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September 12, 2015 / oneworld82

A quick jaunt to Montreal

Montreal is relatively close to New York – a quick 5 hours drive or a quick 1h30m flight. Coming to New York so often, and never having been to Montreal – I could not pass on the opportunity to visit this much-acclaimed place.

Rooftop happy hour in NYC before leaving

Rooftop happy hour in NYC before leaving

And so, on an end-of-August weekend, my wife and I set off to explore this beautiful part of Quebec – and to check out the Basilique’s chapel, where we are thinking about renewing our vows in church.


After a relatively painless ride to La Guardia and a quick dinner at Au Bon Pain, we went through security only to find out that our AA flight was delayed by an hour. No big deal. Eventually, our CRJ arrived and we took off for YUL, where we landed around 10.30p.

The airport looks very nice and pretty big – a lot of traffic to and from Europe here. Immigration was painless, and within minutes we had our 3 days transportation passes (CAD 18 each, a bargain!) and we were on the express bus 747, that in 30 minutes delivered is very close to our downtown hotel, the Hyatt Regency.

The hotel is large, and it features a gym, a pool, and a nice bar. Our guest room was spacious and well appointed – a classic 4* business hotel.

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After a good night of sleep, we woke up and we set off to explore town. We headed to the famed Mile End area, a trendy residential area dotted by great cafe and restaurants. Apparently this is the “cool” part of town these days – the neighborhood surely looked quaint and well-kept.

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We had a late breakfast at La Croissanterie Figaro, a very French cafe serving decent coffee but amazing croissants! I had one with Nutella, while Thuy had a classic pain au chocolate. The cafe had a beautiful outdoor patio – outside temperature was just right and we enjoyed our food (and some people watching) for the better part of an hour.

Great breakfast

Great breakfast

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After our meal, we took the bus and went to L’Oratoire St Joseph – a monumental church with many chapel annexed built to honor St Joseph thanks to the efforts of venerated Brother Andre’. The church is really huge, and while the architecture and the decor and nothing too spectacular, the main basilica has some very neat religious ornaments.

Oratoire de St Joseph

Oratoire de St Joseph

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We then took the bus to Mt Royal – the main green area of Montreal. The name could be misleading, as this is a hill overlooking the city from around 300 meters above sea level; still, the views enjoyed from the Chalet du Mont Royal are stunning!

The mount is home to a big cemetery and to endless hiking and biking trails; it’s truly a green lung, a place where families come play and lovers come hide – it’s really not hard to see why locals are so fond of it.

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View from Mt Royal of downtown Montreal

View from Mt Royal of downtown Montreal

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From the park, a wooden staircase quickly led us downtown – only a kilometer away. As it was Friday, the area was pretty lively, with businessmen and shoppers walking by in the perfect Montreal weather.

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We stopped at Dunn’s Best for some spaghetti with meatballs (pregnancy cravings) and some poutine (don’t get the smoked meat one, it wasn’t that great), before strolling back to the Hyatt Regency for some rest. I forgot to mention that the Hyatt is right on Places des Arts, a nice, pedestrian square/area where the heart of film festival was.

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As I mentioned earlier, the Montreal World Film Festival was starting that night, and we decided to take part in the event, booking a ticket to see Wildlike, a U.S. movie talking about teenage sexual abuse – very moving. The fact that the director was in the room with us only added to the emotion.

After the movie was over, we walked around the area (Quartier des Spectacles), where lots of bars, restaurants, and cafes are located. We grabbed some Starbucks, and then we walked back to the hotel in a fresh, perfect Canadian night.

In the morning we woke up, checked out, and headed to Vieux Montreal to explore the old city. After a good brunch of French toast and eggs benedicts at Mon Cafe…


…we walked through Rue Notre-Dame to the wonderful Cathedral (don’t miss it and the CHapel du Sacre-Coeur), Places d’Armes (where the French defeated the Iroquois), and then the boardwalk. This area is very touristy, but very charming and well-preserved nonetheless. It’s a great area for a day out with the family and kids, and a great spot where to have a drink or two (which we had at Scena, a nice patio bar in the old port).

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Old Montreal

Old Montreal

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After chilling out, we took a ferry to cross the majestic St Lawrence river to the Ile St-Helene, where we strolled around the pleasant Parc Jean-Drapeau, all the way to the Biosphere, an odd monument to biology research. On the way to the subway station, we enjoyed a nice photography exhibit, focused on the Artic.

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After taking the convenient subway back to the old city, we attended Mass at the cathedral and then we had dinner at Pizzaiolle, a good Italian place with good pastas and pizzas.

Basilique de Notre Dame

Basilique de Notre Dame

It was now time to go the airport, as we were spending the night at the Sheraton Airport Hotel as we had a 7.44am flight the morning after. The hotel was nice for being an airport property, and literally two minutes from the terminal.

In the morning, pre-clearance was mostly empty, and so the whole process was pretty painless (for a change!). After having our last great chocolate croissants, we were ready to head back home to super hot Texas (long summer this one!).

Montreal was definitely nice for the weekend. The city is pretty, with not too many sights but very green and quaint. People very nice and friendly, and food was good. Mont Royal and the old city are definitely the highlights of the city, and while visiting we decided that renewing our vows at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart at the Montreal Cathedral would certainly be great. Hence, hopefully, we’ll be back soon for some more poutine and croissants.

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