Updated: May 2, 2019
All too often we forget that you don't have to go far to experience something different! Sometimes the perfect getaway is just a train ride away....Montreal with its old world roots and French influences offers us Canadians living in southern Ontario just that! Recently I happened to attend the L'Oreal Pro's Unplugged Conference in Montreal and decided to make a little weekend trip out of it.
After a relaxing and very affordable train ride courtesy of Via Rail, we arrived mid day at the bustling Central Station and made our way to the conveniently located Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Having just recently undergone a major renovation it once again welcomes visitors with a renewed contemporary flare.
We opted to treat ourselves this weekend so we picked the Fairmont Gold package and it was well worth the extra cost! The extensive perks included use of their beautifully decorated Private Gold Lounge (with a generously stocked honour bar and revolving treats throughout the day), a wonderful breakfast spread, access to amazing dedicated staff who will go the extra mile and so much more. If you can I would highly recommend taking advantage of the Fairmont Gold experience!
If you have only limited number of hours in your stay to enjoy all that Montreal has to offer you got to strategize well and pick where you want to go. So this time around we opted to hit up a few select neighbourhoods and limited number of hotspots. This way you can experience the area and keep to a leisurely pace.
Of course you can't come to Montreal and not explore the winding narrow streets of old Montreal, so this would be a must on your itinerary. You never know what cool little spot you may stumble upon as you walk through the cobblestone streets. Outside of Quebec City, this would be the closest you will come to getting that hint of old world feel here in the great white north. Even though we been here a few times we always find something new, so it's well worth a stop.
If you are more about venturing away from the "tourist" areas, a fun new place we hit up this time around was Griffintown. Having gone there based on a recommendation of one of my clients I loved it, you are a foodie like me this would be the spot to visit. With a growing cluster of art shops, coffee houses, restaurants and bars this neighbourhood it is fast becoming a creative and culinary hotspot. Whether you are grabbing a sinfully delicious (not to mention famous) dessert pie at Rockaberry or drinking a lovingly crafted latte (while enjoying the local art) at Cafe Lali there is something for everyone.
Sadly there were just too many places in this neighbourhood and not enough time to try them all. This will be worth another visit on another trip and I marked down some spots I'll be checking out for sure! After a relaxing lunch and what seemed like a way too quick of a walk around the area we had to head back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.
Based on the recommendation of the very helpful Gold Lounge staff at the hotel we did make our way to the Cloakroom Bar for evening Cocktails before calling it a night.This little wateringhole hole may not be much more than a hidden hallway within a gentleman's tailors and barbershop, but it makes some of the most delicious drinks I had. Once you figure out how to enter the dimly lit room be prepared for exploratory tasting journey ... that's right there are no menus to pick from here. What you get is an in-depth conversation with the server who then gets their master mixologists to create a drink catered specifically to you.
You can't leave Montreal without taking in some of the fine arts and culture it has to offer. So our trip included a stop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (thank you AGO reciprocal membership benefits). Housed within a collection of interconnected buildings it showcases a number of galleries and temporary exhibitions that are certainly worth spending a few hours on.
As luck would have it during our visit the guest exhibition just so happened to be one showcasing the mind blowing designs and photography of Thierry Mugler The work of this Designer to the stars truly took my breath away. The whimsical and twisted creations are a feast for the senses. If you don't know how he is, all you need to do is go look at some of Lady Gaga's music videos and check out where some of those crazy costumes came from.
I wish I was able take in more on the trip but all too soon the weekend was up and it was time to head back home to Toronto. Luckily, being so close means Montreal will always be one of our go to weekend getaway spots. Until next time....
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