Montreal has been on my dream travel list for ages, if only for the opportunity to practice my French without flying over the Atlantic. I’ve also been itching to visit our neighbor to the north; Canada was tops on my list of places I wanted to go in 2013. As spring and summer and fall all sped by (and my vacation days dwindled), I finally decided that Canada still had to happen, winter or not. And so I booked Thanksgiving in Montreal, via the train!
Montreal in the winter isn’t recommended for the faint of heart or the thin of skin: it is bone-chillingly cold. Even though temperatures rarely hit above 20 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there–they generally hovered around 10 degrees–we still fell in love with the snow-covered squares, cobblestone streets and incredible foodie scene. Chilly or not, Montreal easily climbed its way into one of my favorite cities on the continent–and not just because I had excellent company to explore the city
The New York to Montreal train curves through the Adirondack mountains for about 10 hours, and is one of the most scenic rides in the world. I’m a huge fan of train travel, and while this wasn’t quite as effortless as the TGV in Europe, it was still a nice break from the chaos of traveling by plane or stress of driving in the snow.
A pending storm didn’t exactly enhance the scenery–I’ve heard stories of breathtakingly beautiful views when the leaves change in autumn–but it was still a nice backdrop while reading a book or watching a movie.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, I insisted on turkey sandwiches on the train!
Luckily, we came in the day after a snowstorm–just in time to see the city covered in a beautiful blanket of powder.
One place that absolutely blew me away was the interior of Notre-Dame Basilica. I never expected one of the most striking examples of architecture I’ve ever seen to be outside of Europe, much less in Canada!
Of course, we had to try poutine at La Banquise. Montreal’s most famous dish consists of French fries, cheese curds and gravy–and boy, does it stick to your ribs when it’s cold out!
Another must was the Montreal bagel. Delicious–but I think I’ll still to my everything, toasted, with cream cheese in New York.
One of the most incredible and relaxing experiences of our stay was an afternoon at Scandinave Spa in Vieux-Montreal: think hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and “stress-free zones” that are essentially the best possible set-up for a nap.
We stayed at an adorable B&B called Hotel Ambrose–practically my namesake! Housed in a gorgeous house near downtown Montreal, I especially loved the sunny bay window in our room and the well-kept period touches, like exquisite crown molding and high ceilings.
Another favorite stop was Jean-Talon Market: it reminded me of the covered markets in Paris. We even stopped for crepes for a snack!
Special thanks to Tourism Montreal for kindly providing us with complimentary accommodation and select activities. As always, all opinions are my own.