Travel inspiration and insider tips

5 years, 2 months ago

Joie de vivre the Montréal way

This post and uncredited images by luxury travel blogger Keith Jenkins, exclusively for Trip+ as part of our #housetripping series.

my-first-poutine

Montréal is one of those incredibly fascinating cities that one visits, falls in love with and keeps coming back to. The city has a lot going for it, from the amazing array of cuisines to its history, architecture and shopping, and not to mention its unique mix of European charm and North American energy. The first thing that struck me was how laidback Montréalers are. Everywhere I looked, people were simply enjoying, well, … life. I decided there and then to just go with the flow and let the locals show me their brand of joie de vivre! Montréalers are a very friendly bunch and they’ll gladly share their tips on where to go and what to do. Try your best French and you’ll make many more friends! Armed with a small guidebook from Tourism Montréal (http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/) and tips from my HouseTrip holiday rental host and other locals, I set off to discover Montréal.

 

Food

Food is the first thing Montréalers love to talk about, and rightfully so, because there are countless excellent foodie haunts in this city. It was my first time in Montréal and the locals insisted I try two of the city’s most famous dishes: poutine and smoked meat sandwich. Poutine basically consists of french fries, topped with a brown gravy and cheese curd. Locals eat it after a night out and it’s known to cure hangovers. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it but I did… very much! Best place for poutine is arguably La Banquise (994 Rachel Street East). As for the smoked meat sandwich, there’s one famous place that everyone goes to: Schwartz’s (3895 St. Laurent Blvd). Their signature meat sandwich is something you have to see to believe!

poutine

Montréal also has many fine-dining options. My favourite was definitely Joe Beef (2491 Notre-Dame Street West). Located in a historic tavern, Joe Beef (www.joebeef.ca) has a quirky, cosy ambiance (the restrooms are particularly hilarious) with a patio/garden in the back where they grow their own vegetables. The food, a marriage of fresh local produce and subtle flavours, is sublime. Try the oysters or the scallops.

 

Shopping

Montréal has a diverse shopping scene, from the chic boutiques on Sherbrooke Street to the more mainstream brands along St. Catherine Street, and the vintage stores in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. The city boasts a vibrant arts, design and fashion scene, much of which is centred around Plateau Mont-Royal. A local pointed me towards Crescent and de la Montagne Streets, where many of Quebec’s leading fashion designers have their boutiques. I discovered that these two streets, with their many cafés, are terrific places to sit back, relax and engage in some fascinating people-watching!

shoes-shopping-montreal

You can also opt to join a shopping tour (www.montrealshoppingtours.com) which takes visitors to the latest and finest boutiques and ateliers, as well as many insider spots.

 

Architecture

Montréalers are proud of their cultural heritage and the easiest way to get acquainted with this heritage (aside from food of course!) is to discover the city’s amazing variety of architectural styles. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Montréal was the beautiful spiral staircases. Each block had a different style and when I asked which neighbourhoods had the most beautiful staircases, a lively discussion with the locals quickly followed. I found the loveliest specimens along Laval Street and Christopher Columbus Street in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood.

spiral-staircases

Another local insisted I visit the Notre-Dame Basilica and stroll around Old Montréal, with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings. I didn’t regret it. The Basilica was absolutely breathtaking! I found Old Montréal to be a charming district with many fine examples of Renaissance and Art Deco buildings filled with boutiques, gorgeous restaurants, artists’ studios and a variety of jazz clubs.

Notre-Dame Basilica 1 Notre-Dame Basilica

Spa

After all that walking (Montréal is a great city to explore on foot), eating and drinking, it was time for something a bit more relaxing. I headed for the Bota-Bota spa-sur-l’eau (www.botabota.ca). This gorgeous spa, located in an old ferry boat, is docked at the Old Port and features fabulous views of Montréal and the St. Lawrence River. The contemporary, minimalist decor set the tone for a soothing afternoon. The excellent treatments, the water circuit and the beautiful views did the rest. I left feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and ready for more that Montréal had to offer.

bota-bota-pool bota-bota-sauna-view

This involved long, lazy meals; leisurely strolls around gorgeous neighbourhoods such as the Golden Square Mile and Mont-Royal with its beautiful Victorian and Edwardian mansions; visiting markets such as the lovely Jean Talon Market; and exploring the vintage and antique shopping scene in Plateau Mont-Royal.

Staying at a HouseTrip holiday rental definitely enriched my Montréal experience. The friendly owner gave me many tips on restaurants, cafés, sights and things to do. In addition, I got to stay in Plateau Mont-Royal, a typical Montréal residential neighbourhood and easily mingle with the locals.

Montreal 1 Montreal 2 Montreal 3

HouseTrip offers a great variety of accommodation options in Montréal. I stayed in an artsy apartment along Mont-Royal Avenue East (http://www.housetrip.com/en/rentals/63554) and visited other beautiful holiday rentals in Plateau Mont-Royal (http://www.housetrip.com/en/rentals/59819) and Rosemont (http://www.housetrip.com/en/rentals/189451).

 

Featured image by caribb.

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