There’s something that you should know about me.
When I set my mind to something and have a goal in mind, it is nearly impossible to get me to let it go. I can be single-minded at times, and my 30 by 30 goal is no exception. So as soon as the world started to open up again post-pandemic, my restless, travel-loving self was anxious to get back to crossing some places off the list.
Believe it or not, despite living in Boston for so long, I have never been to Canada. When I was in college, there was this big “ski” weekend that many of the sororities and fraternities would do. They’d go to Montreal to “ski,” aka a bit of skiing, but a lot of drinking, too. I was in a sorority, so I was invited, but I never went. In college, I just wasn’t into drinking or partying a lot. I was a late bloomer in several ways. So anyway, that was pretty much my only chance to go to Canada, and I never took it. I was planning to cruise to Canada last year but canceled it even before COVID because of the job I had at the time. So I decided that Canada should be my next stop before risking it closing up again.
I picked a day and was extremely excited to find out that Montreal has a Sofitel. When I had a long layover at London Gatwick Airport, I stayed at a Sofitel and it was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. Obviously, I immediately booked a room there. I downloaded the ArriveCAN app, got my COVID test, and set off for just under a 5-hour drive to Montreal.
Honestly, the drive was not bad at all. It’s actually a beautiful drive, even though it rained for most of it. I saw parts of New Hampshire and Vermont that I hadn’t seen before. I was also weirdly amused by the “Moose Crossing” and “Bear Crossing” signs. When I got to the border, it was easy sailing going through. The hardest part was not oversharing too much. Whenever I’m questioned like that, I always feel like maybe I DID do something wrong. I definitely went way too into detail on some questions, though. But I made it through! After that, it was just another hour or so to Montreal.
I really thought that Montreal would have traffic signs in both French and English. But, I quickly learned that was not the case. I was grateful that my dad reminded me to switch my speedometer to KM instead of MPH, and I was grateful for the bit of French I knew that I could understand where I was going. I made it to my hotel safely, got checked in and settled, and then set out.
My first stop was to Tim Horton’s because that is basically the most quintessentially “Canada” thing I can think of. Well, besides poutine, which I won’t eat. I hate gravy, sorry. It was not as exciting or impressive as I thought it might be, but caffeine is caffeine, so it served its purpose. After that, I just walked around for a while, exploring the area near my hotel. I saw a really beautiful art museum and some cool sculptures outside, a pretty park, and interesting buildings. I picked a cute little brasserie not too far from my hotel for dinner because I was starving. The bartender there was so sweet. He gave me so many tips. I wish I had been there for more than one night. He told me so many places to try and gave me a glass of wine on the house. My cheeseburger was delicious, too.
After that, I went back to my hotel to call it an early night. I slept SO well in the amazing Sofitel bed, and in the morning, I set off to see more of Montreal. I found out that the other thing they’re famous for is bagels, so I figured that was a good thing to try. Unfortunately for Canada, my family is from New York/New Jersey. When it comes to bagels, I am VERY picky and have high standards, so while the bagel wasn’t bad, I have absolutely had better.
After breakfast, I wandered down to Notre Dame Cathedral. Sadly, I couldn’t go inside, but the outside is absolutely gorgeous. Then I strolled through the Old Montreal area and went inside some cute little shops and bakeries before making my way to La Grande Roue de Montreal, which is kind of like their London Eye. The views were amazing. The whole area was pretty cute; actually, they had some little stands and games set up. It was cool.
After that, I figured it was time to get on the road soon. First, I went through this massive market but found that many shops were closed because of COVID. If I go back, hopefully, more will be open. Then I made my way back to my hotel and started my drive back to Boston. Once again, it was easy to get through the border. I was happy to be back in the land of miles per hour and English traffic signs.
If I’m honest, the best part of the trip was that I took a bit longer on the way back so that I could go to Ben and Jerry’s headquarters and get ice cream. They also have a “flavor graveyard” with headstones for all of their retired flavors. I loved it.
And that was my overnight trip to Montreal! Altogether, I think I was there for like 22 hours, but it was good to see and get a taste of it. Of course, I also got to cross it off my list – bringing me to 28!
I would love to go back to Canada someday because the people were so sweet, and I’m sure there’s so much more to see and do, but I wasn’t overly impressed with Montreal. Maybe if the weather was nicer or if I’d brought clothes (and had the energy) to go to one of the speakeasies, I’d feel differently. But, I’ll give it another chance someday.
Have you been to Canada before? What’s your favorite city there?