My husband has been pining to go to Quebec for years, but because I am the travel planner, it has always gotten overruled by a more exotic destination. So, when he was asked to attend a two-week training in Montreal, I decided to ride his coat tails, once again, and take advantage of the company paid, downtown hotel room. Plus, it was Valentine’s weekend and what better place to spend it than in a city that is a perfect mélange of our two cultures and languages.
I know what your thinking. Who goes to Montreal in February? I spent 31 years in Detroit and could handle a weekend in Montreal. BUT I didn’t expect it to be the coldest damn winter in 20 years. Let this Buzzfeed article put things in perspective: 25 Truly Terrifying Photos of the Snow in Eastern Canada.
We arrived late Friday night and quickly jumped in a warm taxi to our hotel. Saturday, we set out to have a hardy breakfast and do our normal marathon sightseeing. Within a block of the hotel, we realized our hats, gloves and shoes were not going to cut it if we wanted to keep our extremities. A few more blocks and the husband got desperate. I spotted a shop with more appropriate gear and we were like moths to a flame. $80 was spent on warmer hats, mittens and socks. A minor investment to protect this blogger’s typing fingers.
With a 20 degree increase in our core body temperature, we popped into a great little diner for breakfast and reevaluated our strategy for the day. I didn’t want to lose any toes so I suggested we throw in some indoor activities. The wait staff overheard us and chimed in with a couple great suggestions and detailed instructions on which bus to take. It’s true, Canadians really are so nice.
Normally, we are not museum people and would rather spend our time in a city walking around parks, districts and ports, but Montreal is the exception to the general rule. So off the Biodome and Planetarium we went. The rest of Montreal had the same idea because the place was packed with other smart people who wanted to avoid hypothermia. Both venues were really well done, warm, indoors and worth every penny. Did I mention they were warm and indoors? We spent a few hours there and decided it would be a shame to let the jacuzzi at our hotel go to waste at a time like this. I can promise you, never has a hot tub been more appreciated.
We didn’t stay long because it was Valentine’s Day and we had dinner reservations at a 5-star Yelp reviewed restaurant called Santa Barbara. It did not disappoint. Situated in a quaint little residential neighborhood, the cozy restaurant had unique dishes that accommodated me (the plant eater) and my husband (the meat lover). Warm, happy and stuffed we must have forgotten the meteorological situation when we decided to take a walk through Old Montreal after dinner. The tiny streets and walkways were adorable and made us feel like we were in Europe. In about 30 seconds we were near frozen and stopped in a creperie for dessert. The price of the crepe was worth the heat, but let’s just say Montreal chefs should stick to poutine. Officially in a food coma and sick of not being able to feel my toes, we headed back to the hotel. It was one of the coldest walks of my life….until Sunday…and Monday, for that matter.
Prior to arriving in Montreal, we had read about the underground city and Sunday we set out in search of this elusive area. After several wrong turns and asking a few locals, we found what was a ginormous underground shopping mall. I was picturing Parisian catacombs and not the Mall of America, but whatever – it was indoors and warm, which was our only requirement at this time.
By lunch, the sun was deceiving shining and we decided when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, cross-country skiing we went. Oh! My! Gawd! I have never been so cold in all my life. I nearly cried because the wind was so fierce and frigid. Normally, I break a nice sweat during cross-country, but I stayed frozen the whole time. However, what was most shocking was the all Canadians soaking up the snow. They were running, walking, playing, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing without so much as batting an eye. I will admit that the scenery was beautiful. On top of Parc du Mont Royal, we were surrounded with snow-covered trees, blue sky and views of the city below. After a couple of hours, I had enough and wanted to teleport to the jacuzzi. Waiting for the bus was treacherous. My feet where officially white and my lips purple when we finally made it to the hotel.
It’s hard to believe that Monday was supposed to be coldest day after the events of Sunday, but it was true. Preemptively, I decided we should go to the Warhol exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum. So, we waited for the bus, only to arrive and find it closed because it was a Monday. Therefore, we went to the more touristic Grevin Wax Museum. While less culturally stimulating, it was probably more fun than Warhol. With nothing indoor left to do on our list, we surrendered and spent the afternoon in the hotel jacuzzi. I was done with the cold and have no regrets.
I was ready to go home, but my Monday night flight back to Nashville was cancelled due to an ice storm in the south. One would think a travel warrior like myself might take advantage of the extra day and take in that Warhol exhibit. Nope. Slept in and went to the jacuzzi instead.
Yes, the cold was unbearable, but we still enjoyed the weekend. I loved speaking French with the Québécois and loved that when I got stuck, I could bounce back to English without missing a beat. Montreal is a beautiful North American city, but I don’t feel like I experienced it in all its glory, so I hope to return one day, preferably in July. Until then, Canadians, I salute you and your ability to endure these extreme conditions. You are hard core!