Last week I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Montreal with 6 of my friends for my girlfriend’s 40th birthday. I had promised you when I returned that I would share more details about my trip, so here’s my official recap!
Admittedly I was very nervous about going to Montreal because I don’t speak French very well, despite the fact that two of my daughters are in French Immersion at school. Montreal, in the Province of Quebec, is a French-speaking city – the official language of the city is French, however close to 60% of the population can speak both French and English. My 6 yr old daughter can probably speak and understand more French than me, and my 8 yr old is definitely more fluent than me. Once I got there I learned very quickly that there was really no reason to be scared – everyone I met in Montreal could speak English! What a relief!
My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip. To get to Montreal from Toronto we traveled Business Class by VIA Rail. We had several travel options – we could have driven all of us together in a van for 6 hours, flown from Toronto to Montreal, taken a bus or traveled by train. We chose train because it seemed the most comfortable and cost-effective.
We were all able to sit the 7 of us together despite booking separately – yay! We had a 4-seater with 1 seat behind it on one side of the train, and across the aisle we had a 2-seater next to the window. There was a small table between the two seats in the 4-seater so we moved people around so that 5 of us could play a game of Skip Bo! (a kids card game) and sit together:
As you can see from the far left of the photo we were able to enjoy the “all you can drink” (within reason) wine. As well, our train ticket also included a very nice lunch – I chose to have the Salmon, rice and veggies with a mixed greens salad:
The service on the train was amazing, and the ride was very comfortable. The free Wi-Fi service (and ample electrical outlets to charge devices) made the time on the train that much more enjoyable.
When we got to Montreal we split into two groups to take a short taxi ride to our hotel, The Hyatt Regency Montreal. Our hotel was conveniently attached to a shopping centre, restaurants and of course a wine store. We had adjoining rooms with two queen sized beds in each room which gave us plenty of space for the 7 of us.
After relaxing and freshening up a bit, we spent our first night in Montreal enjoying a French specialty, Fondue at a cute restaurant called FondueMentale on rue Saint-Denis in an early 20th century home.
Fondue is really fun when shared with a large group of friends. Our meal consisted of several courses, the first course was salad, the second course was our choice of cheese fondue with bread. Because we of the size of our group, we were able to have three fondue pots, so we chose a different cheese for each pot. We continued this trend with our two other fondue courses, for the meat course we had vegetable broth in one pot, and hot oil in another pot (the vegetable broth was FAR better than the oil), then for dessert we had two pots with chocolate and another with maple. The maple was absolutely delicious and we should have made our third pot the maple/chocolate combination.
After our very long dinner (we spent three hours eating!) all of us were ready for bed. We were just too full to go out dancing. (Yes, we’re getting old).
The next morning after a very long for me sleep (hello, since when do moms get to sleep for 10 whole hours straight?!?), we headed out for a nice breakfast at the breakfast restaurant next to our hotel, Eggspectation.
In the province of Quebec they can begin serving alcohol at 8 am. This was a novelty to us because in Ontario alcohol cannot be served until 11 am, so we fully took advantage of the Quebec Liquor laws and started our morning with some delicious Mimosas:
I still felt full from dinner the night before so I had a nice Greek Yogurt Parfait for my breakfast. The other girls had Eggs Benedict and Omelettes no one had any complaints about their food as it was all incredibly delicious.
After breakfast we headed out to Rue St. Catharine to do some shopping. At Forever 21 I bought myself a beautiful hot pink knit dress, then at Jacob I bought myself a gorgeous suit jacket. We continued walking and shopping and chatting, going as far up the street as Lululemon (my favourite store). I had a gift card with some money left on it from Christmas, so I treated myself to a brand new tank top. Black and pink seem to be my two favourite colors now.
I also bought some change purses as a memento for my daughters, some pure Canadian Maple Syrup for my husband and a Starbucks Montreal mug for our mug collection from their “You are here” series. Every time the hubby and I go away we buy a mug from Starbucks. So far we have: Hawaii, Honolulu, Canada, Toronto, Boston and now Montreal.
(If you ever happen to find any at a Starbucks near you, I would happily reimburse you if you purchase it and ship it to me, just send me an email for my mailing address: [email protected]).
After our afternoon of shopping we went and relaxed around the pool. I read my Runner’s World on my ipad, then went and swam a few laps for 15 min.
We then got all dolled up for our birthday celebration night – dinner and dancing! I decided to ditch my classic little black dress, and wore my brand new hot pink dress instead:
We warmed up with drinks at the Hyatt Regency Montreal’s bar, then headed out to Le Newtown for dinner. Le Newtown is a sophisticated restaurant in the heart of the club district of Montreal, located on Rue Crescent, owned by F1 racer, Jacques Villeneuve. Newtown is actually Jacques last name in English. This was a contentious name for his restaurant because Montreal has a strict sign laws – all signs must be in French unless it’s a trademarked name. Thus Jacques had to trademark the restaurant name. The food at Le Newtown was fantastic (I had the Ravioli) and the bartender can make an awesome Gimlet. Interestingly, the washroom has slats instead of a wall between male / female sinks. Bit weird, but good for pick-ups I suppose.
Afterwards we went to the dance club downstairs, Electric Avenue, to dance for what our hotel concierge promised would be 80’s, 90’s and today’s hits…. While her description of the music was accurate, we quickly left after looking around and feeling like we were in the high school dance scene of the movie Sixteen Candles.
We then went to Jet Night Club which had a MUCH younger crowd, but much better music. I almost felt like we were cougars because we had to be a good 15 years older than their average guest. We had a lot of fun though as the crowd was super friendly.
The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast in the food court of the mall under the hotel, and grabbed some cabs to old Montreal where we were all booked for spa treatments at RainSpa.
I had a pedicure and an awesome massage. My massage therapist was also a runner, and could tell immediately that I was also a runner. He worked on releasing some of my tight spots: upper backs, piriformis, IT band and plantar fascia. I then laid and relaxed in their exquisite Islamic Hammam. A Hammam is a Turkish bath, similar to a sauna but is more closely related to ancient Greek and Roman bathing practices. The air is very moist and warm. I found it hard to breathe at first, then I relaxed and used my deep Yoga breathing. It was very relaxing. We spent 4 hours at the spa, then had to cab it back to the train station to take our train home.
All in all we had a fantastic weekend. We ate, we drank, we shopped, we partied, and we relaxed. I highly recommend visiting Montreal if you’ve never been there before.