Some of you may have noticed (via social media) that I was on vacation this past week. My lady-friend and I went to Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa. Quebec for me was by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. We had a fantastic time despite some inclement weather. We used Airbnb to book the vast majority of our trip, which worked out pretty well. I will say that staying in the hotel in Ottawa was a nice respite from the Airbnb apartments. The apartments were quite nice although there were varying aspects in each place that made them a bit inconvenient. For instance in one apartment we didn’t have body soap (bar or liquid), and in another apartment there wasn’t a TV. I think Airbnb is a great service and offers a lot but you have to remember that you aren’t staying in a hotel, and that these are people’s homes.
We started our vacation in Montreal. We stayed in an apartment (courtesy of Airbnb) near the convention center and the Notre Dame Basilica. Our first night (8/9) we enjoyed poutine (pronounced poo-tin, not poo-teen) at La Banquise. La Banquise means “ice” in French (according to Google). La Banquise was one of the spots that we had selected as a “must” for our trip. I got the Kamikaze (la Kamikaze on le menu). I thought the poutine was quite good and had a good kick to it. The restaurant was quite crowded and when we left, the line was so long it stretched into the street.
The next day (8/10), we got Montreal bagels at Fairmount Bagel. I’m not sure what the big deal is about Montreal bagels. I was somewhat unimpressed by them; I’m not sure what I was expecting but they were a bit sweeter than usual but still just a bagel. After obtaining our bagels we ventured off to the Botanical gardens, I’m not a big flower person but I’ll admit it was cool. They had a Chinese garden that was awesome and serene. That night as we were driving home we noticed that one of the fountains near our apartment was on fire. The fountain has a cool pyrotechnic aspect to it which allows it to burn under water (kind of like the Cuyahoga river, but intentional). We walked around “Old Montreal” a bit along the river, which was a nice way to end the day.
The next day (8/11), we resumed walking around Old Montreal while waiting for Muru Crepe (Cafe) to open. We stumbled upon an ancient Egypt exhibit which Danielle couldn’t resist dragging me into. I was a bit skeptical walking around. Some of the antiquities didn’t appear to be “on the level”. Danielle assured me that because of the recent unrest in Egypt the historians were in a hurry to get the artifacts out of Egypt. Turns out that some Egyptian artist manufactured EVERYTHING in the museum (a fact we learned after our tour). We then took a tour of the Notre Dame basilica, which was opulent and stunning. For dinner, we went to this cool restaurant called O.Noir that was a sensory experience where you dine in the dark. Not being able to see your food or the person sitting across from you was surreal. The experience was awesome and the food was good. We didn’t even manage to spill anything on ourselves — just kidding Danielle spilled her water and blamed it on our server.
Our final day (8/12) I dragged Danielle up Mount Royal to get a view of the city. This was on my bucket list and I was happy that she was sporting enough to walk the arduous five minutes to the lookout post. She later thanked me for forcing her to do fun things, which was kind of her. We had lunch at yet another poutine place called PoutineVille that was by far the best poutine of the trip. I got “La Bouche en feu/The Fire Breather” which had BBQ wings on top of it. PoutineVille was cool because they allow you to build your own poutine via a little checklist that has something for everyone (including vegetarian options). It was in this restaurant where I had an epiphany about the pronunciation of the word poutine. After our hearty lunch, we embarked on our next adventure to Quebec.
It takes about two hours to drive from Montreal to Quebec. We got into the “Latin Quarter” of Quebec to find that the roads were quite narrow, and that there was no street parking (a fact not mentioned to us by our Airbnb host – although he was fantastic otherwise). We got to our building and I let Danielle out, she managed to find our host who was meandering around the neighborhood. He told me to pull up onto the curb and unload our bags. There was a dialogue between him and a local construction worker in French about the placement of my car near their work site. After some nuanced bargaining on the part of our host, the construction worker “allowed” us to leave our car and bring our bags upstairs. We unloaded our bags and our host jumped in the car with me and directed me to the parking garage.
The next day (8/13), we continued our walking tour of Quebec. We stumbled upon what I would consider the best breakfast that I’ve ever eaten at Le Cochon Dingue (the crazy pig). That morning I got “The Gourmet plate” which consisted of two eggs any style, bacon, ham, sausage, fried potatoes with onions, “little treat”, cranberry bread, French crepe in maple cream sauce, baked beans, and your choice of toast with either homemade jam or apple butter. I don’t usually eat many pork products but their ham and bacon were incredible. The French crepe in the maple cream sauce was hands down the best crepe I’ve ever eaten. What’s also cool about the restaurant is that they make an effort to use only Quebec products in their ingredients. We walked around our new neighborhood and found a small little grocery/convenience store that sold Kangaroo meat; FUCKING KANGAROO MEAT. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the stones to try it so I purchased a baguette instead. In the afternoon we trekked up to the Citadel, but by the time we arrived it was raining. Someone (who shall remain nameless) wasn’t interested in standing in the rain on an hour-long walking tour. Instead we hung out at a local bar called “L’oncle Antoine” where Danielle received some free Jenga lessons.
Our final day in Quebec (8/14) we returned to Le Cochon Dingue and enjoyed yet another breakfast. On this occasion I got the “Early Morning Poutine” which was superb. We walked around a bit more and then stopped in at the Fairmount Le Chateau Frontenac for a drink and a light lunch. The decor was beautiful the fare was decent but the service was sluggish. We ordered some flat bread and a salad and I believe it took 45 minutes for us to get our food, which is comical. We left for Ottawa regretting that we hadn’t stayed longer in Quebec.
After an arduous four-hour drive from Quebec to Ottawa, it was nice to stay in a hotel. Ottawa to me reminded me of a mash-up between Washington DC, and Albany NY. It reminded me of Washington because you can’t easily walk from one place to another because of the size. It reminded me of Albany because I got the sense that most people there weren’t there to sight see; they were there to do business and then get the hell out of there. Ottawa did have some cool attractions but we didn’t need to spend three days there.
Our first day in Ottawa (8/15) we ate breakfast at a place called “Pressed” which was solid. Driving around Ottawa, we had one of the most embarrassing moments of the trip: we accidentally drove into a park while looking for the entrance to the national gallery. We stopped for some directions and after 40 minutes or so found the entrance to the gallery. The gallery was nice; they had a few awesome exhibits and even had some Warhol. We then ate beavertails at the Byward market, which were disappointing. If you can imagine eating fried dough with sweet things dripped on it, that’s all it was. That night we ate Thai food at a good place called Khao Thai.
The next day (8/16), we saw the changing of the guards in front of the parliament building which was a unique experience. We then drove over to a place called, “Art is in Bakery” where I had the best meatball sub I’ve ever eaten. They stuffed the meatballs with goat cheese and the whole thing was amazeballs. After our lunch, we drove out to the “Diefenbunker Museum” which is a museum held in a cold war era bunker. The bunker itself was rad and there was a lot to see and do. Unfortunately, it was a 30-minute drive from Ottawa to the bunker, which makes traveling there a bit tedious.