When Chris and I arrived at the airport this morning to find out our 9am flight to Ottawa was cancelled with no other flights to the same city until the next day, my first question was, "what about the 9am flight to Montreal?". My home town has been calling to me for the last little while and I've been dreaming about going back to the place I left 25 years ago. Montreal had become a distant memory. The memories I had were of a city mixed with the day-to-day life of going to school in the suburbs and heading downtown on the weekends. It was a city filled with energy and culture, buzzing with jazz and comedy festivals, fashion, packed nightclubs, and public pools to beat the summer heat. As the years have gone by, I started wondering if my memories of Montreal matched the reality of life in the city. Was the energy really there or did I add it in later?
So when the Westjet crew member confirmed space for us on the Montreal flight, Chris and I found ourselves unexpectedly heading there. We had no place to stay and no list of attractions to visit. But on the 5 hour flight, thoughts on what to do in the city began to take shape. And the moment our wheels hit the runway at Trudeau airport, I had connected my phone back to the internet, looking for accomodation and transportation options.
Our night in Montreal was filled with the fun, high-energy lifestyle I remember from the city. It seemed like every time we turned the corner there was a fresh vibe, with crowds lining up for poutine or waiting to get a seat on a patio. We turned onto the pier in old Montreal and there were throngs of people walking down the middle of the wide street, with the Ferris wheel circling in the background and paddleboats being pedaled around on the water below. The air smelled like fresh buttery popcorn. Turning onto Saint Paul street we walked along the cobblestones of old Montreal, as the sky darkened and the white lights came on to lite up the streets. Every little alley was packed with people and we could see diners sitting at the tables of busy restaurants through the windows of the stoned-buildings. We waited in line at a street-side counter for poutine that we ate on one of the benches outside. We walked for kilometers down Saint Laurent Blvd., under the white and red lights strung across the streets, passed dance clubs blaring party music and restaurants with large patios setup on the street, until we arrived at the famous Schwartz's Charcuterie. We ordered their renowned smoke meat and it did not disappoint. The smoked meat was cut to a perfect thickness and just melted in my mouth. It made me realize the taste I'd been missing for so many years of ordering "Montreal-style" smoked meats at other restaurants.
Walking back to our hotel we discovered more pedestrian-only streets with filled with more restaurants and people. My night in Montreal showed me the city is what I remember: a vibrant city full of culture and history, with a party waiting on every corner.
Keep reading more about our 4 month trip to Ontario, Quebec, Greece, and Italy here.