Where we’re at: I’m recapping my 2019 travels, which included this weekend in Montreal in February. As many of you know, Ian and I lovingly parted ways this summer, which can make our final trips together somewhat difficult to recap. Still, I would hate to ever forget these special adventures, so here they are.
Ah, Montreal, the classic winter getaway from Upstate New York — somewhere even more frigid! I’m joking, of course. Almost anyone I told I was taking a late February trip there to raised an eyebrow, and I didn’t blame then. In Montreal, February’s average high-temperature is 26.2°F (-3.2°C, for my neighbors to the north), and the average low temperature is 10°F (-12.2°C).
As two island beach bums who’d met and spent the bulk of our relationship on a tropical island in Thailand, Ian and I were both very skeptical of humanity’s ability to function at these temperatures. But alas, Ian, a Canadian, had taken a job in Montreal in the new year to be as close to Albany as possible, and the universe did not reply to either of our requests to give winter a pass, just that once.
Ian’s job at a hip, high-end French restaurant meant that he worked brutal hours, and often clocked out on Saturday night around 2am only to get right in a rental car and drive the four hours down to Albany to crawl into bed Sunday morning as I crawled out of it, and then spend one night together before he returned for his shift Monday night. It was a brutal schedule and I was eager to relieve him of it for a weekend by being the one to make the drive.
I arrived in Montreal late Saturday night and we woke up together on Sunday excited to explore the city, starting with Ian’s cute new neighborhood of St. Henri. This area is tres chic, as the kids in Montreal say — okay, let’s be honest, I have no idea what the kids these days nor people who speak French are saying. But St. Henri is super cool for sure. Just trust me.
Anyway, while we’d excitedly discussed our weekend plans, I continually threw out suggestions that seemed like winter-themed fun, such as ice skating — suggestions that would leave Ian suggesting that maybe I didn’t really understand what 10°F actually felt like.
He was right.
Our few-block walk to our chosen brunch spot of Arthurs was pretty treacherous, my first taste of Montreal’s notorious icy sidewalk issue. Seriously, just google it — the results are hilarious but also kind of terrifying. The weekend I was there alone, we saw on the news that nine people had been sent to the ER for concussions after falls on the ice!
Anyway, we very carefully laughed and makeshift skated our way to the trendy Jewish deli, only to find a long wait time. No worries — we headed over to Leche, a cozy donut spot, where we warmed up with coffee and tea and waited for our table. Who doesn’t love a progressive brunch, and listening to their boyfriend flex his high school French?
By then, I’d mentally crossed ice skating and street art tours and all my other outdoor ideas firmly off our list for the day. (Actually, I had originally booked us a Montreal ice wine tour that I was insanely excited about, but it was cancelled the week prior.)
How to keep warm and amused on a sub-arctic Sunday in Montreal? Bowing at Darling Bowl!
Ian and I had gotten bizarrely into bowling, and I told him I wanted to go to the Canadian equivalent of The Gutter in Brooklyn. He totally delivered! The place was super hipster and cute and we basically had it to ourselves.
Naturally, I crushed Ian at our three game tournament, topping out at a score of 171, my highest ever. Huzzah! Winner got a foot massage, though my request for an on-demand version was denied.
While Darling is aesthetically very hip inside, the onsite bar and grill is your standard bowling fare — which can be a pretty exciting prospect, depending on your mood. (Sometimes, a girl just needs a salted pretzel and cheese dip.)
The next morning, Ian was eager to cast his vote in the age old rivalry between New York and Montreal bagel connoisseurs. His internet research led us to St. Viateur Bagel, where, I’m happy to say that I was able to remain faithfully loyal to my home state’s proudest carb contribution to the planet.
Still, it was a great breakfast spot.
After breakfast came our big treat of the trip. Ian and I have always been big spa fans, which was an easy-to-feed addition living in Southeast Asia. In North America, not so much — so we were absolutely thrilled for an afternoon at Montreal’s uber-hip Espace Nomade Spa.
I was swooning from the moment we walked in. Nomade combines a charming boutique, a beautiful juice bar and a soothing spa all wrapped up in one colorful package.
After a yummy juice and salad and a browse around the boutique, we headed downstairs into the cozy treatment room for a couple’s massage. I am not sure what heaven looks like but after getting on a heated massage table in the midst of a Canadian winter, I have some idea of what it feels like. Bliss!
And my fellow spa addicts, listen up — they have some awesome promotions for students, mid-week visits, and more.
That night, we headed out for one more dinner in St. Henri, this time to the chic and widely celebrated pizza place Elena. Can I tell you how much I loved showing up in a city and having an amazing trip planned for me, no research necessary? Major prayer hand emojis to Ian for finding all of these spots for us.
Anyway, it was a particularly brutally cold night and we briefly debated driving the few blocks to the restaurant but, concerned about parking, decided to walk instead — a decision that lead to my biggest tantrum of 2019. But I think that cold-induced trauma is a story for a roundup post!
Elena is definitely a Montreal must for anyone who loves good pizza and great design — I loved it here. It was the perfect end to a far-too-short trip.
This was my first trip to Montreal since I spent a New Year’s Eve there when I was 19, and so clearly it was time for a refresher. I’d never really though much about Montreal, but Ian definitely introduced it to a fun, young, hipster side of it that I didn’t know existed. With Manitoba and Newfoundland having stolen my heart as an adult, it was high time Quebec did the same.
My next trip to Montreal, when the weather was much warmer, showed me an entirely different side of the city. Stay tuned for that post coming up soon.
Have you been to Montreal? Were you crazy enough to go in the winter, like me?
Many thanks to Nomade Spa for hosting us for our visit.
To me, Montreal is the epitome of fun, young & hip! It’s one of my favourite cities & I’ll definitely be taking Ian’s finds on my next visit.
PS – I forget if I’ve mentioned this in your comments before but a few years ago I read about a gene that makes people freak out in the cold & if such a gene exists, I expect you & I have it. I CANNOT COPE with cold. It makes me angry, my extremities numb & it shuts down my brain!!!
Okay WHAT I need to read about this gene as well. You just described me perfectly!
See, clearly I needed this wake up call! Another Montreal post is coming soon!
Hi Alex, I’m a long time reader and I literally live a street away from Elena! I absolutely love living in St-Henri – there is so much to do and see here, yet it’s not overcrowded with tourists and has a cozy feel to it… anyways, I’m really glad you got to experience it for yourself 🙂
Oh wow! Yes, it’s a lovely neighborhood 🙂 I actually have another post from Montreal coming up soon!
I agree that you see a new side of a place every time you visit. I have been to Montreal twice and seen other (amazing) sides than you describe. Your post is very inspiring and makes me feel like going again to experience more new things!
Well that makes me happy to hear! I actually have another Montreal post coming up soon from the Summer. Stay tuned!
OMG so funny! Growing up in the UK we had similar issues with the ice. Walking to school everyone would hang on to their parents for support from the dreaded falls! I also have a friend who lives in Monreal so I am aware of the ice issue. Regardless, this made me laugh! Nikki
Glad I could give you a smile 🙂
It sounds like I need to make a trip to Montreal during the cold winter to experience Espace Nomade Spa. Or maybe I will just wait until the summer 🙂 I love the swings in the lounge, and how cool that they sell healthy juices and salad!! It sounds like my kind of place!
Stay tuned: I have a summer in Montreal post coming up soon that I’m sure excited about, too!