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This July we were lucky enough to have some vacation days the hubbs needed to burn, so we took a quick trip up to Montreal. And — I know this means nothing to you if you don’t live in a city where you have no access to a car — I got to drive! A car! I was ridiculously excited to be back in the driver’s seat, where there is no car sickness. And I didn’t even kill us – or get a speeding ticket. Whoo!

Thursday

We stopped at a little bike shop/sandwich shop/craft beer and wine bar/local music venue outside of Lake George for lunch on the way up – this was our view. Life is hard.

Upstate NY

Upstate NY

We <3 Travel Plazas

We ❤ Travel Plazas

Oh, Canada!

Our first stop in Montreal was the Plateau neighborhood to walk the eclectic shops and sights of Rues St. Denis and Mont Royal. Dinner was some raw milk cheese from La Fromagerie Hamel, foie and pork pate + cured meats from La Maison Du Roti, and a baguette + croissant from Boulangerie Les Co’pains d’abord eaten in the neighboring park. Delicious, and a perfect start to our adventure.

Plateau Neighborhood

Ivy taking over an apartment in the Plateau neighborhood, aka “home base” for our visit

Friday

Friday, we were up fairly early and started the day with a trip to what we called “our” boulangerie for breakfast and Starbucks for the hubbs (Starbucks did not have my coconut milk – according to the barista, it’s hard to find in Montreal; luckily the boulangerie had almond milk).

The Rue Rachel location of Boulangerie .. our daily breakfast stop

The Rue Rachel location of Boulangerie Les Co’pains d’abord – our daily breakfast stop

And it was on to the Metro (which was easy to navigate) and off to the Hochelaga/Maisonnevue District to view some science and nature.

Sherbrooke Metro Stop

Sherbrooke Metro Stop

Montreal Botanical Garden, Insectarium, Biodome & Olympic Stadium

These attractions are all pretty much within sight of each other, and easy to knock out in an afternoon.

Botanical Garden

This was a nice garden, with lots of fruit trees and edible plants. The lunch at the cafe was pretty impressive, too.

Of course, roses

Of course, roses

Hi, ma

Hi, ma

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden

The Olympic Stadium from the Botanical Garden

The Olympic Stadium from the Botanical Garden

On to the Insectarium, which was really impressive. Like, grownups squealing like children and at least one of them dancing around like a loon impressive.

We have never seen such a killer selection of live and pinned bugs from all over the globe. We could have easily spent the afternoon.

Bugs!

Bugs!

It puts the lotion on its skin ...

It puts the lotion on its skin …

On to the Biodome, which was also great. The main exhibit was sloths, which were hanging out in a tree habitat right in the middle of the main area (the sloths were of course sleeping). The penguin exhibit was fantastic, too – a whole room of puffins + a room of larger penguins with enough room to swim and complain.

Sloth-inspired art

Sloth-inspired art

And since we were basically in the parking lot anyways, we checked out the site of the 1976 Olympics, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

1976 Olympic Stadium

1976 Olympic Stadium

For our one big planned vacation dinner, we were lucky enough to snag seats at Joe Beef. Joe beef is a semi-casual joint with an old school-inspired menu (simple done absolutely flawlessly) in the eclectic Little Burgundy neighborhood. We had some time before our reservation, and checked out the Marche Atwater – a big public farmers market – and some of the little boutique shops along Rue Notre Dame.

Joe Beef

Joe Beef

Mmmmmm

Mmmmmm

Dinner was outstanding. We had the cheval (horse) tartare (our favorite dish of the night), foie pate, ribeye topped with cured ham and bacon, crazy delicious fries, and green beans in lobster sauce. Joe Beef gets a lot of hype – and a lot of hate – and to us, it 100% lived up to its praise. This place was crazy good. For example, the picture above is of the cheval tartare – which was amazing (soft, sweet, complex but delicate flavoring). You wouldn’t expect in a dish like that for the garnish to also be amazing, but those carrots were some of the best either of us had ever had. And they’re just simply roasted. Something I do at home all winter, and I have out at restaurants (and good restaurants) often. But damn, whatever it is that they’re doing at Joe Beef, they need to continue doing it.

After all of that goodness, we waddled our stuffed little selves back to the hotel and passed out.

Saturday

Old Montreal and Old Port

We kept thinking: they've destroyed the resale value by cleaning that patina! Oh, the influence of Antiques Roadshow.

We kept thinking: they’ve destroyed the resale value by cleaning that patina! Oh, the influence of Antiques Roadshow.

Old advertising near the old port

Old advertising near the old port

Chicken

Chicken

Historic district

Old Montreal

Today was a more “touristy” day spent wandering the picturesque cobblestones of Old Montreal and the renovated Old Port, with a trip up to Montreal’s financial district to compare their “downtown” vs our “downtown”. Big difference: the cleanliness. Over and over we were struck by just how clean Montreal is. And how even in the middle of summer, it doesn’t smell like bum pee and garbage.

We learned some of the history of Montreal at the Chateau Ramezay Museum, and checked out the Bonsecours Market.

We also stopped back up near the hotel for our first plate of Canadian poutine at the 24-hour hotspot, La Banquise. This place, which serves over 30 varieties of poutine, was packed full of young people and a bunch of fun to eat at. It didn’t hurt that the poutine was delicious. We didn’t really understand the draw before, but after splitting an order of ground beef & onion, we got it. This would be the best hangover food ever.

Saturday Night Fireworks

We were fortunate enough to be visiting Montreal during the 31st annual L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec, a massive 25-country fireworks competition held at La Ronde (Montreal Six Flags) at Parc Jean-Drapeau. We watched the team from Hong Kong set off an absolutely stunning display from on top of the Jacques-Cartier bridge.

Six Flags Montreal, where the fireworks were being set off

La Ronde, where the fireworks were being set off

Fireworks at Six Flags Montreal

Fireworks from the Hong Kong team

Hong Kong fireworks

Hong Kong team fireworks

After a shorter-than expected (3 mile) walk back to the hotel, we called it a (late) night.

Sunday

Mont Royal Park & Beer

On the way out of town, we drove up to the top of Mont Royal to check out the view.

The view from on top of Mont Royal

The view from on top of Mont Royal

And then we headed home via Vermont, to pick up some hard-to-find beer. We also had a ridiculously delicious brunch at Misery Loves Company, a nice little rustic chic spot where we ate some great char & roe tater tots, shrimp & grits and seafood benedict in downtown Winooski.

Winooski, aka home of a killer beer store that stocks the ever-elusive Heady Topper

Winooski, aka home of the Beverage Warehouse, a killer beer store that stocks the ever-elusive Heady Topper

Since we were already loving Vermont, we opted to take the Lake Champlain Ferry back to NY. We need to plan a trip just to Burlington and the surrounding area sometime soon. That place was gorgeous and the half hour we spent exploring the waterfront before hopping on the boat was not nearly enough time to see all the area has to offer.

From the ferry

From the ferry

NY in the distance

NY in the distance

And that was our trip. It wasn’t long, but we had a great time.