Wow it’s been a long time since my last update. Well, by now I have finished traveling, spent hours on job searching, writing resumes and cover letters and prepping for interviews. Now that there are slightly fewer unknowns that I need to work on, I would like to take some time to tell you and my future self about our adventures in Montreal (and the rest of the cities) before my memories vamoosh.
Let me start by saying that I loved Montreal from the very first day. We stayed at Le Plateau-Mont-Royal area. After we dropped off our bags, we went for a walk to check out the nearby park and to see what is around. As soon as we got closer to the park, we could see streams of people all flowing to what we later found out was a free open-air symphony orchestra concert. Seeing how the concert was only gonna start in an hour or so, we decided to take on a short hike up to the Mt Royal Cross, standing atop of a small mountain Mount Royal (which Montreal takes its name from).
We came down to Grieg’s majestic “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. The orchestra sounded really really good. What was more surprising to me is the amount of people that attended. Jaw-dropping. From where we stood, I couldn’t see the end to the crowd.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra concert. There were so many people!
It seems there are a lot of events and festivals in Montreal in summer. Sadly, we weren’t in time for the jazz festival but I’m glad we were still able to get tickets to Fantasia film festival. The two films we watched were 21st Century Girl and And Your Bird Can Sing. I kinda wanted to go see Night God to support my fellow Kazakhstani but at the time I mistook it for a horror film and decided to pass.
We’ve also witnessed L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, an international fireworks competition blasting over the St. Lawrence River. The best view is from the amusement park La Ronde but it required ticket purchase, so we were pretty happy with our viewing spot near the Clock Tower. The downside is that we came somewhat early (2 hours, to be exact) and had to wait, all while
establishing dominance protecting our space from other people constantly trying to squeeze in, closer to the fireworks time.
And of course, some notable memories from Montreal were about… food. I wasn’t going to make this into anything that even remotely reminds of a food blog but I just can’t not talk about the amazing food Montreal has to offer. First of all, it turned out that our airbnb host worked at a vegan pastry shop Sophie Sucrée, and she would bring some of that fresh delicious pastry home for us. She put it under a pastry dome and refilled it every few days. Such a kind gesture! I kind of felt bad for eating all that pastry but it was just too good to resist! (Well, I think it was all for us anyways since our host seldomly stayed home during those days.)
Montreal is a foodie’s paradise. I haven’t eaten as much poutine in my 2.5 years in Canada, as in those couple of weeks in Montreal. Also, probably because we discovered that Amon has a second stomach reserved exclusively for poutine, and living close to Patati Patata and La Banquise didn’t help his poutine addiction. Schwartz’s Deli sandwiches have so many slices of tender smoked meat it feels sinful to eat it all. Portuguese rotisserie chicken cafes serve big, tasty and incredibly wallet-friendly plates. Omnivore has amazing flavors and is the best for when you feel bad for eating so much poutine earlier. And finally, the highlights for me are Ganadara (I’m salivating when I think back to their supreme tteokbokki poutine) and Noren - a small, simple, cozy, high-quality Japanese restaurant, serving the freshest food made right before your eyes.
Okay, enough about food. Another thing I really liked was how bicycle-friendly the city was. Out of all cities I’ve ever been to, Montreal surely has the most bikers. There are bike lanes on every major road, and a lot of bike stations with inexpensive fares. We haven’t taken a bus a single time. Subway for longer travels, biking - for everything else. I must say, it must be a nightmare to drive in Montreal though (especially with a lot of bikers yolo’ing their way through the city). In fact, a few years back, Montreal had one of the lowest driving test pass rates in the world, though I am not sure if that record still holds.
For anyone wondering about my French skills - I peaked when I took French 101 during summer school at UBC, 2 long years ago. I feel like I’ve forgotten it all but luckily, Montrealers are bilingual. Every single person we’ve talked to, was fluent in English, and as far as I can judge
(spoilers: not that far), fluent in French as well. So if you are afraid of not being understood or being given glares for not knowing French - there are no more excuses!
I will finish this post by leaving a photo of beautiful Montreal Botanical Garden that exceeded all my expectations. My only advice - come early if you want to explore it all!
Montreal Botanical Garden