Saturday, 26 February 2011

A bite of Montréal love

I've always been fascinated with Montréal, QC. I am still trying to figure out if it's the special blend of postcolonial ambiance and character, or if it's the simple fact that it's so accessible that enhances my love for it. Regardless, I think it goes without saying that I could easily become quite comfortable here. Especially within the downtown core.

Downtown Montréal is nothing like downtown Toronto. The only way to describe the layout of this lovely core is to say it's stacked. Every street that runs parallel to Rue Sherbrooke going south, contains unique gems and are of equal importance. From the relaxing cafés along Boulevard de Maisonneuve to the bustling shopping hub that is Rue Sainte Catherine, there's just so much you can see and do -- and quite comfortably, without the fear of getting lost.

My past trips to Montréal weren't as filled with discovery as this one has been. On my first day here, I joined a friend in a long walk through the city. We started off at the Eaton Centre (yes, Toronto - Montréal has one too), and found ourselves walking all the way down to the Old Port. If you look at a map of the city, the thought of walking all that way might seem quite daunting, but it was actually rather lovely (and easy). The streets are well marked and navigating is a piece of cake as long as you know how to read.

I think I should mention here that my favourite hub is the historic district of Old Montréal. I've visited the Notre Dame Basilica each time I've been here, and can get lost in the beauties found along the cobblestone streets for hours. Really though, how can anyone hate cobblestone? I'll be writing more about Old Port and this historic district in another post, so please stay tuned.

But in the meanwhile, no trip to Montréal is complete without two essential meals -- nothing fancy, just the basic (and pretty legendary) Montréal smoked meat sandwich... and, of course, poutine.

My friend and I stopped by Montréal Poutine on Rue Saint-Paul for a delicious smoked meat sandwich, after our long walk through the city. This small yet delicious treat set the bar for future smoked meat sandwiches, that's for sure. It was quite filling and so tasty, that I craved it again for dinner that night. I wish I'd tried the poutine there, but since it never happened, another visit is definitely in the cards. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

The next day, my friend took me to La Belle Province -- a fast food chain within the city, where the ambiance resembles that of 50s diner. Now, I'm sure this wasn't the best poutine in the province (what, with it being a fast food chain and all), but it sure beat anything else outside the city.

They say that in order to get the best of the best, you must go to the source... and they (whoever 'they' were) weren't kidding. I've tried poutine in Toronto, and also at a couple of restaurants in South Korea -- (Hey, people are catching on to this delicious (and deadly) comfort food.) -- and nothing compares to the fantastic explosion of squeaky cheese curds, gravy and fries in your mouth, like that of the poutine in Montréal, regardless of whether you're eating in a fast food restaurant, or a gourmet café. That's all I have to say about that. You simply have to try it for yourself, if you haven't already.

As my short trip to this beautiful city wraps up,  I'm left feeling rather hopeful that my next visit will take place sooner than later. Perhaps I'll be back for the jazz festival this year. That's another thing... smooth and soothing jazz croons flow out of almost every café, restaurant and shop in this city. And I'm not complaining. There's nothing like sitting back with a glass of red wine and indulging in some fabulous wisdom courtesy of Ms. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

J'adore Montréal! See you soon.


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