I wanted to get my five days of Montreal posts all together in one place for easier reading! This was my travel diary and a place for all those photographs from an amazing summer trip. My aunt and I took this trip to Canada for the Just For Laughs Comedy Fest. I hope you enjoy reading this travelogue!
First day in Montreal: July 25, 2017
I flew out on my 27th birthday, and I’ve definitely never done something so different and cool on my birthday before. I normally trip around Austin with my boyfriend and get dinner with friends. Fretting about hailing a cab and making my way through customs in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language was certainly a big change!
In honor of my birthday, I got a half-caff white chocolate mocha from Austin Java, and bought a new book in the airport!
Did you watch Big Little Lies? I totally loved it. And the book was even better! The HBO series was so well directed and acted that I thought this would be one of those rare exceptions where the screen adaption is better than the original novel, but nope. I was so impressed with Liane Moriarty’s writing, and I finished this book ON MY FLIGHT! Talk about a page turner.
I flew from Austin to Philly, and ate lunch at an Au Bon Pain in the Philadelphia airport. I got a veggie soup and some birthday fro yo.
Then I landed in Montreal. I hadn’t filled out the customs form they gave me on the plane, because I didn’t know I had to… So I filled it out in a rush in the bathroom, lol. Then I made my way through customs and that was confusing, overwhelming, and had way longer lines than I was expecting at 9 PM.
After customs, I struggled to drag my bag around (the wheel broke after customs!) and find the taxi stand. Eventually I was in a cab with my linguistics-obsessed cabbie, heading to my hotel in downtown Montreal. This cab driver was trying to teach me new languages in the 30 minute ride, explaining how all of English is basically French and holding up newspapers in Russian and having me guess the letters. I was sooo tired I was only capable of responding, ‘Oh wow!’ over and over again. He probably thinks Americans are dumb now.
Then I got to my hotel!
My aunt and I met up real quick, but then she was off to bed and I was off to my own room, which had been upgraded!! Best birthday surprise ever!! I was so overstimulated from my day of travel that it took me HOURS to calm down. Plus I was hungry!
I ordered room service for the first time!
I ordered off the late night menu, so I just got a burger with fries and a side salad. I also got a pastry plate with macarons, cookies, lemon meringue tart, and other little things! It was all so good. This was one of those hotels with REALLY great food. I was so happy!
I noticed right away that my Netflix had all different things since I was in Canada, and watched some programs I normally don’t get. I had good TV, good food, and was finally done traveling. It was the perfect end to my birthday! Luckily I’m an introvert and didn’t mind partying by myself, haha. I actually might prefer it, at least some times… And I didn’t have to share my plate of desserts with anyone 😈.
It took me about three hours to fall asleep once I finally went to bed at midnight. That wasn’t so great with all the stuff we had planned the next day, starting early. My aunt is one of those people who effortlessly wakes up at 7 AM every day. When I used to travel to Costa Rica to visit her and her husband, he would say good night to me around 8:30 so he could get up at 5 AM and go fishing. BY CHOICE!! I knew I’d have to do a better job getting to bed early this trip to keep up with my early-bird aunt. No more waking up at 11 when I’m with her!!
Montreal trip day 2! July 26, 2017
Day 2 in Montreal was jam packed, and the hardest part was that I had no idea how to dress! Here’s the thing- when you’re living in Austin and it’s 103 degrees every day in the summer, you pretty much know how to dress for that. And it also distorts other weather for you. If it’s 100 here and 72 there, will I be… hot? Will I be cold? Is 72 cold??
I definitely did not pack well enough. I brought most of the clothes from my San Antonio trip, which was laughably stupid. I literally brought three sleeveless tops, and it was 65 each day when I woke up. I saw a woman wearing a down jacket one day!
68 degrees is summer to a Canadian and winter to a central Texan!!
Started the day off with a little hotel room selfie. We ate breakfast in the hotel, and then headed out for our walking tour. We each got Le Americain breakfast special, which I found funny. I guess we were taking our time and wading into the Quebec waters slowly!
The walking tour was in the heart of Montreal’s OLD TOWN, which is the most historic section of Montreal. It was a stunningly beautiful, confusingly chilly summer day.
Here are my pics from the walking tour!
Look at this cool ferris wheel! It wasn’t open, sadly. Reminded me of the opening credits of BBC’s Sherlock.
And here is my aunt and me in front of an old church.
After our two hour tour, we wandered around a very touristy district which was closed off to cars. We got lunch at a little cafe with windows that were wide open to let all of the nice summer air in, and I had a cappuchino. Then we went to some little shops.
I was very charmed by everything being in French, and my aunt was reminded of her trip to Paris. There’s an emphasis on everything being cute and pretty and little.
Then we went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for our night.
We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant!
I tried ice cidre, which is my new obsession. It is made from apples that freeze on the tree in their cold winters, and they make cider or wine that way. It was extremely sweet, and I loved it.
However, my dinner wasn’t so great. The waiter was very excited for me to order this dish, and it was prepared by a contestant on Canada’s Iron Chef. But it was very weird. I think that’s a big part of travel- trying new things, eating like a local as much as you can, and accepting that the food is going to be VERY different from what you’re used to. This dish was about as far from an Austin taco as you can get!
Grilled cucumbers (whaaaat), rye bread crumbs, rock hard snap peas, homemade squishy pasta, and a pea puree. Hmm… My aunt’s dish was delicious though, and we’re always down to share!
JUST FOR LAUGHS COMEDY FEST:
My aunt and I got all dressed up and walked over to the Bell Center where Jerry Seinfeld and Gad Elmaleh were performing. We had talked to the girl at the front desk about directions, and she had mentioned she was going to the show as well. She had NO IDEA WHO JERRY SEINFELD WAS, which is just bonkers to me. But then again, we didn’t know about Gad, who is probably the most famous French-speaking comic on Earth. Funny how that works out.
We had great seats, which we were so excited about!
We took better selfies in the theater, but I like this one the best because my aunt is clearly very excited about our proximity to Jerry. 😁
The theater was SO full. It was only half the usual size of the Bell Center, but people were packed in to the ceiling, literally. We got there early, so it was pretty fun to watch the auditorium go from empty to brimming with comedy fans.
Jerry and Gad came out at around 8:20, and they have a great energy and banter together. You could tell they tour together. I was surprised that Jerry went first- I mean, he’s one of the most successful comedians on the planet, and he basically opened for Gad. His act was great. He really is a master of observational comedy. The best stuff was about his wife and kids, like how his life with his wife is essentially a game show he’s always losing called ‘Are You Even Listening to Me?’ I did roll my eyes at a few of the jokes, which were probably geared towards some of the 60 year olds in the audience. He had a whole bit about how dumb it is that people hang out in coffee shops and how he doesn’t understand mocha-choka lattes. Yikes. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a mocha-choka joke on every sitcom made by the grandpa character since 2002. But most of Jerry’s act was hysterical and he was surprisingly physical. It was incredible to just be in the same room as him!!
Gad was amazing as well. I watched some of his stuff online beforehand, and at first it was very disconcerting because he was speaking to a different section of the audience than Jerry had. He was joking in French, speaking quickly, making references we didn’t understand… And then he opened it up. His stuff was a lot more modern and fresh than Jerry’s, with jokes about online dating in NYC and being famous in France but nowhere else, and girls on Instagram. I am definitely a fan of Gad now.
END OF THE NIGHT:
Back in my hotel room, I was hungry from not eating a ton at dinner. I ordered room service and put on the movie Edge of Seventeen, which I’d never seen and was available on Canadian Netflix. I ordered the French Onion soup and another glass of ice wine. Both were super good! I normally don’t eat bread or butter in my life at home, but quite obviously I couldn’t say no while in Montreal. They take their bread seriously, like the French do.
I took a shower and worked out in my room, which was a dumb idea after drinking all that ice cider. I was racing the clock to get to bed at a better hour. I was practically falling asleep during our walking tour because of my night owl habits the night before (not because the tour was boring. Although he did point out a LOT of courthouses. A LOT.)
Montreal Trip Day 3! July 27, 2017
On Thursday, we were really in a routine in Montreal now. It was definitely the sweet spot of the trip. We were used to the weather being kind of chilly, kind of warm, like a May day in New Jersey (we’re both Jersey girls, don’tcha know), and there was still lots of stuff we wanted to see and do.
We started with breakfast in the hotel. I got orange juice and a pot of French Press coffee. As always, a basket of croissants and pastries came with our orders, and bread. I ordered the golden raisin brioche French toast, and my aunt got the American breakfast with eggs and sausage. She also got breakfast tea, which came in a beautiful tea pot. I know a lot of it was because we were staying in a nice hotel, but all the little lovely details really made me happy and really made me appreciate Montreal.
Then we walked to the art museum up the street from us. We were staying on Sherbrooke, so we were near McGill University, Mount Royal, and the art museum.
There were several amazing exhibits going on. My aunt is an artist, so you can imagine what going to a museum with her is like. We look at everything, and she KNOWS these people. She’s like, oh, this is this, or he’s inspired by this original version, or she’s actually this person’s mentor, etc. It’s like the ultimate inside scoop.
The John Paul Gaultier wedding dress exhibit was my favorite. I love fashion, and I was like YEAH!! ARTISTRY I UNDERSTAND! Let’s go shopping! I’m inspired! Haha.
There was this Revolution exhibit, which was all about the 1960s. The Beatles were playing while you looked at everything, and they had video from when John Lennon and Yoko Ono did a sit-in from their bed. One room was staged like Woodstock and played video from the performances. It was so cool!
Shopping & lunch
After the museum, we wandered around our little area of Montreal for a bit. We went shopping, and we got lunch at Cafe Holt. I had a chicken pot pie, which you know is my fave, and it totally made up for the weird French toast and strange dinner from the night before. Sometimes you have to order what you know you like instead of trying to be brave with your choices all the time!
Then we decided to see Montreal’s Underground City! Because the city gets so cold in the winter, they have a huge mall underground. There are tons of stores, and it’s well lit and nicely decorated. But it was also very crowded and we didn’t know a single one of the stores. My aunt and I both got overwhelmed and made our way out of their, following signs for the first ‘Rue’ (street) we saw.
Then we went to a bookstore, where books were marked up with those famous high Canadian prices! You know how books always say $16.99 US, $22.00 CAD on the back? Well, now I saw it in person. Even though this bookstore in the university district had tons of great paperbacks, even the sale books were too pricy for me after that CAD rate!
We headed back to the hotel to relax a bit after that big morning.
Then we went for dinner!
My aunt and I went to the Ritz Carlton up the street for a nice dinner before our show. It was SO stunning! We sat outside, and it was absolutely lovely. Montreal in the summer is ridiculously beautiful. Everything is completely green and blooming.
The big surprise was that this Ritz had a little duck pond! In addition to being an artist, my aunt is a farmer. She’s obsessed with animals and we basically lost our minds over these ducks.
When it suddenly started pouring, the ducks all went in their little houses. My aunt popped up and asked the waitresses if they had umbrellas for the ducks. It was very funny. Everyone was in great sprits, and the rain passed quickly.
I had truffle mushroom risotto for dinner. I’ve never had risotto before, since I’ve never attempted making it for myself. There were freshly shaved truffles on top, and they tasted similar to parmesan, in that they had that nutty, umami note. We also had lots of fresh bread, arancini amouse bouche, and wine.
Funny thing- I had ordered a cosmopolitan at the bar, and they made me this beautiful white cosmo with an ice ball with an orchid frozen inside. My drink was great, and my aunt was drinking sauvignon blanc. The waitress came over and poured her more wine, and then asked me if I wanted wine in addition to my cocktail. I said I was okay with an apologetic smile, which in America means no. But with the language barrier, she just started pouring me a glass of wine. I laughed and enjoyed it. It was very delicious, and it was probably the happiest mistake of my life.
JUST FOR LAUGHS: JUDD APATOW
If you’ve seen a funny American movie or TV show in the last ten years, Judd has probably produced it or directed it. I’ve been a massive fan of Judd’s for a long time. He’s from Long Island and the movie Diner is basically the whole reason he got into making movies. He’s an interesting guy. He just started doing stand up again, and we had tickets to his show. We took a cab to the Just For Laughs venue hub, which was all exciting and busy.
It was an extremely small venue, which was amazing. It was general admission, but we got great seats off to the side of the stage.
Well… this was no ordinary night! It turned out it was a rehearsal show for his live stand up taping, for his upcoming Netflix special!
Honestly, his act was the funnier than Jerry’s or Gad’s, and was definitely one of the funniest stand up acts I’ve ever seen. He had so many amazing jokes. He did the best impressions of his daughters, and he was so self deprecating and honest. I can’t wait to watch it again when his Netflix special eventually airs!
One of the funniest jokes was about how he doesn’t live with three women, his wife and two daughters- he actually lives with one woman of three different ages. And that their cycles don’t sync up, but rather the menstrual times just never end. He had such a funny dad perspective on his family life. I really could have listened to three hours of material about that alone.
We got home around 10 PM, and I vowed to go to sleep much earlier this time!
The view from my hotel room showed the busy street of Sherbrooke at night, with so much happening on a Thursday. Montreal reminded me a lot of New York. It was beautiful and made me want to get out there and be a part of it.
Friday in Montreal! July 28, 2017
We woke up to a beautiful day in Montreal. It had been threatening rain all week, but the skies were blue and perfect day after day. It was exactly what you’d hope for on vacation! When I peeked out of my hotel curtains, I liked what I saw.
I started Friday in a tougher spot emotionally than the rest of my trip, which was disappointing. I know it’s true that you can’t run away from your problems, but it would be nice to get away from them for four days! To be honest, I felt pretty depressed this day. I probably won’t remember that fact in ten years when I look at the photos. Things aren’t always what they seem.
We had breakfast in the hotel again, and this time I got an herb omelette and a cappuccino with maple sugar! I also nibbled on a chocolate croissant. Yum.
The hike up to Mount Royal was very near our hotel, and it’s the famous lookout in Montreal. It has a lot of stairs and a winding path up to the summit. The Mont Royal summit has a lookout and park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who was famous for his work in Central Park. My aunt remembered being a kid in Central Park on a school trip and being amazed by the big rocks.
Our hike up Mount Royal was another instance of dressing poorly for the weather. We left our hotel and were actually making comments to each other about how crazy we thought the other pedestrians were, since they were in shorts and sandals. ‘They must be freezing!’ we kept saying. It was probably 69 degrees. We had on sweaters, scarves, and jeans.
Once we were up the extremely steep road to the Mount Royal entrance, I’d stripped down to my sleeveless shirt and was seriously regretting jeans. Ha!
It was SO beautiful out, and the hike reminded me a lot of hikes in New York. When I picture Canada, it seems so separate from the area I grew up with, because I always picture the lines on maps, showing the delineation of states and countries. But in reality, New York and Montreal aren’t far from each other in that context, and the trees and rocks were very similar.
The view was gorgeous!
There were windmills visible way off to the east, and a huge mountain behind the city, hundreds of miles away. I’m pretty sure those are the Adirondacks, and we could see Vermont! Someone said you can even see New York on a clear day! Then again, how would I know? Everything was in French. Haha! There were lots of other people, including a guy riding a BMX bike and a girl feeding an ice cream cone to a very friendly squirrel.
My aunt and I kind of look alike in the picture 😊, and not just because we have similar bangs and hair color. That’s what we joked about the whole time- that I cut my bangs so people would have an easier time assuming we’re related!
The Tim Hortons Adventure
This next part of the afternoon was all because my maps were a little crazy in Canada. I had good cell service, but sometimes my walking directions would think I was somewhere I wasn’t. Turn left in 900 feet, it would say, when we already passed that street. I should have known better than to trust those maps when we decided to fulfill my big wish and walk to the famous Canadian coffee-and-donut shop, Tim Hortons.
I’ve heard about Tim Hortons forever, although I guess to a Canadian it has all the glamour of someone dying to try Dunkin’ Donuts while in the New York 😂. They went there on How I Met Your Mother, and I’ve read about it, and I knew I couldn’t come home from Canada without going. I was so eager to go that I accidentally lead us on a fifteen minute walk in the wrong direction AFTER our super-long walk down Mount Royal! Oops!
But there were a lot of beautiful sights on this walk. We saw this hotel covered in ivy and were both completely delighted.
I was so excited that I had my aunt take pictures of me with my coffee and donuts. She even had to tell me not to smile so big for the first few. I was especially proud because when we finally found our way to one (like, right next to our hotel 🙄), the entire menu was in French. A lot of Montreal was in both English and French, but not this place. So I managed to order my donuts in a different language! I remembered that érable was maple, from seeing a maple souvenir shop in Old Monteal, and knew I wanted to order all of the maple flavored things.
I ordered a maple timbit, which is like a Dunkin’ Munchkin, and a chocolat timbit. Then I got a maple filled donut. I’ve never had a filled donut before, so I was pumped. Then I tried to order something else and ended up with a plain glazed lol. There goes my awesome French. I ordered a coffee with cream and sugar. I was a little disappointed that I had to practice restraint and not order every single donut. They all looked amazing and I really love donuts! I’d choose a good donut over ice cream any day. My aunt got a chocolate glazed. We were really indulging all of our carb desires on this trip, contrary to how we live at home, where we’re regulars at Whole Foods!
We went back to the hotel and snoozed for a bit. Then we watched Snatched, that movie with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, and ate French onion soup from room service. We ate our donuts and I drank my coffee, and it was a really relaxing last afternoon.
Last Night in Montreal
We went out for dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant called Bis that wasn’t traditional at all. Apparently this is the place to go in Montreal, and there were photos of celebrities on the wall (George Clooney goes there a lot). The waiters were very attentive, and they told us that Gad Elmaleh, the comedian who co-headlined with Jerry Seinfeld earlier in the week, had just gotten dinner there the night before!
Then we shopped in Anthropologie and I got a silk scarf like my Aunt has, so we can be twins. The second I saw her wearing a navy floral scarf tied jauntily around her neck- so French!- I knew I was on a mission. This Anthro had four floors. It was very small and they didn’t have much merch. Canada is not very wheelchair friendly, and they really don’t baby you. I noticed that there were no signs to watch my step (and, like an idiotic American, I actually tripped a few times on stairs) and no warnings on coffee cups about their temperature. Culturally you’re treated more like a grown up!
I’d worn a black dress I got in San Antonio and black sandals. It felt like a perfect summer night, and it was light out until late. My aunt and I watched a movie until I had to go to bed, since I had to wake up at 5 AM for my flight home.
Last Day In Canada! July 29, 2017
I am pretty lucky for the fact that I can wake up when I have to, no matter how early. I won’t fall back asleep. I won’t sleep through my alarm. If I have to be downstairs hailing a cab by 5:15 AM, I’ll be there.
No, wait, that sounds dramatic. Last week when I was leaving Montreal, I woke up at 5 AM. I had to be at the airport well before 6, and it was 30 minutes from the hotel. I bolted out of bed and started chugging water to wake myself up. I turned on the Nerdist Podcast interview with Aidy Bryant for company. I did my makeup as fast as possible, packed the last of my stuff, and then…
It took me a whole five minutes to zip up my suitcase. Nooo!!
I made it downstairs to the lobby by 5:20, and there was no one there. I was told there would be ‘night men’ and they’d help me call a cab if there wasn’t one in the driveway. Well, I don’t know where the night men were that morning. But they weren’t there, and there weren’t any cabs in the driveway. I had my passport safely tucked in my pocket, and my Canadian cab fare, and I was looking around…
Luckily I saw a cab. I crossed the street and the cabbie ambled out, putting my bag in the back. He didn’t speak much English and had a thick accent. We headed off to the airport, and the only trouble was when he asked if I’m flying by Air Canada and I replied that the air conditioner felt fine. Well. Language barrier plus exhaustion.. Oops. I handed him my weird plastic Canada money and ran off to check my bag.
Luckily I figured out customs and all of that quite easily. I couldn’t tell if the men in customs were flirting with me or grilling me when they asked so many questions about my trip. It was kind of funny.
I made it to my gate! There are fewer bathrooms in the airports in Montreal than in American cities. I feel like there’s a bathroom every ten feet in the Austin airport.
I did the last thing on my Montreal bucket list, and that was try a famous Montreal bagel. Montreal is known for their bagels, which are nothing like New York’s. They’re sweeter, denser, and have a huge hole. A huge hole is like a NY bagel sin. There was a bagel shop near my gate, and I got to try a bagel with light cream cheese (which I even ordered in French!) (Poorly, though!).
I also got an iced chai tea latte since it was just way too early to deal with hot coffee. I ate my breakfast in the super comfy lounge chairs in the Montreal airport, and wandered around, looking at all the different Canadian stuff they had for sale, like ketchup chips and All Dressed chips and maple flavored everything.
We sat on the runway for two hours, which SUCKED. We boarded at 7:10 AM and didn’t take off until after 9. I also didn’t really like the book I’d packed. Once we took off, I slept until we landed in Charlotte. I almost never sleep on planes, so I was glad I could. I think it’s because I’d had tea instead of coffee.
In the Charlotte airport, I shopped for a different book and ended up with The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, since I’d liked Big Little Lies so much. I ate lunch at a restaurant solo and had a dope cobb salad. Eventually it was time to fly to Austin. I wasn’t that excited about this leg, since I had a middle seat in the back of the plane.
I thought about getting a coffee from Starbucks, but it’s so expensive in the airport, and this is what I really wanted, anyway… Another cup of Tim Hortons coffee!
I was in between two dudes, and the flight to Austin felt so long. We also had to deal with the time difference from east coast to central time, so when I thought we were almost there, we still had two hours left. Why is that? Why are there always two hours left on a super-long feeling flight? 😭
I landed in Austin feeling sick. The last hour of the flight was bumpy. But I surprised myself by staying out all day, and not going to bed until midnight. I didn’t just go home and crash out.
The next day, I wore my jaunty French scarf and missed Montreal and my aunt.
It was a little hot for the scarf, since I’m not in that sweet 72 degree weather anymore.
I had such a good time in Montreal, and didn’t really know places like that existed. It was so peaceful and the people were so friendly and normal. It was like New York, and looked like Europe, and the culture was wonderful. Now I want to learn French and move there. Sure, it’s 20 degrees every day in the winter. But maybe I could learn to ice skate! I could learn to ski! I want to bring my boyfriend there, and I’m so glad and grateful my aunt invited me. It was just a beautiful trip and I loved it. All of the little travel details are easy to write about and complain about, but really I was grinning through the whole experience. It was the most extraverted I’ve ever felt! Traveling brings out a different side of me, and Montreal made me realize how much of the world there is to see.
There we have it!
All in one place, my magical Montreal trip diary.
I am still fantasizing about going back or even moving there one day. I loved spending that time with my aunt and seeing such an incredible place.
More Travels with Taylor to come!