You Have Just Won… A Bonus Trip to Montreal!

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Departing Italy on an airplane never goes well. Italians do many things so, so well– food of any kind, glasses of chilled wine on outdoor patios, cobblestoned streets and old, old buildings being but a few of these– but not airports. Italian airports are a whirl of confusion, where one queue handles many issues and the rules follow no known airport logic. But once out of Italy, we usually expect smooth sailing. This time, however, we got from Napoli to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Montreal, and promptly smacked up against the vagaries of Canadian weather. After a lengthy wait for our delayed connection, with very little sharing of information, we were informed that our flight (among many others) had now been cancelled. We were at the mercy of our airline as to what would happen next. 

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A long wait followed to collect our luggage, and an even longer one at the Air Canada ticket counter to rebook a flight to Vancouver. Water bottles and food vouchers were handed out; the wait went on. We began to hear of some people being booked on flights as much as two days later. Airline employees were looking harried; passengers were unhappy. Everyone was exhausted. When we finally reached the counter, we spoke with a sympathetic Italian woman who essentially awarded us the jackpot: a room overnight in a downtown hotel and tickets out later the next afternoon in business class. Perhaps she was pleased that we had visited her country; perhaps it was because we sympathized with her stress; perhaps she just liked the look of us. However it was, we took a free taxi to a comfortable hotel, and woke up the next morning in the heart of downtown Montreal, with the better part of a day in which to have some fun. 

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We started out with a wander around the downtown area, having a look at the shopping district and some of the famous sights– Place Jacques-Cartier, Notre-Dame Basilica, Christ Church Cathedral. It was fun and lively, although we weren’t having much success in finding the kind of breakfast we were looking for. Then, inspired, we texted a friend who knew the city well, and asked him where we should go for a good Montreal-style bagel? His answer: Saint-Viateur Bagel, in the Mile End neighbourhood. We took a taxi immediately, and found ourselves in a new world altogether. 

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The bagels themselves were magical– chewy and sweet, and absolutely fresh. They churn them out in huge numbers 24/7, and they don’t sit for long. We still want to go right back to Montreal for more! 

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We followed the bagels with a stroll along the absolutely delightful Avenue du Parc, a busy street which combined elegant old buildings with a multi-ethnic vibe. It is chock-full of Greek restaurants, with various other types thrown in for good measure. We stopped at an Italian espresso bar with a feel that reminded us of our Main Street neighbourhood at home, and enjoyed excellent lattes. 

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Strolling past the charming brick and brownstone buildings was a pleasure, and we perused a variety of businesses– a vintage Dairy Queen, an artisanal chocolate shop (those were tasty!), and a barber who apparently could also rent you a tuxedo and make you an espresso. Eventually, we happened on the marvellous Lola Rosa Parc, a vegetarian restaurant with a great raised patio, where we sat and enjoyed a classic Quebecois lunch of poutine and beer.

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This was only my second visit to Montreal and like the first was extremely short, but this neighbourhood is a gem and I will definitely spend time there when I eventually make a proper visit. The food alone, leaning toward Mediterranean, African, and vegetarian, would be well worth exploring. 

We continued along Avenue du Parc past the university district and the hill of Mont-Royal, back into downtown. After that, it was back to the hotel to grab our belongings and head out to the airport, from which we flew the rest of the way home in style. Sometimes, life can’t get any better than a business class pod and a meal with real utensils. 

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Photos: Christ Church Cathedral; logjam at Montreal airport; view from our hotel room; Notre-Dame Basilica; Saint-Viateur Bagel; Mile End architecture; Avenue du Parc; Lola Rosa vegetarian restaurant; Classic pod (Photos 1-5, 7 N. Wilkes)

© Leslie Wilkes 2016