Top 10 Picks for Tourist-y Sights in Montreal

Let’s face it, sometimes you’re just a tourist. Time is short or that’s just your style, it doesn’t matter. It happens that you have to see the highlights and be on your merry way. I’m lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the real Montréal and report back to you about what you must see. From the Fine Arts Museum to the Basilica of Notre Dame, there are so many beautiful and buzzing sights to see! Here it is in no particular order, my top ten sights to see in Montréal.


1. Eat Poutine If you take no other recommendation of mine, this is it. Eat poutine. The local Quebec dish is far from healthy, but it is delicious. To read my ravings about poutine, click here!


2. Contemporary Arts Museum The artwork in here is simply incredible. If you like modern art, and possibly even if you don’t, check this out. It is visually striking, different, and creative. Currently, works by David Altmejd are located there and they will not disappoint. From magic dream zebras, to “Flux,” it is sure to capture your imagination.

3. Fine Arts Museum I went the this museum twice, and I was never bored. Each time I explored a different area, and was very impressed each time. It contained the classic style of art that is normally found in art museums world wide. I would recommend going right the the local art from Quebec, as that is the most unique and something you won’t find many other places. (I also enjoyed the area with Inuit art!)


4. Jean-Talon Market A farmer’s market on steroids located in Little Italy, the Jean-Talon Market is full of beautiful, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Admittedly, I ate a complete meal one evening just walking around and trying samples. It’s also a great way to talk to locals! Most of the people working are more than happy to chat if it’s not too busy.

 

5. Botanical Gardens and the Olympic Stadium If you have time to go to the Botanical Gardens, I would highly recommend it. My favorite part was the Chinese garden, but I have a special place in my heart for Bonsai trees, so the Japanese garden was great too! Overall, it’s a beautiful area and nice place to spend an afternoon. The olympic stadium is right next door, along with the Tower of Montréal. It’s fun to take pictures in front of (I even went to the top when my sister visited me, but I would recommend saving your money and skipping that) especially the pedestal with olympic rings.

 

6. Notre Dame Basilica This is an absolute must-see. As you can see from the pictures, it is breathtaking and worth the small fee of $5 CAD.
 7. Old Port Another nice area to walk around in and see the history around you. There is a museum at the port if you are interested, but I just enjoyed the view.


8. Cat Cafe This one is totally and completely a personal preference, but if you love animals you will probably love it. I’ve got a link for you right here to find out more about the cat cafe!

9. Mont-Royal: Tam Tams Because I could sing praises of this event all day, I will keep it short. Do yourself a favor  and go to Montréal on a Sunday. On Sundays, the hippie crowd all gets together in the park area of Mont-Royal and they play their tam-tams together. Without practice, they play beautiful music all day. I am not exaggerating when I say that there is always at least one drum playing during the day. It’s such a fun atmosphere, and even if that’s not really your scene, it’s a fun thing to check out before going about the rest of your day.


10. Mont-Royal Overlook. If you can only pick one activity to do while in Montréal, you love beautiful views, and maybe a short hike, I have the perfect place for you. Head straight to Mont-Royal and right up to the overlook. On nice days, you’ll see people hiking, biking, jogging, and running up the steep stairs to the top of the overlook. There is also a gentler path in case you’re not interested in the stairs, so it accessible to nearly everyone!

So there you have it! Hope this has helped you with some trip planning or inspiration. What would you add to the list?

Leah

Street art

Graffiti. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its impact as a medium of self expression, a call to action for social change, and, perhaps, inspiring or thought provoking images. The other part you can’t deny: Montreal has some seriously impressive street art. Personally, I appreciate most forms of art. Even if I don’t understand a piece, I can understand that there was something (whether it was intention or passion, I don’t know) that the artist felt needed to be conveyed for personal reasons or for the sake of others. No matter the reason, those who create it in Montreal are generally extremely talented.

    Here is a photo of some of the creative and outstanding artistic ability of the street artists of Montreal. After my sister, Bethany, joined me in Montreal, one of her many first impressions of the city today was how incredible this particular piece of art is (and that we should stop and take a picture, of course!)

“There can be no environmental justice without social justice” “Je pense à toi.”

I think this is very striking. A radical call to action with a major artistic flair. It makes me so happy to see how people can use art for the betterment of the world, and although this isn’t technically a mural or anything of that sort, it accomplishes the same goal.

Arrêt•Art

Basically all I’m getting from this stop sign is everything Montreal stands for. Enough said.

  A stunning tribute to, as it says, the “missing and murdered indigenous women. Much art like this exists in effort to remind the viewers of the injustices that remain often overlooked.

  To be honest, I don’t have much to say about this other than that it’s sweet.(hah, see what I did there?) I came across this in the Gay Village and thought it was fun and happy!

This stunning mural is in a neighborhood near Mile End. It’s gorgeous and thought provoking. It is clear to see the effort put into this through the intricate details throughout it!

So there you have it, a small sampling of the many creations Montreal has to offer! Follow me on Instagram to see more photos! (@lavidaleah)

Café des Chats: Montréal

The craze that swept Asia has finally hit the western hemisphere: cat cafes. As a dog person, I’ll admit I was skeptical. As an animal person, I was overjoyed. Café des Chats is a beautiful location with a beautiful concept. The have many cats romping about the café, interacting with their human counterparts. The cafe has a partnership with a local animal shelter from which they adopted the eight cats that live at the cafe. They are all up to date on vaccinations, have regular vet visits, and more, just like beloved pets. There is also a separate room for rest and for litter, so the cats have all the privacy and options for socialization.

As a customer, you can also enjoy cafe sweets (including vegan options from local vegan bakery, Sophie Sucrée) while enjoying the company of frolicking felines. They also have food (vegetarian and otherwise) as well as standard cafe drinks. The adorable menu indicates the rules for interacting with the cats (in English and in French) and the peaceful sleeping cats are the perfect way to get your animal-fix in a safe and loving way for all involved. For full info, head over to http://www.cafedeschats.ca

 Have you been to a cat cafe? Share your experiences in the comments below!

My Favorite Vegan Restaurant in Montréal

As a vegetarian, I am always looking for new ways to explore and enjoy food. I love to eat, and I don’t want to deny myself the joy of eating genuinely good food. As you can imagine, I end up at vegan joints pretty quickly and they tend to be hit or miss.


This time, though, I asked one of my French teachers for some insider advice, and she promptly started singing the praises of “Aux Vivres” and their delicious smoothies. Man, was she ever right this time. I tried the choco-classique each time. It was a magical concoction of chocolate coconut milk, cocoa, dates, and flax protein. It had a lovely consistency, and tasted like chocolate heaven, and was somehow still healthy.

As for the entree, I ended up getting the same thing every time I went just because I couldn’t deviate from the delicious vegan chili with guacamole, vegan sour cream, carrots and corn chips on top. It is so delicious and I am in love.

What vegan restaurants do you like to hit up?

Leah

Ode to Poutine

Hello, my name is Leah, and I truly believe the presence of poutine has changed my life for the better.

My first poutine experience was after a long, long day. I had barely eaten anything, I’d been walking around Montreal with a friend unsuccessfully trying to meet up with a few more people. We were tired, cold, and hungry. Oh yeah, did I mention it was also raining?

After getting off the metro, we trudged through the rain for half an hour. Little did we know, there was a metro stop just a few blocks from our light at the end of the cold and rainy tunnel: Poutineville. The spectacular waiter at Poutineville even accommodated to our varying levels of French. (Disclaimer: Montréal is very much bilingual, but because we’re all there for a French immersion class, we try our best to speak French.) And after a short wait, we were all feeling much better with plates heaping with customized poutine placed before us. It actually tasted like heaven in my mouth. The vegetarian gravy softened the potato pieces to perfection, and the cheese, mushrooms, and onions complemented each other perfectly.


My second poutine experience was equally incredible. At a diner, with a wonderful waiter named Gerard, I ate this beautiful plate of poutine. Thank you, Montréal!
*UPDATE*

La Banquise is arguable the most famous/popular poutine-palace Montréal has to offer. It was, without a doubt, delicious. I tried one called “La Véganomane.” While others complained of their cheese curds not melting, my vegan cheese melted and spread over the potatoes. Overall, I would say that the poutine from Poutine Ville was better as far as the taste, but for a vegan review, La Banquise was the bomb!

It’s Go Time: Montreal

My backpack is packed, my class is registered for, and my plane ticket has been purchased. Getting ready for a six week trip to Montreal while finishing a year at college has been a hectic time. Not to mention the fact that I signed up for this class spur of the moment and had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew is that, as a polyglot on a budget, I wanted to travel, learn French, and not have balance of $0 in my bank account. What is a girl to do? Go to Canada, apparently.

My only experience with Canada was on a family vacation when I was 14 where we drove through the desolate part of Canada from Niagara Falls to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Needless to say, it was terrible. A nine hour drive through…trees. Just trees. The idea of going back to Canada was not the most exciting at first. However, now that I’ve had time to get psyched, I am truly psyched. The idea of strolling through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, cruising by the St. Lawrence river, and reading all of the French signs makes me giddy with excitement! Why Montreal? Well, that’s very simple. It’s a beautiful, vibrant city, the US dollar is strong, and, most importantly, it’s bilingual.

And truthfully, there is only one person I can accredit my  excitement to: Anthony Bourdain. I grew up watching the Travel Channel, but Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations was probably the only Travel Channel show my mother would not watch with me. The vulgar language, smoking, and drinking did not appeal to her, but in the name of raising well-cultured children, she let me watch it myself. Thankfully for me, Anthony Bourdain’s show, “The Layover,” is now on Netflix and includes an episode about Montreal.

My favorite aspect of his shows is the interactions with locals. In addition to the food, he involves himself in the local cultures and customs. I love seeing interviews with the people giving information about everyday life. This time, it has actually made all the difference in my enthusiasm for my upcoming adventure.

Where do you go for travel inspiration?

Leah