Trip Report: Montreal Day 1
For my birthday we wanted to travel somewhere within driving distance from Boston that wasn’t the same old New Hampshire towns we had visited many times in the past. Montreal came up as an option but we only had Friday-Sunday and were skeptical that it was a good fit. After some research we decided that it was drivable (5 hours from Boston), it was within our budget and had the activities we desired. So we booked a hotel, requested the time off from work and a few weeks later we were on our way.
We left on a Friday morning around 9 am and headed north. We drove, with only a brief pit stop, straight to Burlington VT where we had a proper lunch and wander around. Yelp directed us to one of the best rated sandwich shops around, Logan’s. I had my favorite item, a grilled cheese sandwich, on fresh french bread and lots of gooey Vermont made cheeses. Little Star had some sort of fresh looking salad and a cup of yummy corn soup.
After lunch we got back in the car and headed north to the Canadian border. The border crossing was a breeze and we were on the other side in 15 minutes. The drive from the border to Montreal was very bizarre. We had been cruising along four lane highways all morning and then suddenly you cross the border and the road becomes one lane through the country.
The city of Montreal is about 45 minutes from the border and is a sharp contrast to the country roads we had been driving on. Within 15 minutes you go from country road, to what looks like a major North American city, to a cobblestone street- set European city. A land of contrasts. The GPS easily led us to our hotel, Le St. Sulpice, in the heart of Old Montreal. We opted to leave our car with the valet rather than trying to find parking on the very narrow and crowded streets. I did see street spots open up over time around the hotel but it was never clear what the parking restrictions were and leaving the car with the valet was certainly the easiest and safest option.
I forgot when we chose the hotel weeks prior that this was a “suite” hotel – as in all the rooms are suites. So we entered our room and found that in addition to the bedroom we had a kitchenette and living room area. The decor was very modern, which I love, but still cozy. We were only one floor above street-level so we could hear some noise from the street, which is not a problem for me. In fact, in the heart of summer I could imagine having a cocktail with the windows open and enjoying the nightlife from your room. The hotel also had nice bonus features like a Nespresso machine in the room and L’Occtaine toiletries.
After checking into the hotel on Friday afternoon we rested for a bit and then headed out on foot. We were visiting Montreal in late April and it was still fairly cold and damp. Fortunately, we were able to find some entertainment as we wandered along the waterfront – a Nutella festival! They were handing out Nutella samples and crepes which we gladly accepted. We continued wandering around for some time, getting a sense for what restaurants were around and taking in the architecture.
As it got later into the evening we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. We had pre-made reservations for both Friday and Saturday night dinner which we based on our online research. However after our walk in the afternoon where we saw how many restaurants were around we wondered if we even needed to leave this neighborhood. We stopped to talk to our friendly concierge who recommended a few restaurants. With his guidance we decided to take a reservation at Barroco, a newly opened Spanish restaurant a few blocks away. This was one of the best decisions of the trip. Everything about this restaurant was perfect – from the intimate decor, the friendly staff, to the cocktails and the food.
For a cocktail I ordered the Corpse Reviver, a gin based drink that was shaken just right so that there was a foamy fizz that stayed in the drink all evening. For meals we ordered the paella and the short ribs – both dishes were outstanding and we savored every bite. The short ribs I still don’t quite understand as the “rib” was the size of my forearm but that’s beside the point. The meat was extremely tender and deliciously complemented by truffle potatoes. I know the paella was also great too but it was hard to compete with the long-short ribs.
Between all of the driving, walking around and dinner we were beat after leaving the restaurant and headed back to the hotel to crash for the night.