Montreal has an important place in my heart

Montreal has an important place in my heart as it is the place where the research for my book, Chocolatour, was officially launched! Fellow chocolate lover, Kathe Lieber of Montreal, accompanied me on the first overseas chocolate research trip back in October, 2009.

But before we boarded the big bird and flew to Brussels, Kathe took me on a journey of chocolate discovery in Montreal. I’ll share some of our findings in the next post. For now, I’d like to focus on the city itself, as Montreal is such an amazing metropolis that as sweet as it is, chocolate will have to wait its turn for our attention.

Being a travel writer has its perks and privileges. It also instils some wonderful habits that come in handy. I looked thru my mini-notebooks that diarize my travels and found the one dated May 26-June 3, 2001. It had been exactly 10 years since my last visit of any length had been to this great city!

At that time, I had the great privilege of staying at two terrific hotels, one so very different than the other. The two properties personify the two distinct personalities of Montreal: the modern, chic French-speaking metropolis of North America, and the charming “Old Montreal” where you’ll find numerous reminders of the four centuries that make up the city’s rich and colourful history.

City Hall in Old Montreal is a landmark and well-maintained

The Hotel Le Germain on Mansfield, is situated in downtown Montreal, a close walk to the bustling shopping street of St. Catherine and to McGill University. If you are looking for a chic boutique hotel with impeccable service, this is the place to stay.

We also enjoyed being the guests of suite 501 in the beautiful historic, Auberge Bonaparte, a lovely room with an outdoor terrace complete with fresh flowers. What a romantic place to have spent our 6th wedding anniversary! And what a location. If you’re looking to stay and play in the heart of Old Montreal, the Auberge is a terrific choice.

Rue St-Francois Xavier in Old Montreal is home to the Auberge hotel & restaurant, as well as a terrific museum.

On a more recent trip, I stayed at the Residence Inn, a Marriott property offering reasonable rates and a convenient location to Concordia University, where the PWAC conference I attended was being held. It’s not as luxurious as the other properties I’ve cited, but it has spacious rooms with full kitchen facilities and is perfect for lengthier, or more informal stays.

Writing this post has made me realize that I must get my beautiful slides from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s put onto disk. Right now, they’re in boxes in the garage just waiting for me.

Please share your comments about your favourite place(s) to stay in Montreal. As well as other things you love about the city.

And if you’re looking for more information on this remarkable city, visit Tourisme Montreal where you’ll see a totally cool video.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

26 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    What a beautiful city! It was such a surprise for me. I didn’t know what to expect but I fell instantly in love with it.
    Have you been to Olive et Gourmando? It’s on Rue St. Paul. They have the best chocolate and banana brioche you’ll ever have.

    • Thanks for subscribing to the blog, Ana, and for sharing your tip about Olive et Gourmando. No, I’d not heard of this shop before. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m in Old Montreal. Their website is currently under reconstruction, so I didn’t get much of a look.

      Hope to hear from you when I post the new entry tomorrow. We’ll be across the pond … in Belgium!

  2. Hello Doreen and all,
    We’re planning a trip to Montreal this fall — my husband Don to track down information about his great -grandfather who arrived in the Montreal area from Scotland and me to do research at the McCord Museum and Library at McGill University for my next book.

    • Terrific, Irene. Be sure to include some time for just enjoying the romance and ambiance of this wonderful city. My last 2 trips to Montreal were without Reg, and it’s just not the same without someone to hold your hand and take in the softer side of the city. Enjoy!

  3. Boomergirl says:

    I’m betting that sixth wedding anniversary in Montreal was extra special. Hard not to feel romantic when rubbing shoulders with the Montrealais.
    I am with Tammy Burns, I love, love, love Montreal. I’m biased, of course, I grew up there but still every time we go back, I renew my love affair with it. This summer , the first thing I noticed were the bike trails. They were everywhere and in great use too. Bixi rentals were easy to find wherever we went. We watched kayakers paddle the Lachine Canal and kite boarders on nearby Lake St. Louis. We visited Montreal’s oldest house and the Fur Trade Museum in Lachine and ate brunch at Parc Lafontaine’s swanky, new cafe. I blogged about Montreal awhile back. We spent a week in late winter there.

    • Thanks for pointing us to your blog post, Judy. You did a great job in summing up the highlights of this great city. I didn’t know you and Glenn had spent so much time in Montreal. Lucky you!

      Re the Bixi rentals, they are indeed a marvellous thing! However, a friend who rented one had difficulty because of the stipulation of bringing the bike back to a designated place. I can’t recall the details of her quandary, but just caution anyone thinking of Bixi bike rentals to be sure they understand all the terms and conditions of the rental.

      Look forward to your joining us again here later this week when we’ll talk … chocolate!

  4. Ross Mavis says:

    Montreal is a city I will never forget. Not because of the incredibly friendly residents but also because of the great culinary diversity available in all parts of the city. The best rack of lamb I ever had was in a small bistro in Montreal; the toothsome yet incredibly inexpensiive Indian curry and pappadoms were from a small corner fast food joint in Montreal and I have found no where else to enjoy organic pate de foie gras than in an exclusive eatery on the outskirts of this delightful city. I truly love Montreal.and all it has to offer.

  5. Doreen – I too am having a love affair with Montreal! I have made a mental note to book a true vacation there one day and not always be there around business! My favourite place this last trip was the Bonsecours Market, Marche Bonsecours down in the old city. I could have spent days wandering in awe at the incredible art curated throughout and displayed in the shops that were like galleries themselves. The creative energy just flows, rushes at times, through the historic building and it was hard to leave there not feeling emotionally renewed to create. I find myself fondly glancing at my beautiful art glass paperweight purchased there and enjoy my wine a little more now with my blown glass wine topper from the market. For me, those little personal momentos that bring back the energy and emotion of a city one visited are far more enjoyable than any tourist souvenir.

    • Thanks for joining us here, Michelle.

      Lucky you to have been able to spend more time at the Bonsecours Market. We only had time to take a quick glimpse and then had to rush off for travel out of the city. Never seems to be enough time! I think you’re right in trying to make a future visit to Montreal strictly a vacation … but knowing us writers, that is very hard to do, as everything is a potential story!

      And yes, I totally agree how little momentos we purchase while travelling help keep the memories of the trip alive. In addition to chocolate (which is quickly consumed), I always try and purchase some form of art from places I love. Whether it be paintings, wood carvings, paper mache, beach combings. I have them all over our home. So in effect, walking from room to room brings back memories of all the major trips I have ever taken.

      Hope to see you here agin soon.

  6. geeta says:

    Montreal first showed up on my radar when I was living in Singapore 10 years ago. Singapore, for all its cleanliness and fantastic food, is (or was) a little sterile for my taste. My roommate was from Montreal and I remember he said, “You’d love Montreal. There it’s like alternative is mainstream!”
    How right he was!
    I moved to Montreal in the summer of 2003 and fell immediately and hopelessly in love with the place. Firstly, the summer is a nonstop carnival of street fairs and festivals– jazz, comedy, pride parades! The sensuous mix of French and English offered me all the exoticism of Europe with many of the conveniences of North America.
    The seasons (which took a little getting used to for someone who grew up in Mumbai) help me appreciate the cycles of life in a way that we children of the tropics seldom experience. And the food! Ah, but every conceivable cuisine is yours for the tasting (and usually for a very reasonable fee).
    I’ve been here 8 years already and I still have moments where I feel like I’m on the set of some fabulous movie. I have to pinch myself and fight the urge to ask, “Is this really my life?”. For in Montreal you can live like a queen on an artist’s budget, and, thanks to the push-pull of English and French, experience a unique flavour of multiculturalism that I don’t think English Canada can offer.
    Ah Montreal. I’m smitten!

    • Thanks for your reply, Geeta! I can see you really appreciate all that Montreal has to offer. The amazing cuisine, the festivals, the multi-cultural dual personality of the city, the old and the new, the fabulous location and the awesome scenery. Thanks for sharing from your perspective.

  7. Thanks to Suzanne and Laura for your recent comments.

    Yes, Laura, fortunately Kathe Lieber took me to the Atwater Market a few years ago and I did indeed love the cheese shop. So many culinary wonders in this city!

    I’ve been to a few of the chocolate shops/bistros, but know I have many more to discover. Looking forward to my next visit!

    Please drop in again for the next post.

  8. Oooh, I love Montreal! When you visit to check out the chocolate, don’t forget to indulge in all the other great foods at the markets. There’s an astonishing cheese shop at the Atwater Market, and a great store called Marche des Saveurs (near the Jean-Talon Market) featuring foods from across Quebec.

  9. Thanks for sharing this Doreen. I love Montreal, but haven’t had much opportunity to stay at hotels there. I spent a lot of time in Montreal, particularly in the 70s and 80s. But I always stayed with friends then. Now that our daughter has moved there I am staying with her. But it doesn’t matter where you stay, Montreal is worth a visit…or two…or three…or more. It’s a very ‘cosmopolitan’ city, with a European flare.

  10. Dominique Millette says:

    My two favourite things about Montreal are 1) the architecture and 2) the urban art.

  11. Thanks to Marijke and to Jeff for their comments.

    Marijke, it’s great that you have a site offering Montreal fans the scoop on good deals around the city. Thanks for sharing the link here.

    And Jeff, lucky you to have attended the Montreal Jazz Fest. It’s been on my list for a number of years now! Good on you for getting our taste buds going for all the temptations Montreal has to offer. I’ll touch more on that in the next post. Cheers!

  12. Jeff Stern says:

    Reading all these responses re-affirms the fact I must return to Montreal soon! The City of Festivals, Shopping and Food leaves one always to return for more. Seeing The Red Violin on the huge outdoor screen at The Du Maurier Film Festival, the calming sounds from The Montreal Jazz Festival and the fun of the outdoor venues at the Just for Laughs are experiences not to miss. Fabulous seafood at Maestro S.V.P. on Boul Sainte-Laurent, the famous Gibby’s in Old Montreal in a former horse stable gives a quaint feel of yesteryear, and the surprising discovery of Prince Arthur and Boul Sainte-Laurent with a terrific assortment of open air restaurants and Rue St Denis offering even more! Also, the huge selection of fresh fruit and produce colorfully displayed at the large fruit stand on Ontario and Amherst can only fuel the energy for the spectacular shopping along Boul Sainte-Catherine and Rue Sherbrooke topped off with Complexe Desjardins
    also on Boul Sainte-Catherine Ouest in front of Place D’Arts.

    What a wonderful City.

  13. Marijke says:

    Ah, I also happen to think Montreal is one of the best cities. I’d regale you about my visits there, but…. I live there. 🙂

    What is wonderful about Montreal is that there is nothing you can’t find. No matter what your tastes, no matter what your dreams, there is a spot for it here. Of course, costs can be varied from free to beyond extravagant. I’ve been lucky enough to be spoiled the odd time with the higher priced joys of Montreal, but there is so much that can be enjoyed that is either free or relatively inexpensive. Thank you Doreen for allowing me to mention Montreal on the Cheap (, where people can find many of those lower priced options.

  14. I love love love Montreal. No matter how many times I go there, I still find it incredible. And the food! Oh, the food and the patios in the old port are by far my favourite parts – with Le Jardin Nelson topping my list. I fell in love with it the minute I sat beneath the trees and sipped my sangria. 🙂

    • You’ve got the spirit, Tammy!

      Yes, Montreal sure does have some amazing patios. Sorry I missed Le Jardin Nelson. Sounds like you found a gem. Maybe next time! I’m still hoping to get there for the Jazz Fest one year. Sangria. Yummmm…

  15. Thanks, Mike. Always great to hear from you. I hope you’re enjoying the summer.

    Yes, it’s funny how one might forget just how special a place is until you look back at the memories you’ve made there and then it all comes back.

    And with you being fluent in French, your Montreal experiences are sure to be much enhanced. Lucky you! Enjoy!

  16. Thanks, Liz. Yes, I love Montreal, too. I was amazed at how much emotion it instilled in me when I read my 10-year-old notes! Stay tuned for more Montreal memories.

  17. epalmer says:

    Doreen, Montreal is one of my favourite cities in Canada. I’m anxiously awaiting your next article on chocolate discoveries in Montreal! Liz Palmer

  18. Mike says:

    HI Doreen,
    Isn’t Montreal an excellent city? I’ve been there three times and hoping to go back soon.
    Vive le Montreal!

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