Celebrating America in Montreal
When the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday taking off Thursday and Friday is kind of a must. With five days to maximize in the dead of summer, one of the best options is a quick trip up to the Great White North in Montreal. What better way to celebrate the birth of America than by completely skipping it and going to Canada, eh?
A group of four, including myself all flew up on July 4th and got a super cute Airbnb just north of Old Town. I was the only one who’d been a few times before, so we pretty much hit all the highlights. Montreal’s the kind of town you could go a dozen times and there’s always something new and random to do. Unfortunately for us, the entire Northeast was experiencing a stifling and lingering heat wave, including Montreal which got up to temps near or maybe even over, 100. For a city that’s not used to experiencing those kinds of temps and doesn’t really have air conditioning in most places, this was less than ideal. At one point we walked into a vintage clothing shop and since it didn’t have AC I walked right back out. I remember walking into the next place and saying the phrase, “If I’m not immediately hit in the face with a cold wall of air, I shan’t be held responsible for my actions.”
One of the absolutely coolest things we did (pun intended) was to snag tickets to see Aura. A new art light show in the Basilica Notre Dame de Montreal. This show is so immensely popular (2 shows per day, 600 people per show) that it was able to retrofit this 19th century gorgeous church with central air. The shows sell out daily and quite quickly so if you want to go - get tickets ahead of time. It’s only 45 minutes in total, but a great way to spend some time inside if you go when it’s absurdly hot, raining, or snowing. A truly unique Montreal experience. We followed it by then heading to Joe Beef, which might just be the best restaurant in the entire city - and I’ll stand by the statement even though there are so many great ones.
Once the heatwave finally broke (down to the 60s I might add!) we did a lot of walking, eating, and drinking throughout the various neighborhoods, but also spent some time getting up to Mount Royal and wandering the trails and enjoying the views. We walked down the mountain and found the most adorable cafe with indoor/outdoor seating that felt like an oasis in the middle of a bustling metropolis - Cafe Santropol. We kept walking and enjoyed the shops throughout the city, and down Rue Saint-Catherine, which is mostly closed to cars and is a pedestrian friendly street with great artwork throughout. We also happened to be in town during the Montreal Jazz Fest and caught Kimbra performing at Club Soda.
No trip to Montreal is complete without stopping in at Marche Jean-Talon. It’s one of the world’s best outdoor markets with incredibly fresh fruits & veggies, and great food stalls scattered throughout. Go there hungry!
After the market, we spent an afternoon in the Montreal Botanical Garden which was delightful. If you’re a millennial who likes to take photos of colored walls and great backgrounds, this place is full of Instagram worthy opportunities. It’s also gigantic so bring your best walking shoes!
Even though we were attempting to escape the Independence Day festivities, Montreal made us feel right at home with a Friday night fireworks display as set to the music of ABBA. We grabbed some sandwiches and found a spot to throw down a blanket and catch the show. I ended up bringing a portable speaker that’s loud as hell and ended up making friends. At one point I was referring to being quote, “a hero” which isn’t a bad way to end a great tip.
Instead of flying home, two of us decided to ride the rails from Montreal back to NYC. For $60 it’s definitely worth the money. Pretty cool to enter into one’s home country via train too (which is pretty rare for Americans). We had snacks saved from the market and enjoyed a nice 10 hour ride back.
As always, my Foursquare List of places I’ve been to in Montreal can be found here.