Last weekend, I decided to spin the globe again (this time with three of my best babes) and head to the magical city of Montreal, Quebec.
As four women with big hearts, hungry bellies and a keen eye for fashionable foreign finds, we only had three things on our agenda: restaurants, shopping and tried-and-true girl time.
So, how do you pack in all that a city like Montreal has to offer in three days? I’ll show you how.
Due to a 6am flight, we rolled up to Montreal at 9am, and with about five hours to kill before hotel check-in time, what else is there to do but go to the spa? And not just any spa, but a floating boat on a marina posing as a spa facing the cityscape, complete with steam rooms, saunas, cold dunking pools, a French restaurant on the water and a “club” area with infinity pools and swinging hammocks for all. Oh, and let’s not forget my actual massage, which was by far one of the top three massages of my life. If you ever have a chance to hit up Bota Bota, ask for Guillermo, and prepare to be transported.
In our spa-daze, we cabbed across town to check in to Le Mount Stephen, a historic landmark building from 1926 that was transformed into a five-star boutique hotel in 2006. Ascend the castle-like steps of Le Mount Stephen and enter this seemingly untouched historic monument, zoom past the happening bar and club-like restaurant and enter the hotel’s sleek and modern lobby to check-in. The service went above and beyond to make our stay warm and welcoming, and the modern rooms boasted Japanese toilets and LED-color lit steam showers. A destination in and of itself.
Rosé on the Streets of the Plateau
After freshening up, we called our Uber (which are easy to get in Montreal) and headed to the corner of St. Laurent and Mount Royale, better known as the heart of The Plateau – Montreal’s hip, funky neighborhood. We made a pit stop on a random sidewalk patio (of which there are many) for a bottle of rosé as we people-watched amongst the graffiti laden streets.
We picked Kozu as our first dinner spot, since it was listed as one of Montreal’s Eater’s top 10 new restaurants in 2017. Upon entering, it was clear we weren’t the only ones hip-to-the-know. Filled with a young, attractive and buzzy crowd, we nestled ourselves into a corner booth facing the open kitchen, perfect for food and people watching. A progressive Nuevo Asian menu focusing on small plates, we noshed on the best pork dumplings of our lives, Hamachi tataki that went down like butter, soft-shell crab baos – enough said – fried tofu light as air and a soy-glazed cod that was devoured in five seconds flat among the four of us. Factor in vodka cocktails made with wasabi and the friendly (albeit slightly slow) service, Kozu had us feeling grateful to be in Montreal after just one day.
We slept in late the next day (AKA: 10am) and after four girls showered, dried their hair and assessed outfits, it was practically lunchtime. #SorryNotSorry. We wanted a lunch spot close to the best shopping, and our phenomenal hotel concierge steered us to Lemeac. If you looked up a “ladies who lunch restaurant” in the dictionary, you would find a photo of Lemeac. A super French vibe, which welcomed a well-dressed crowd, bottles of rosé abounded at most tables, while the four of us got down with coffees, omelettes, frisee salads with lardons and tons and tons of frites. It was the perfect sustenance to fuel the next seven hours of shopping…
Shopping on St. Laurent Avenue
Believe it or not, we only sojourned about three blocks in that amount of time, because St. Laurent Avenue (and the area surrounding it) consists of back-to-back boutiques, each one more stylish, unique and progressive than the next. The highlights:
Tres Chic: A gorgeous collection of independent Canadian and European designers, with crazy amazing sales. I snagged the last pair of these $300 Schutz silver loafers for a whopping 70 percent off.
Billie: Notable brands like Eberjay, Equipment, Vince, Wild Fox, Quay and Joe’s Jeans, beautifully edited and with zero pretension from the sweet staff.
Louwana Creek: Athleisure on steroids. Just go. Trust.
Unicorn Boutique: Edgy but relaxed original designs from global boutique designers at an amazing price point.
Deux Lions Jewelry: Custom made jewelry and accessories for the gypsy wanderlusting bohemian babe. I wanted to buy the whole store but settled on three gorgeous chokers instead.
This just in: Aperol Spritzes are a thing. And a delicious one at that. We switched up our rosé happy hour pit stop and opted for these sweet aperitifs on the sidewalk patio at Henrietta’s – a precious gem of a bar-meets-bistro in the heart of St. Laurent street.
We snagged a table last minute at this classic gem in the heart of Old Montreal, and boy did we feel lucky we did. A seemingly “secret” spot, set back inside an old building with a vault-like feel, we were welcomed by the incredible staff (the owner bought us shots at the bar while we waited to be seated) and our server was a fabulous “girl’s girl” who convinced us that the most decadent dishes were worth every calorie. And so, we dove belly first into Le Club’s locally-inspired French menu. This included grilled octopus, sugar scallops and foie gras risotto for appetizers, and roasted duck, steamed halibut and surf and turf for the main course. Le Club Chasset et Peche was not only decadent and delicious, but a total experience. A must-try when going to Montreal.
Wanting to sweat off that foie gras from the night before, we booked bikes at Spin Energie – Montreal’s equivalent to SOUL Cycle…kinda. While definitely not the exact experience of tap backs you’d find at SOUL, the music was on point, the instructor had amazing vibes (with even more amazing dance moves) and the workout was no joke. Forty-five minutes later, the four of us walked out with sweaty clothes and happier moods.
Starving after spin, we asked the staff at the studio where the locals do brunch. They pointed us a few blocks away to Café Parvis, an artsy café serving up strong coffee, fresh pastries and kombucha, along with serious brunch fare like egg stratas with goat cheese and eggplant, grilled pork marinated in coconut milk and homemade smoked sausages and egg salad. We heeded her advice, and got down with all of it.
After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and change, we hit the road right quick again and this time, ventured toward Old Montreal – the city’s most active neighborhood for tourists, shopping, art galleries and restaurants. We walked for hours and stopped at plenty of boutiques to pick up a few more special finds. Before we knew it, our bellies began to grumble again…
Poutine in Old Montreal
No trip to Montreal would be complete without a plate of poutine, which (in case you didn’t know) traditionally consists of a remarkably delicious plate of total indulgence: French fries with gravy and cheese curds. We snagged a table at a packed street side café to imbibe and take the obligatory poutine photo.
We happened to be in Montreal the same weekend as Jazz Fest, and so to walk off our poutine, we headed toward downtown to catch a bit of Anderson Paak’s show. On our way, we grabbed a table at Furco, a sexy, swanky bar a few blocks away. Straight out of Budapest, Furco serves up strong cocktails, cheese and chacuterie plates, a sexy crowd and feels like an absolute locally coveted gem. A must go.
Bonus Day 4 – Quebec City
It’s safe to say we covered most of this magical city of Montreal, and mainly on foot. If you couldn’t tell, Montreal is an incredibly easy city to walk, and I recommend you do so as much as possible to get a sense of its incredible landscape. But we weren’t quite done with the province of Quebec.
So, we rented a car and drove three and a half hours north to Quebec City for the night. Now, we weren’t there for more than 24 hours so I can’t give you much detail on where to go, shop, eat and stay. But I will tell you, from my short experience there, that it’s breathtakingly beautiful. It felt like Ireland meets Siena meets a beach town in Michigan. When we stumbled upon the lookout point overseeing the port, I was reminded of why I travel in the first place.
On just how big and beautiful the world really is and how truly small we really are in comparison. Especially our problems, gripes, complaints and thoughts of lack and separation. We are so divinely connected, my friends. We all live here, on this glorious globe, that is filled with great places to eat, shop and stay – sure – but to travel the world is about so much more. It’s about connecting. With people. With the planet. And most importantly, with yourself.
So, where are you spinning the globe to next? I hope you consider Montreal and Quebec City as your next potential destination.
To your perspective,