Montréal: So Much to See And Do!

It's day eighteen (for me) in the A-Z blog challenge! This month I'll be sharing all about my Christmas/New Year's travels to Canada – providing insight into the places I went, reviewing the hotels I stayed at, and telling my story. Today's letter is W for what we did in Montréal

Pizzeria No. 900 in Montréal, Canada

Pizzeria No. 900 is where we began our Montréal adventure, seeking out a delicious dinner after a 10-hour train ride from NYC via Amtrak. We were hangry and this was one of the few places open located rather close to our hotel, L’hôtel Le Germain Montréal. Despite our hunger, we held back so that I could get some pictures of the meal, like the blogger I am. We ordered a salad made up of romaine lettuce and beautiful, yet darkly flavored lemon citrus dressing that only Italians seem to get right and a delicious Margherita pizza. In my opinion, you can always best tell the quality of pizza if you order the most simple option and it comes out delicious. Pizzeria No. 900 exceeded my expectations with a brightly colored pizza made with heirloom tomatoes and the best buffalo mozzarella. Truly our meal was everything I could hope for as our first meal in Montréal. The only problem I really ran into is that it was neither French nor "Canadian". But when you arrive so late into a city and you are so hungry (I cannot overemphasize how hungry we were!), you take what you can find … open, that is. :)

2049 Peel St, Montreal, 
QC H3A 1T6, Canada

Hours –
Mon-Wed: 11am-10pm
Thurs-Fri: 11am-11pm
Sat: 11:30am-11pm
Sun: 11:30am-10pm

Pizzeria 900 in Montréal, Canada

Then, as you may recall (Are you keeping up with April A-Z?), we spent the next two and a half days in Québec City exploring, freezing, and eating. The best things to do in any city, of course. :) You can find those posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Then, we hopped on Via Canada Rail to begin the last leg of our trip discovering all that Montréal had to offer.

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

When we finally arrived in Montréal for the second time and checked in, we opted to try Café des Arts located in the MAM Gallery, a small mall featuring local artwork and clothing, which we also explored.

We ordered a chicken salad with vinaigrette dressing, a grilled cheese, coffee and a soda (not pictured). We did not order dessert (despite it being pictured). After paying at the counter, our lunch was served promptly preparing us for a lovely jaunt through the city. The food was so-so. If you have the time to go to a better place to eat, I would recommend doing so. Café des Arts is best if you are in a hurry or don't know where else to go. 

Even the market wasn't the most fun to explore…

Bonsecours Market
350 St Paul St E, Montreal, 
QC H2Y 1H4, Canada

Hours –
7 days a week: 10am-6pm

Café Des Arts  in Montréal, Canada

Nevertheless, Justin and I were on a mission. We were seeking a raclette warmer. Using the two guide books I had, I narrowed down two potential shopping locations within the city that might have one and we went on a desperate search…

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Arthur Quentin was one of the stores we decided to stop in during our search…

Arthur Quentin in Montréal, Canada

Inside, we found a variety of home goods including silverware, dishes, kitchen towels, blankets, pillows, and other home good accessories. Let me save you some time, though. They had no raclette warmers. :( Not to be dissuaded, we continued our search…

3960 St Denis St, 
Montreal, QC H2W 2M2

Hours –
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm
Sat: 10am-5pm
Sun: 12pm-5pm

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Turns out the second store on my list was the wrong address and we ended up in a neighborhood instead… Oops. And when you don't have the internet, what are you suppose to do?

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

How about go to SAQ Express for alcohol?

SAQ Express in Montréal, Canada

It was on our way back to the metro and considering I was also looking for the delicious Michel Jodoin cidre, we decided why not? Unfortunately, even this search was to no avail. We did end up with a bottle (or two?) of Canadian wine, though, which ended up working out perfectly for our dinner choice that night… 

1176 Saint-Catherine St W, 
Montreal, QC H3B 1K1

Hours –
Mon-Sun: 11am-10pm

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

birdhouses in Montréal, Canada
Aren't the bird houses so adorable? :)

Finally, we got back on board the metro to head to our hotel for our second check-in of the day. (Because one check in wasn't enough? Find out more in this post.) We were glad the train schedule was running quickly and smoothly, and we enjoyed see art in the metro stations…

art in Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

Montréal, Canada

While at the hotel, Justin and I called La Raclette to make reservations. Of all the restaurant options in this city, there was one I knew I had to visit, one that offered up a foodie option that is not available in my hometown. I had Justin call because he is braver than I am when it comes to new languages (not that it matters since everyone in Montréal seems to be bilingual). After a few moments on the phone, we knew where to go and what to bring … a bottle of wine to go with our dinner! Walking through Montréal with a bottle of wine in hand makes you feel as though you are on your way to a party! Especially when the restaurant itself can be found in what seems to be a neighborhood rather than an industrial or touristy area.

1059 Rue Gilford, 
Montréal, QC H2J 1P7

Hours –
Mon: closed
Tues, Thurs-Sat: 5:30-10pm
Wed and Sun: 5:30-9pm

La Raclette in Montréal, Canada

Upon arrival, we sat down to a menu listing courses for the New Year's Eve holiday. (We were dining one day before New Year's Eve.) They initially gave us a French menu, which we tried to work out, but ultimately opted for the English menu after a few minutes of contemplating. Given that Justin has a lot of background with food, we can usually pick out French food names but not this time… The server brought us fresh bread and butter as we hemmed and hawed over the menu. Could we really eat three courses, we wondered?

After approximately 20 minutes of indecision, we finally decided. The restaurant was offering three or four-course meals for the holiday, and we opted for two three course meals. Two HUGE three-course meals. I had no idea how big a three-course meal could be until we left La Raclette that night. Luckily, the waiter pretty much forgot us between courses, so our meal was spread out over three hours as we people watched out the window we were sitting next to. Three hours after arriving at La Raclette, we left filled to the brim with bread, cheese, meat, wine, and chocolate. And I didn't regret one calorie! :)

La Raclette three course dinner in Montréal, Canada

The next morning, New Year's eve morning, Justin took me to Pure to get my hair done. My appointment was at 9 am, but we left a little bit early to give us extra time to find the place. It's a good thing we gave ourselves extra time too! We were looking for the salon sign amongst the buildings on the street instead of inside an underground shopping center. Rather than give up entirely, we walked into the business building of the correct address and asked a man sitting at the front desk of the lobby. He acted as though this kind of confusion happened all of the time and directed us where to go. :)

Once at the salon, we waited a good ten minutes for the stylist to be ready for me. She then proceeded to take an hour to beautify my hair. I was seriously falling asleep in the chair. Like: I have things I can be doing, can't you hurry this up? But maybe Americans are typically in a hurry and everyone else is much slower? I wouldn't know… When she finished, she gave me the French double cheek kiss and I left the salon feeling so very special, like it was the highlight of her day to prettify my hair? :)

Les Cours Mont-Royal
1455 Peel St, 
Montreal, QC H3A 1T5

Hours –
Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 12-5pm
(Reservations recommended.)

interior Les Cours Mont-Royal

While we were at Les Cours Mont-Royal (the mall), we took some time to explore. It was being set up for a fashion show. 

1455 Peel St, 
Montreal, QC H3A 1T5

Mon-Wed: 10am-7pm
Thurs-Fri: 10am-9pm
Sat: 10am-6pm
Sun: 12-5pm

interior Les Cours Mont-Royal

Even though many of the stores were closed so early in the morning, we did find a cute coffee shop to grab a French breakfast of croissants and warm drinks…

1122 Saint-Catherine St W, 
Montreal, QC H3B 1H4

open 24 hrs.

Second Cup in Montréal, Canada

Second Cup in Montréal, Canada

Then, we were off to explore some more!

A minor basilica in Canada and the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montréal, the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde is the third largest church in the Québec region of Canada. It stands at 252 ft (77 m) in height, 333 ft (101 m) in length, and 150 ft (46 m) in width.

The Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde was built to replace an older church, Saint-Jacques Cathedral, which burned in 1852. Mgr. Ignace Bourget, second bishop of Montreal, hoped to build a scale model of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. The bishop faced difficulty in convincing an architect that his desire was possible. Architects argued that a scale model could not be created of one of Italy's oldest and greatest basilicas in the world. Meanwhile, the Holy See and the Papal States were under attack from nationalist troops of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Piedmont, who was attempting to assert control of Italy. Finally, an architect was found and work on the new church began in 1875 for what became known as Saint James Cathedral to be renamed in 1955 as Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde by Pope Pis XII.

1085 Cathédrale St, 
Montreal, QC H3B 2V3

Mon-Fri: 7am-6pm
Sat: 7:30am-6pm
Sun: 8:30am-6pm

Mon-Fri: 7:30am, 12:10pm, 5pm
Sat: 7:30am, 12:10pm, 5pm
Sun: 9:30am, 11am, 12:15pm, 5pm

Next stop: Basilica Notre-Dame

Basilica Notre-Dame in Montréal, Canada

Despite the line and the cost (6$ CAD per adult) to get in, Basilica Notre-Dame was at the top of our list of churches to see in Montréal. My favorite color is blue, so there's that… And Justin is catholic. :) We were not disappointed at all with our decision.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal was built in 1672 with François Baillairgé designing much of the interior. The Basilique was the first cathedral of Montréal and served the diocese from 1821-1822. When the congregation outgrew the church by 1824, James O'Donnell, an Irish American, oversaw the reconstruction of the building giving it a gothic revival look and ultimately creating what was to become the largest church in North America for over fifty years!

In 1982, Pope John Paul II raised the status of the church to "basilica" due to its historic significance and artistic value to the Catholic community. There are only 325 basilicas in the Americas! Thereafter, the Canadian government designated it as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989.

The church is probably best known for a number of public events that have occurred in the main chapel including the October 3, 2000, funeral of Pierre Trudeau (Justin Trudeau's father), and the December 17, 1994, wedding of singer Celine Dion and husband René Angélil.

Needless to say, we found the church exquisite and loved exploring the interior. If you are an art or history lover, or even a Catholic, I would say, of all the places I've listed in this post, this one is a must. Be sure to bring your best low light lens, though, since the church is very dark. :)

110 Notre-Dame St W, 
Montreal, QC H2Y 1T2

Hours –
Mon-Fri: 8am-5:30pm
Sat: 8am-4:30pm
Sun: 12:30pm-4pm

Mass times –
Mon-Fri: 7:30am and 12:30pm
Sat: 5pm
Sun: 8am, 9:30am, 11am, 5pm

Church tours and organ concerts for 12$ CAD per person are offered between July and October. See here for more details.

Basilica Notre-Dame in Montréal, Canada

Basilica Notre-Dame in Montréal, Canada

Finally, before heading back to our hotel to change for our New Year's eve dinner out, we made a pit stop at the Biosphère metro exit. The Biosphère was closed, but we were thrilled to see it! It almost looked like a snow globe with its gorgeous geodesic dome built of steel and acrylic cells standing 200 feet (or 62 meters) high and 250 feet (or 76 meters) wide.

The original architect for the Biosphère was a man named Buckminster Fuller whose goal was to create a unique pavilion for the 1967 World Fair that incorporated "pores" into an enclosed system designed to be very similar to the biological processes that the human body relies on to maintain its internal temperature. The building was one of the most popular at Expo 67, but despite that, it wasn't meant to be. Given as a gift to Canada in 1968, Montréal turned the building into a garden that suddenly burnt to a crisp in 1977 when work was being completed on the exterior. It then sat empty for years and years and Montréal citizens tried to figure out what to do with it. First, in 1990, it was bought and turned into an interactive water museum. Then, after an ice storm and a rebranding of Environment Canada, it became an environmental museum. Today you can visit the museum to learn about major environmental issues relation to water and air quality, sustainable development and eco-technologies.

Learn more here and here.

160 Chemin du Tour de l'isle,
Montréal, QC H3C 4G8

Hours –
Mon-Wed: closed
Thurs-Sun: 10am-5pm

Biosphère in Montréal, Canada

Saint Helen's Island, Montréal, Canada

Saint Helen's Island, Montréal, Canada

Biosphère in Montréal, Canada

The Montréal Biosphère and Saint Helen's Island, where it is located, is absolutely gorgeous. Even though we got to spend a little bit of time walking about, we eventually became so cold that we were forced time to move on. Being from the south USA, it was an entirely new experience to deal with snow so deep that when you stepped, you had no idea what you were stepping into or onto. Sidewalk? Grass? Flowers? Who knows? One misstep could easily end in a catastrophe! Plus, the sun was beginning to go down and we didn't want to miss our dinner reservations… So we called it a night and headed back to our hotel…

What do you think of Montréal so far? Does it look like a place you would enjoy visiting? Where would you go first?

If you are a Canadian native, where does one buy a raclette warmer or Michel Jodoin cidre? I need to know! :) Also, did I miss out on anything particularly exciting in Montréal? 

Only a few more days of April A-Z!! Are you exhausted yet? :)

Lauren of Lauren on LocationVan of Snow in TromsoIsabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World


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