Fly into Montreal and you experience the other Canada, the French-speaking province called Quebec. No worries, you’ll get away with English, but a little French might come in handy. And just like Paris and its well-functioning Metro, Montreal has several day passes taking you everywhere by bus or subway.
There is quite a bit to explore in Montreal, and if you are there in June, do not miss the Formula 1 race on the race course Gilles Villeneuve on the Île Notre Dame.
The first lunch, however, should be at Schwartz’ smoked meat steakhouse in the Jewish quarter. Order the sandwich after you made the long queue outside. Here you find a long history of Jewish meat smoking, and it is definitely an in place for lunch in upper Montreal. Since it is freezing in winter, dress up warmly.
Montreal’s wine shops are controlled by the provincial government and called SAQ (Société des alcool du Québec). Downtown in the shopping centre around the McGill Metro station you will find the SAQ signature shop. The wines for sale are evidence for a strong leaning towards French wine, needless to say, with a fantastic choice of Burgundy and Bordeaux. After roaming through endless shelves of the Grand Marques we eventually found a very small contingent of South African reds. Amongst the tiny selection was a good old benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Le Bonheur, one of the most underrated wine farms in the Cape, and its name, meaning “happiness”, quite appropriate in French-speaking Montreal
Venture through the old city around the cathedral of Notre-Dame for elegant shopping and fantastic art galleries during daytime and for live jazz at night time. Montreal is famous for its live music scene, at least in Canada. And then eat out at the very scenic mostly French style restaurants like the Marché de la Villette with its own butchery. Their cold meats are out of this world and don’t miss out on the home-made terrines Alsatian style or de Lapin (rabbit) and the foie gras, naturally. To beat the winter cold in the streets of Montreal a French onion soup comes in handy to warm up. These delicatessen are best enjoyed with a Burgundy, we had a Beaune Premier Cru les Eppenottes 2012 and old French chansons in the background.
Marché de la Villette
Cold meats and foie gras at Marché de Villette
Dinner was served in the live Jazz restaurant called Modavie also in the old part of Montreal. The Jazz was good, the rillettes de canard even better (chopped meat of the duck, similar to paté), but the duck leg with a wild mushroom risotto was hard to beat. In the absence of Burgundy for the poultry we indulged a Pomerol (JP Moueix 2012, Merlot & Cab Franc).
Rillettes de canard at Modavie.
Montreal is a trip worth-while, even in winter. You will turn into a big icicle if you stay outside for too long, so simply walk into the coffee shops, petit restaurants or art galleries with a fairy tale winter charm, superlative cuisine, its exciting variety of things-to-do and its Parisian flair.