Monday, October 10, 2011

Bienvenue a' Montreal

We arrive in Montreal after a desolate 5 hour drive through New England. We've almost come to the end of the East Coast leg of our journey, although Montreal doesn’t really feel like we’re in another country;forget the “Paris of North America” cliché.  The true testimonial that were in foreign territory, the language of course.  Everyone around the city speaks French all the time and it’s really pays to bring along a boyfriend that can talk the talk as my charades act just wasn’t cutting it.

We arrive late as usual and meet our tour guide Annique for the day, who assures us we will see almost all Montreal has to offer.  She takes us to the city outskirts where we find Montreal's main public park Mont Royal, the peak of which is the cities highest point. And so, starting at the bottom of the park, we 'drive’ up to the top instead of walk because let’s face it I am from Orange County and walking is not my thing unless it’s through South Coast in Loubitons.  Maybe if Chrissy Lou made a pair of sneakers with a red sole I might reconsider.  Speaking of shopping, one very important educational fact I learned on the tour from Annique was that Montreal holds the Guinness World Records for having the most retail headquarters in the world…yes these are the type of facts I retain, don’t judge me!

Hotel Nelligan

Our hotel was fantastic, specifically because we got a corner room with stone and brick walls which set the tone for our stay.  This New York style chic boutique hotel has just upped the romantic ante, now to make sure my boyfriend steps up his game.  We are staying in historic Old Montreal which is infamous for romantic rendezvous.  I have to mention the staff, I guess you could say I am a little high maintenance when on vacation; I have very high expectations working in the industry.  From check-in to check-out their staff was on it.  One of the highlights of the hotel was the outside rooftop terrace the views are amazing; even if the appreciation is induced largely by a dreamy cocktail menu.  Think the Rooftop Lounge in Laguna where the ocean view is replaced by skyscrapers for miles.  We ventured up there multiple times.  The hotel is located just a block south of the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montréal which provides a nice backdrop for date night.  Combine this with cobblestone streets and cute little sidewalk cafes and your sure to make an impression.  

La Banquise

 The one “must cheat on your diet” food item to try while in Montreal is poutine.  Pou… what? No not that, get your mind out of the gutter were talking about food here!  For those who don’t know, poutine is a classic Canadian dish although I have actually seen it on a menu in Huntington Beach.  The ingredients include gravy, cheese curds and French fries.  Holy heart attack but well worth the risk.  It doesn’t sound like much - in fact it sounds like something you’d buy from a food truck after a full night of drinking. When asking the locals who makes the best poutine it was clear and there was only one common answer, La Banquise.   This restaurant takes traditional poutine to the next level. There was a lengthy menu which offered poutine in 24 different varieties: Mexican, pizza, chicken, sausage… to list a few.  

TriStar Gym

If you’re looking to get into a fight outside of a bar TriStar Gym is the place to be.  Not to mention, this is the home gym of one of the top MMA fighters in the world, the UFC’s Georges St. PierreOn the last day we ventured to Tristar, picture Tito Ortiz’s new gym in Huntington Beach except replace Tito with George St. Pierre.  This was a bucket list check off for my other half, the ultimate experience for an award winning fighter like himself.  Ok this should be interesting but I will play along, go roll around on those sweaty mats babe and do your thing.  He did take down each competitor which was highly impressive I must say…I definitely get points for this and highly regard myself as girlfriend of the year, whether he agrees with me or not.

This was his reward for allowing me to hit the spa earlier that day so I guess it’s an even trade.  Speaking of the spa, I had the most amazing massage by “Brigitee” at Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal.  This is a must for any relaxation seeking femme visiting the city.  Included with your massage is thermotherapy a 1000 year old tradition which consists of three stages body-warming, cool-water rinsing and relaxation.  I’m in where do I sign up?

Jean Paul Gautier Exhibit-Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Yes the mannequins are winking, blinking and speaking…what? I thought I was losing it for a second.  After the realization that I am in fact still sane I start to appreciate this exhibit for its brilliance although the effects are a little creepy.  The producer created the mannequins with anthropomorphic expressive faces to fool visitors into mistaking them for real people. “What will happen, what will happen?” one mannequin mumbles. Another starts to sing.  They each have faces of real people which were filmed and projected with technical aspects way over my head.  I swear one of them was mocking me.
Olive & Gourmando

So who doesn't love a classic love story?  Our tour guide Annique recommended a visit to a bakery around the corner from our hotel.  First because their pastries are so good you will lick every last crumb off your plate and second to experience a thriving business that was created by love.  Owners Dyan Solomon and Éric Girard have a romantic history straight out of a movie: they fell in love while working the bread ovens at an upscale restaurant before going out on their own. It all started when they fell madly in love with one another without speaking the same language.  Sometimes I wonder if my relationship would be better if we were unable to speak to each other.  Just kidding babe you know I hang on your every word ;)  The story itself was enough to get us in the door, as were not huge pastry fans.  It is a quirky love story that you must hear for yourself to truly appreciate.  The establishment was hectic yet filled with character.  The reviews were correct and the food was undeniably delicious.  C'est magnifique!

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