a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Aug, 2014

A getaway to Montreal

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

August 7 marked Mark and my 16th anniversary, so to celebrate we did two things (a) bought a new mattress and (b) took off for a night in Montreal. :)

Our destination: the Hotel Nelligan in old Montreal.

A view of our hotel - Hotel Nelligan

We’d stayed here before, and had such a memorable time that there was no question we’d be going back. It is seriously dreamy, but I am getting ahead of myself.

We left the girls (including the furry four-legged one) at Mark’s parents place and made our way to Montreal on Saturday morning. Check in wasn’t until 2:00, so we stopped for lunch at the Burger Bar on Crescent Street. Mark ordered a chien chaud from the menu board (not on the printed menu) and I wish I had a photo because it was a fantastic specimen of a hot dog. I had a tough time picking and after much internal debate ordered the salmon sandwich (The SAMURAI II: Fried sesame and almond crusted salmon, wakame salad, tomato, onions, wasabi mayonnaise). It was honestly one of the best things I’ve eaten in recent memory. (It’s pictured here in my Daily Lunches set.) I ate it – most of it – with a knife and fork, and my tummy was happy.

After lunch we checked in. Little did we know there was a surprise in store. They upgraded our room to a corner suite (!) and it was spacious and bright, an oasis for weary bodies. This was the view from one of our windows:

A view from our room at Hotel Nelligan

Also: Thank goodness for valet parking, because driving a car in Old Montreal is not for the faint of heart or anyone who is low in driver confidence. Narrow one-way roads, cobblestones, hard-to-spot street signs, horse-drawn carriages, and jaywalking tourists can take a toll on your sanity.

After dropping off our baggage and ogling our room we went for a walkabout. Old Montreal is a place you can really fill your eyeballs with beauty. If you hunger for history, architecture, arts and culture, you can’t help but feel at home here.

Montreal walkabout #latergram

Self-guided walking tour of Old Montreal

Alleys are cool #oldmontreal #latergram

We must have passed two dozen couples in the process of getting married or having their photos taken afterwards. It did my heart good, and added a layer of pixie dust to an already magical cityscape.

Wedding in Old Montreal

As evening rolled around we decided to do some barhopping in our hotel. We began on the rooftop, sur la Terrasse Nelligan. There are definitely pros and cons to this unique open-air space. (1) It affords some really great views, but sadly, unless you’re right near the railing you won’t get to see very much of it. (2) You won’t wait long for your order. They have their own kitchen up there, and the wait staff is friendly, attentive, and perfectly bilingual. (3) The sangria was very good. (4) Ottawa folks who are accustomed to smoke-free patios will be disappointed to know that Quebec never instituted the same laws and patio smoking is abundant in Montreal. Le Sigh.

We enjoyed our beverages before we were chased away by les fumeurs. We decided to try the downstairs bar called the Verses. It was almost empty, so we had our choice of seats. We ended up with the perfect vantage point for people-watching… in a huge window that opens directly onto Rue St.Paul.

From our vantage point downstairs at Hotel Nelligan

Watching the world go by was just what we needed, and we had our own soundtrack as well, thanks to a very talented busker who was playing the accordion down the street.

Soon it was time to get dressed for dinner, but first, this:

Treats awaiting our arrival!

It was waiting in our rooms. Please note: we did eventually make it to dinner after our afternoon of drinking. :)

A great place to go – within staggering distance at least – is the Tokyo Sushi Bar on Rue St.Paul. Here’s what Urbanspoon had to say about it. It was our third time at this place and it’s been a pleasant surprise every time. The food is great, the service is unassuming, and the price is right. (In other words: cheaper than most Ottawa sushi places we go to.)

After dinner we did more walking, this time to Notre Dame, which is a stone’s throw from the hotel. Music filled the square, and people milled around, and we added ourselves to the shadows that filled the scene.

View of Notre Dame

View of Notre Dame

The next morning we had a very nice continental breakfast at the hotel (does one really need any more than a flakey fresh croissant – or two – and some fruit and coffee?) and returned to Notre Dame, this time for Les Trésors de Napoléon.

Part of the Napoleon exhibition, in the crypt at Notre Dame

Part of the Napoleon exhibition, in the crypt at Notre Dame

We debated attending, but I’m glad we went. This exhibition features over 350 artworks, many never before seen by the public. There were finely crafted items of all kinds: jewels, furniture, tableware, guns, documents, and even clothing from the period. One of Napoleon’s famous hats is on display there too, and I even learned why he wore it sideways. (Do you know?)

It’s always so interesting to witness history up close in this way, to see the artifacts of an ordinary, extraordinary life: his favourite shoe buckles, maps that Napoleon consulted, invoices sent to his attention, his favourite parlour games, the bed he slept in while on the march. And the story of Josephine? It is as sweet as it is sad.

Our checkout time was 2:00 p.m. and it was time to make our way back. We stopped in Hudson for a milkshake on the way to Ottawa (unfortunately we missed their famous flea market by a day) but it was too hot to do much of anything there.

And now, BACK TO REALITY. I’m already thinking about another visit to Montreal. Maybe we’ll even bring the kids next time.

2 Responses to "A getaway to Montreal"

1 | Julia a.k.a. MamaMOE

August 13th, 2014 at 9:32 am


Im so happy you enjoyed your time in my hometown. What a romantic place to enjoy your anniversary (congrats!). Next time, swing by longer so we can have a cafe au lait together :)
Lovely post and pictures.

2 | Susan Ovington (@lilmsneat)

August 13th, 2014 at 2:08 pm


Old Montreal is beautiful. I do not enjoy the restaurants because of the smoking. The scenery is like no other. So happy that you had a night away for your Anniversary Andrea!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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