Well, I have to say the reading week just past much well spent in Montreal, being able to explore a new city is always something I’ll look forward to, but it was the fact that Montreal had such a French feel that almost made it strangely familiar in its architecture and culture. Being able to turn 21 here with an amazing group of people also made it a much-deserved highlight of the year so far. Here is the cream of the crop from our explorations in the marvelous French-Candian city.
Due to the first day we arrived ultimately being the best weather-wise, we decided to brave the hike and climb up Mont Royal, the large hill/small mountain that the city is named after (Mont Royal…Montreal….see the similarity?) and I had to say I haven’t seen anything quite like it when we got to the top. Being able to look over the entire South and West sides of the city from one point was utterly spell-binding. We could’ve spent all day taking pictures of the beautiful snow-kissed landscape but we didn’t want to waste any time that we had. However, we were there taking photos for a good hour all with jaws to the floor with the sight that met us at the top.
However much I am a UoT student, after travelling down from Mont Royal, the foot of it lead us straight to the entrance of McGill university, I have to say the buildings of McGill definitely won me over. They looked like something out of Hogwarts but a little more….French should we say. You can see why people come here though, the university is immaculate and you can tell inside all the buildings they had state-of-the-art facilities. On such a bright day as it was it would’ve been rude not to have a look around, even though realising I was wearing a UoT t-shirt underneath my opened coat I could see there was some rivalry between UoT and McGill – one of which we all embraced very comfortably.
Montreal City Hall
Just for the pure majesticness of the building we swung round to Notre-Dame street to find the city hall, and boy is it massive. Standing on the street opposite from it I had to take a panorama of the building as it didn’t fit into my frame, and it’s 5 floors. 5 FLOORS! We only made it into the ground floor as we sort of weren’t meant to be there (whoops) but from the outside, it looked so official and just purely brilliant to look at.
I want to have lunch at this place every day for the rest of my life and buy the same thing every time – the smoked meat sandwich. To describe biting into this as like being kissed by your first life for the first time would be an understatement to the sandwich itself. It tasted like how an orgasm feels. Legit. Don’t believe me? Go there and try one and then tell me that you didn’t need to change your trousers after eating it. I was so sad after finishing my first one that I immediately bought a second. Even the layout was amazingly Canadian dinner-esque, with narrow tables with elbows touching of the people you’re next to and service quicker than a Brits wit. It is a place that I shall return to in the future mark my words.
If Schwartz wasn’t enough for that afternoon, this place certainly added the most amazing cherry to a culinary afternoon I’ve ever had. The desserts here were just stupendous, so rich, but no rich enough to become sickly. The flavour of the chocolate and the waffle and the balls and the ice cream all came together into one amazing dish that truly rivals all others. I would happily drown myself in the chocolate they make here and if I died, I would die a happy man. Just magnificent.
I’ve never been a place so peacefully quiet, where I felt I really could think with such clarity due to being able to hear the bowel movements of someone from across the room. After entering the grand wooden doors came a very picturesque site, almost equivalent to that of visiting Disneyland for the first time (and also because the top of architecture reminded me of the Disneyland castle). I could’ve spent many an hour here thinking as I do, about the past, present and future plans for what might be in store for me. Sitting in the pews with complete strangers and friends alike everyone seemed to be very at peace with themselves, admiring the amazing work that past sculptors and architects had built for over 5 years to create. To pay only $5 to visit such a marvel is by far worth it (and if you keep your ticket after you leave you can go in more times than one as they have no date just a confirmation stamp – saving your pennies!)
Ice Canoe Racing
Gabriel and I decided to get up early after a heavy night drinking to go and explore Old Montreal, but soon into venturing around the area we heard loud sirens with French commentating nearby so obviously we went to investigate and what we found was probably nothing we ever could’ve expected. Ice canoe racing. Yeah. It’s a thing. And I have to say that it was very enjoyable to watch, especially the beginning when teams of 5 used their strength to slide their canoe across a large stretch of ice and into the frosty waters to then paddle and batter opponents away in a quest for the finish line. The vivid colours of all the different canoe teams were something to be admired, as well as the crowd, who kept running from side to side of the viewing points to try and get the best view of the race. It was rather wonderful to see such a crowd be so into a sport in unison.
I have to say I have become quite fond of poutine as of coming to Canada, I never thought I would just due to the combination of hot gravy, cheese and chips but I have to say it works! Now there’s poutine, and then there’s poutine from La Banquise. Let’s just say there’s a very good reason for why there is always a line out the door to be seated when you get to here. Opening the menu to find that they served more than 20 different types of poutine was just mind-blowing. My choice was influenced by someone who had already been there before as he said “it has more meat than you’ll be able to finish if you get a large portion” so obviously I took the challenge of seeing how much meat there could be on in a poutine dish.
This is what came before me. I honestly could’ve cried from how much food there was and how delicious it looked. The fact you could only just see the chips and the bottom of the dish made me excited to embark on this challenge of mighty foodstuffs. It was a mission and there was a bit of touch and go, but when a very hungry Englishman takes on a challenge, they won’t go down without a fight. With much beautiful battling with the poutine I finished the bowl of poutine, and yet I immediately became sad. I was so hellbent on eating it I almost forgot to savour the taste. The amazingly meaty, spicy, succulent taste of probably one of the top 10 dishes I’ve ever had.
The best part is I’m coming back to Montreal in May to explore some different sides to the city, and probably some same eateries but there will be much more to come in May.
Exciting plans have just developed for late March, but I’ll let you know the location of that in good time – for now I leave you with this, if you don’t think you’ve got time to do something, take a deep breath. Stop for a few seconds. And say to yourself “I do have time” because however wrapped you might get in studying or work, there is always time to do other things that make you happy.