montreal travel guide

Montreal :: Un Fête Accompli

[trip style = urban + active & adventure]

I've always heard Montreal is a party. Two weeks ago, this was confirmed over an alfresco feast of festivals and fireworks.

Dinner really heats up around 9pm. The cobblestone streets are well-heeled into the wee hours of the morn. Entire districts are converted to pedestrian walkways/outdoor fêtes---complete with thousands of pink party bobbles strung between buildings. Fireworks erupt.

Fuelled by an international brew Canadian joie de vivre and French passion, Montreal is always running on a full tank. Nothing is done half-way. For example, there aren't just few good restaurants. Beyond maple syrop-themed eateries, take your pick of 5600+, from haute Portuguese to Parisienne bistros to brunch with a DJ on the side {literally, a DJ spins tunes for brunch at L'avenue---after a Saturday night on the town, maybe that's what required to wake-up?}. Or, consider the surfing revolution; no ocean, no problem. A massive river with strong currents and consistently cresting waves will do. And while I'm on the topic, no beach, no problem. In front of yachts and sail boats moored in a quiet section Saint Lawrence river below Old Montreal, there's a newly constructed urban beach.

And the festivals, well, they make the city festive whether it's a blizzady 30 below zero or a blistering 30 above zero. In fact, there's an entire plaza in the centre ville devoted to hosting some of the 106 goings-on year-round. When I was there, the top 10 finalists of the French Canadian version of American Idol, aka Star Académie, were performing for a crowd of 120,000 multi-generational screaming fans. Mark my words, the next Celine Dion was in that group.

There isn't just one kind of party in Montreal. At any time, there are many happening on the street corner, on the beach, on the river and on a rooftop terrace, and guess what, you're invited.

Stay Le Petit Hotel - Past clippity-clopping horse-drawn carriages along a Montreal's oldest street, the 24-room Le Petit Hotel is true to its name---a small slice of French Canadian paradise. Housed in a Parisienne facade, stone walls support the modern environs defined by local furniture, bakery-fresh croissants and staff who check you in, make you a latte and offer dinner suggestions. PS - ladies, they have salon hair dryers in each room.

Eat Le LocaL - Amid Old Montreal's industrial district, an ivy-covered structure softens the landscape. It's an up-cycled, warehouse-chic hot-spot, off the beaten path. Sitting on a bench propped with gold and grey striped pillows, I sip a gin cocktail with ginger, cucumber and grapefruit, and savor the albacore tuna pissaladiere. The icing on the cake isn't icing at all, but rather a small pot of creme-iest caramel I've ever dipped a spoon into. We also love: the haute Portuguese fare at F Bar, the outdoor terrace at Boris Bistro, the artisan baking and neighborhood digs at Sweet Lee's.

Do Bike - There's over 600kms of bike lanes throughout the city. Use them like the locals do via the BIXI public bike share system, or take a guided bike tour to get your city bearings. We also love: Stand-up paddleboarding down the Saint Lawrence river with PP, a surfer and former Cirque Du Soleil roller-skating performer.

Spa Bota Bota - Anchored in Old Montreal's harbor, Bota Bota floats in a quite alcove, massaging clients with the lulling water beneath and strong hands of therapists above. Formerly a ferry, this bathing beauty has been transformed into a chic, unisex, nautical retreat. PS- try the water circuit and lay in the sun on the forward and aft decks as if it's your own yacht. We also love: Scandinave Les Bains Nordic Day Spa {steps from Le Petit Hotel}

[photos by @tripstyler, taken while a guest of Tourism Montreal]