To mark the end of summer, we packed our suitcases, reviewed what little French we knew and drove to Montreal, Quebec, Canada for a mini-vacation.
It took a little over 6 hours, about 350 miles, driving from New Jersey, through New York to Albany, heading through the Adirondack Mountains. It’s a scenic, picturesque drive. The road trip traverses through the eastern half of the Adirondack Park, and is part of NY Interstate 87, which connects New York to Montreal, Quebec.
Passports are checked at the US/Canadian border, both in and out. Travelers must be ready with the proper documents and necessary visas, if applicable. Proper identification and immigration rules are strictly enforced, and if one cannot comply, entry is denied.
One of the major landmarks of Montreal is the Notre Dame Basilica. It’s said to be an exact replica of the Notre Dame in Paris, France. This historic cathedral has a 4,000 capacity. It’s interiors show stunning, exquisitely-detailed artwork and stained glass art that’s colorful, opulent and elegant.
Most tours charge a fee during the week. However, we went to Sunday mass and found out that masses are free entry. We attended the 11 AM Sunday mass, and were awed by the French choir, and the prayers recited in French.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is in Old Montreal. One finds narrow cobblestone roads, rich in history and filled with quaint little shops, museums, and the best cafes and restaurants in the world.
We stumbled upon Claude Postel, a little cafe, tucked away on the same street as the Cathedral. Service was warm and friendly.
Pastries, bagels and croissants were superbly delicious and reminiscent of flavors from Europe. Coffee and capuccino, brought straight to your table, by the friendliest servers, was amazing and recharged us with enough energy to face day one in Montreal.
A nice way to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon is to head to the “Marche Jean Talon” (Jean Talon Market). It is on 7075 Casgrain Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1-514-277-1588.
This is an open-air , major food market with fresh produce, organic meats, stall-like restaurants, flowers, baked goods, beverages.
Jean Talon is a foodie’s heaven. There are so many vivid colors, varied tastes, and different textures in this market. It is not just for food shopping. Take your time. Browse through all the little stores and stalls. Enjoy the live street music. Nibble and snack your way as you go along.
There are quiches, sandwiches, salads, crepes. There are tarts, cookies, pastries and gelato. There are bison or rich, duck sausages on a skewer. They also have the best cheeses, spices and condiments.
A Warning : Eat everything you buy from here while in Montreal. There is no way one can haul home all the loot – cheeses, meats, fruits, through the border security.
Finally, there was no way we could visit Montreal without trying the national side dish: the POUTINE.
It’s an immense bowl of crisp french fries, slathered with gravy and cheese. Poutine is served everywhere, from the little cafes, the casual restaurants, the elegant dining places, and even the local Canadian McDonald’s . Yes, Ronald McDonald has gone Canadian, too.
(To be continued. Next Post : The Queen in Quebec)