I have a confession to make. I've made a mistake. I've been a bad photographer. I broke an unwritten rule. I went to Montreal... without my camera.
It was all out of good intention (aka I have a lot of excuses). I had just finished my final semester of school and I wanted a little freedom from my camera. Not that I don't love taking pictures, but cameras can sometimes be a nuisance. I had been to Montreal last year and didn't shoot much (probably due to the rain) so I figured I wouldn't pull my camera out a whole lot anyway. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time with my friend Sheridan visiting from overseas and to avoid her having to constantly be waiting for me to take photos. We planned on doing a lot of walking as well and cameras get heavy, so I took the easy way out and left the DSLR at home. As you'll read, however, I learnt my lesson on that decision.
Here are a few of my favourite things in Montreal.
We originally planned on staying at an airbnb, but our host double booked us for the first night, and once we saw (and smelt) where they wanted us to sleep instead, we politely said no thank you and got our booking cancelled. I need to make a huge shout-out to the customer service staff at airbnb, as they were extremely helpful in getting us our full refund and attempting to find us a new place to stay. They even gave me a $50 travel voucher to use with them within the next year!
We decided to go with a hostel instead, and hostelo was the closest and cheapest we could find with the best rating. Though at that point we just wanted somewhere clean to put our bags. We had a warm welcome at the hostel as the live-in staff were all very friendly and helpful. My only complaints of our stay would be that the common area was a little cramped and cluttered and that a few guests were using their e-cigarettes indoors. I know it's legal in Montreal, but it's still unpleasant. The place wasn't spotless and people were loud at night, but that's to be expected with any hostel.
Our stay reminded me of how much I love hostels, however. I love meeting new people and learning about their culture, where they're from, how they got here, and where they're going next. It was refreshing to feel like a traveler again, if even only for a few days. One girl I spoke with in particular was Jessica Lee from Toronto. She runs Hostelo's blog, among other things, and asked to feature me and my photos! I learnt a few important things from this experience including but not limited to: I write better than I speak; be prepared and able to briefly describe my work and what I specialize in at any given moment; and ALWAYS bring my camera because I never know when an opportunity may arise that I can't rely on my iPhone for.
This was the first cafe we spotted after leaving our airbnb offering wifi so we grabbed a latte and a pastry while we made phone calls to find new accommodations. Though I don't drink coffee, Sheridan claimed it was the best decaf latte she's ever had while I thoroughly enjoyed the pastry. We stopped back in for gelato a couple days later which was delicious. They even offer free regular coffee to their customers that I can't comment on but assume would please many.
This one deserves a photo. We were headed to Pomarosa for gelato but their sign for cronuts stopped us right in our tracks (as well as the father and daughter walking behind us). We learnt that a cronut is a deep fried pastry like a donut, but made of croissant dough. It is then filled with custard and covered in icing before melting in your mouth. It's a beautiful beautiful thing that the whole world must try.
Best sushi I've ever had along with great service. All there is to it.
It was the only nice day weather wise we had in Montreal, and we wanted to make the most of it. As soon as we decided an outdoor patio for lunch would help us with that, "Next to my Girlfriend" was in our sight. Though the back patio was still full of snow, the front was the place to be on St. Denis that day. Luckily a table opened up just as we arrived and nobody smoked around us until we got up to leave. Can you say perfect timing? The menu of the day had a good variety and was complete with soup to start and coffee to finish (I obviously skipped that) all for a reasonable price. Sangria was the drink of choice for myself and most everyone else on the patio, though I also spotted a margarita and a bottle of wine. I got the fish and chips and was very pleased, while Sheridan ordered couscous with grilled vegetables which was also delicious. And because we're in Canada, take a look at the difference 18 hours can make in the look of a patio in April. The second image was taken as we were walking for a second helping of cronuts the following morning.
We spent the morning of this beautiful day hiking (walking, really) up Mont Royal. We took the long way up from the bottom, following the winding path rather than the staircase. It was a bit of an adventure, as we didn't entirely know where we were going and the path was covered in slippery melting snow. Each step brought with it a very real risk of falling, but we somehow managed to make it the whole way up (and back down!) on our feet. The summit brought with it breathtaking views of Montreal and a visit to the cross on what other day but Good Friday. We spent some time in prayer as we remembered the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us before we returned to the city.
If you like live local music, this is the place to go. We found it on google when searching for live music near our hostel and walked past the bar 3 times before finally spotting it. It's tiny and tends not to light up its sign, but was so much fun both nights we visited! They have shows every night but is definitely not a tourist spot. Everybody in the place seemed to know each other, and we enjoyed our wine while people watching and listening to catchy French music we couldn't understand. Be prepared to feel a little out of place along with a bit of a language barrier when ordering your drinks if you don't speak French, but smile at others and hoot and holler after each song and you'll have yourself a great night.