Trip Report: Montreal – Day 2
Saturday morning we awoke to a dreary, rainy day. Our initial plans had us renting bicycles and riding to Mont Royal-Le Plateau but it was looking questionable as we savored our Nespresso from the comforts of our suite at St Sulplice. We decided to venture out for breakfast and get a feel for the temps so we could decide if bicycling was really in the cards.
I had read of a breakfast spot, Olive et Gormando, before coming to Montreal and had put it on the must see list, so we opted to go here while we mulled over the weather. It seems that we lucked out and there was only a short wait for a table when we arrived. From what I hear the line is usually out the door on weekends. We ordered a latte, a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and two croissants for breakfast. No surprise here – everything was delicious!
As we left breakfast it started to rain and we decided it was just too cold and wet to bicycle. We quickly researched other options and opted to go to the Biodome. The Biodome is built in one of the old Olympic stadiums and houses four eco-systems along with the animals and plant-life which inhabit those regions. In reality it is like being in a zoo/aquarium. There is also an observation tower near the Biodome which offers views of Montreal. We went to the top of the tower via the little tram after visiting the Biodome. Sadly it was quite foggy from the storms so we could not see that far. I would not say either activity was a must see but it was a good rainy day activity and I’m sure it would be great for those traveling with a young family. We had received a coupon book from our hotel which offered 2 for 1 entry into both attractions. At this discounted rate it was worth it but I’m not sure I would have paid full price for either thing.
The Biodome is located a bit out of the city and rather than take our car out of the cozy valet or pay for a taxi we opted to take the Metro. The station was only a few blocks from our hotel and very easy to navigate. Since we bought an unlimited one day pass we decided to take advantage of it to visit as many places as possible. I had initially been very eager to visit the Mont Royal/Le Plateau neighborhood on the bicycles and had read a lot of great things about the area. Since we didn’t do the bicycles we decided to still visit the ‘hood by Metro and stop for lunch. I’m not sure if it was the inclimate weather or maybe the location of the Metro stop but we didn’t really see anything noteworthy here.
We were very hungry and didn’t want to waste a lot of time looking for a restaurant so we went into the first decent looking place we stumbled upon, Piri Piri, a little Portuguese chicken place. The chicken was surprisingly good and I wished we only ordered that. One of the bucket list items for this trip was to finally try poutine. Wouldn’t you know it was on the menu at Piri Piri and we ordered a whole plate. It was gross.
After lunch we were cold and tired and gave up on trying to find what was so hip about this area. We hopped back on the Metro and instead decided we would make a stop at Montreal’s Underground City and take a wander out of the elements back to our hotel. In theory the underground city sounded like a great idea and I expected it to be a straight walk from where we exited the Metro to somewhere near our hotel. In practice it was like being in a big shopping mall and being lost. We were quite tired at this point and got frustrated and just got back on the metro and headed to the hotel.
I was feeling dead by this point and needed to rest up but Little Star had a craving for a crepe and needed to check this off the bucket list so while I headed up to hotel to crash she continued on to search for a Creperie in the Old Town that would sell her a crepe to go, quite a feat I learned. Apparently it is preferred you eat the crepe on the spot.
Despite a nap we were still tired in the evening and could not convince ourselves to get dressed up and travel to The Village as we had originally planned. Instead we took one of the concierge’s other suggestions and headed to a Japanese restaurant Kyo Bar that was just around the corner from our hotel. Montreal is such a foodie town and it seems that you can have your pick of great establishments anywhere you go. Kyo was no disappointment. We arrived at 9pm on a Saturday night and the place was full of life and energy. Loud dance music played through the speakers and all the tables were filled with young trendsetters enjoying the evening. The wait staff was very friendly and attentive. We ordered cocktails – a mixed Sake drink for myself and an overflowing Sake in a box for Little Star. I don’t drink a lot of Sake so I’m not sure if this tradition is common but they place the small Sake glass into a little wooden box and then pour the Sake so that it overflows the glass into the box. It is supposed to symbolize good luck to have the Sake overflow. It also changes the taste of the Sake in interesting ways when you drink from the wooden box.
For dinner we ordered a round of spicy tuna maki to start. We followed this with a delicious blackened miso cod and some sort of noodle dish. While we enjoyed our dinner we watched a few of the parties around us order sake bombs which were accompanied by the waitress encouraging everyone at the table to shout and bang on the table while the drinks were consumed.
We then made a quick stop at the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, which quite conveniently was adjacent to our hotel. Since it was Sunday we had to wait until the masses were done at noon before we could enter as tourists. We spent a few minutes inside taking in all of the ornate and elaborate decoration before continuing on our way.
After packing up our bags and checking out we headed over to Le Village for some lunch. Like Saturday’s lunch adventure we also missed the mark for lunch on Sunday. We drove through Le Village and everything was pretty much closed – I guess before noon on a Sunday is not the prime time to visit this neighborhood. We ended up at a restuarant called Le Saloon which was a having a disco brunch type affair. We ordered some pretty average burgers and then continued on our way.
Overall we had awesome experiences in Montreal, especially in the Old Town. I’m not sure if it was the time of year or the weather or what but we weren’t really able to find the same caliber of restaurants or entertainment in any of the other neighborhoods we visited. From conversations I’ve had with other visitors to Montreal there is a whole other side of town that we didn’t see – so I guess another trip will have to be in order.
One parting note about Montreal that also surprised me everyone’s willingness to communicate in either French or English – sans-judgement. I’ve traveled to Paris a few times and had the stereotypical experience of Francophones who were not pleased to communicate in English. I made the naive presumption that I would have some of the same experiences in Montreal. This was not the case and while I overheard more French than English around me I never had any issue conversing in English with anyone.