July 5, 2007

Magnifique Montreal

We have just returned from a lovely romantic getaway to Montreal. We had an amazing meal on Tuesday night. Not only was the meal very fine but heightened greatly by our wonderful server and the singular ambience of our surroundings. Our genial host informed us that the building we were in (pictured above) was built in 1725, which makes it the third oldest building in Montreal. Wow!

While this old-stone is now one of our favourite places, we stayed in a most modern environment at the opposite end of the aesthetic scale, the ultra-hip W Montreal. From our personal and warm welcome from the staff to the cool, large room, we knew we had made a good decision.

After settling in our room we embarked on a whirlwind, 4-hour walk of Montreal. We started by heading over to "Le Village" (the gay village), where we enjoyed some great shops and the dozens of rainbow flags draped on just about every business. We then hopped on the Metro (subway) and up to Le Plateau district, taking in the awesome Saint-Denis street and the cozy Duluth street, and we then lined up in the rain in front of Shwartz's deli. It was worth the wait, and we were seated at the bar in this famous eatery, open since 1928. We enjoyed the classic combo of smoked meat sandwich, cole slaw, and cherry cola. Yummy!

We then decided to walk back to downtown, through Mordecai Richler's neighborhood, along Saint Laurent. We eventually came to Chinatown, browsed some more cool shops, and then wandered back to our hotel room to take a well-deserved rest. To our delight, a complimentary bottle of 2004 red wine and a platter of fruit was awaiting us. We collapsed on our chaise lounge and dug into our treats!

After a rest and clean-up we were ready to head into Old Montreal, my favourite part of the city, where we eventually found our restaurant mentioned above. We then enjoyed a romantic stroll along the narrow streets and winded our way back to our hotel.

Wednesday morning we again headed back to Old Montreal on a quest for a light breakfast. After a rather long search we found the perfect bistro where I had a coffee and a croissant and Mark had juice and a bagel. We then had a marvelous walk criss-crossing the awesome art galleries on Saint Paul street, and wound our way back to the hotel.

Although we had arranged a late 4PM check-out, we decided to check out early, and we got in our rental car and decided to head back up to Le Plateau to try and find what is arguably the most famous bagel shop in North America, St-Viateur Bagel. This turned into a small odyssey, as it was dumping buckets of rain and we weren't exactly sure where the shop is, just the neighborhood in general. And, thanks to the famed Montreal style of driving, we were almost hit about 20 times! Finally, we spotted it through the deluge, found parking, and ran into the store.

Opened in 1957, this bagel shop is really a small factory, where the wood-burning ovens go 24/7 and you can watch the bagels being made and cooked. We got a dozen, and we ate three as they were still piping warm. Mmmmm.

We then spent the next two hours getting out of the city limits, as it was now rush hour and the main entrance to HWY 720 was closed. We finally got out and then we stopped in Valleyfield for an awesome meal of poutine before heading back to Ontario. A great and memorable trip!

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