It isn’t always possible to pinpoint the exact moment you fall in love with a place. New encounters can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing. But there was just something so special about Montreal that had me at hello. It was August of last year when I first stepped foot into this vibrant city. I stayed near Rue University, got familiar with McGill University, spent some time at Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and briefly visited Old Montreal. I remember leaving 2 days later, feeling this incessant thirst for more. After finding out that my mom had never been before, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to revisit my love for it.
This time, we took the bus into the city and stayed at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. With our hotel conveniently located at the heart of romantic and cosmopolitan Montreal, we had access to several tourist attractions. On our first night, we wandered along Rue Sainte-Catherine and got acquainted with the shopping district. Lined with a vast selection of great malls such as the Eaton Centre and Complexe des Ailes, a variety of food joints, and contemporary buildings, the Rue Sainte-Catherine was a shopaholic’s dream.
The next day, we ventured toward Old Montreal to see the Notre-Dame Basilica. What really spoke to me is the fact that along the way, we walked past cobblestoned streets and saw a curious mix of old European flare and contemporary influences. Once we reached the Basilica, we each paid $5 to view and take pictures of its interior. The fee also came with an optional tour. Our tour guide walked us through the different glass paintings used and gothic architectural designs evident in the church.
After having lunch at one of the nearby restaurants, we walked up toward Boulevard Saint-Laurent and passed by Chinatown. Here, we got the chance to watch neon lights change from colour to colour and experience this culturally beautiful side of Montreal. And I’m not quite sure how we did it, but we somehow managed to walk past over 2000 stores and find ourselves standing in front of the infamous Schwartz’s restaurant. Although we just had lunch, it didn’t feel right to leave without a bite of the delicious smoked meat so we succumbed to temptation and brought back two sandwiches. At that point, it felt right to head back to the hotel to relax and go swimming.
We ended the night with dinner at a Thai place in Chinatown. If you’re like me and enjoy trying a variety of cuisines, this is the area for you. After dinner, we visited some of the adjacent stores and found several deals – from tea sets to figurines to bags. It was an inspiring walk back to the hotel. Although the night was chilly and I could feel the cold air on my bare skin, the whole day was a nice reminder of why Montreal holds such a special place in my heart. It isn’t always possible to pinpoint the exact moment we fall in love with a place. But sometimes it helps to have people we care about beside us.
What do you love about Montreal? Let me know in the comment section below.