to start was a hit, although my thinly sliced veal was a close second. After a leisurely, thoroughly enjoyable meal we headed back to the hotel to crash for the evening.

In the morning, we woke up, had a tasty fresh breakfast in the Hotel Gault lobby, and decided to wander on our own for a while. We walked down to the river and explored the waterfront of Old Montreal. It was a cold morning in the 20s (Fahrenheit) with a brisk north wind off of the river. We saw many people carrying ice skates and followed them to an outdoor ice rink. Susan loved watching the large crowd of young and old skating in a circle on a clear, cold March morning. She particularly enjoyed when the whistle blew and on cue all the skaters reversed direction.

Ice skating in Old Montreal

By this time we were cold and decided to head back to the hotel via the cobblestones instead of along the water. Along the way we stopped into the Notre-Dame Basilica. As in most large cathedrals the art work and architecture were spectacular.

Once we got back to the hotel we grabbed our car and decided to head to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. We had intended to go to the Biodome but there was a very long line just to get tickets and the line was filled with strollers and small children. Fortunately the Botanical Garden was a short walk away.

After a nice warm walk through the greenhouses and a moth and butterfly exhibit we were feeling a bit hungry. G suggested we try a French Canadian local delicacy, Poutine. We headed to a local fast food restaurant for our lunch of french fries covered with gravy and melted cheese curds (with a hot dog on the side for good measure). Fortunately we had a light breakfast and did a lot of walking or the amount of grease might have seriously injured one or both of us. I’m not sure I need to eat Poutine again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Su and Poutine

We headed back to the hotel for a late afternoon nap and hopefully sleep off some food before dinner. We had a late dinner scheduled at one of Montreal’s acclaimed restaurants, Joe Beef. It was going to be hard to top the meal from the night before but Joe Beef lived up to the hype. The menu was all in French and written in chalk on a wall so it took quite a while to translate and make up our minds. Susan opted for a straight forward steak (how can you go to Joe Beef and not order beef)? I ended up with a slow cooked wild hare with foie gras. I’m not sure how to describe it other than to say it was the richest food I’ve ever eaten. It was like cheesecake except it was a very tender, rich dark meat. Once again we all sampled each others wonderful meals and without exception they were all outstanding.

In the bathroom at Joe Beef

Upon getting back to the hotel we crashed into bed for our last night in Montreal. In the morning we decided to go for a run along the river to try to work off some of the previous nights dinner. It was moderately successful as we felt hungry enough to have a wonderful brunch before we said goodbye to G for the weekend.

The drive home was very pretty again and the weather had warmed up into the 60s; Spring came early this year. Hopefully it won’t take us 9 years to go on another vacation out of the United States. We’re both looking forward to going back to Montreal during the summer and seeing what else it has to offer.

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