March is coming.
31 days of muck and cold.
I don’t know about you, but it is my least favourite month of the year.
To escape the inevitable winter doldrums, I think there is no better way to embrace winter than gathering up the girlfriends and exploring a new city…like Montréal!
Whether it be by train, plane or car – this historically spoiled city is easy to get to but hard to leave.
Did you know Montréal is 375 years young this year? Along with Canada’s 150th celebrations, this dynamic city has additional festivals to help ring in 375 years.
Montréal en Lumière is on now until March 11 and is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Showcasing music, dance, food, and art, this festival has sites across the city you and your girls can check out.
But first, you have to check in!
Montréal is packed with great hotel options, I like staying in Old Montreal because there are tones of restaurants, galleries and shops to explore at your doorstep. It is also the most historic part of Montréal – so if you are not into shopping, you can check out the museums and retrace the footsteps of Canada’s first explorers.
St-Paul hotel is a great option for your stay – it’s welcoming, clean, trendy and has a variety of room options. It has a small gym and fantastic restaurants and nightlife just steps away.
The swanky and brand new Hôtel William Gray is also a great spot with it’s sister restaurant, Maggie Oakes headed by Chef Derek Bocking (a former Season One Top Chef Canada contestant) on the main level.
Now – where to eat! Known as the gastronomic centre of Canada – many famous Chefs and restaurants reside within this city of around 4 million people, so choosing the perfect place can be a daunting task. Here are some of my favourites you and your girlfriends will love!
With so many amazing boulangeries in this city, you can easily grab a croissant and hit the town, or choose to sit and chat about last night’s shenanigans. Olive et Gourmando is a perfect mix of both. Part boulangerie, part sit down restaurant, everything is fresh and delicious. I had a Chia Bowl of dreams here that filled me up for a day of wandering for just $10.
I must sample the most bakeries possible when exploring a new city, as I believe there shall be no croissant left uneaten. This city is exploding with bakeries! Here are my favourites:
Maison Christian Faure in Old Montreal. There is no more beautiful a place for tea and a fancy mid-afternoon treat. Check out their website for a virtual tour and prepare to drool.
Patisserie Notre Maison, North of Milton Park and South of Le Plateau, has the best Portuguese tarts around.
Juliette et Chocolat is a charming chain, serving chocolate everything. Their location near Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood is light, bright and chocolaty….I have never experienced a hot chocolate like theirs in my life. Thick and rich like chocolate soup, this is a must-taste for the chocolate lover in your group.
Veering away from food for a moment, let’s talk shopping! St-Laurent Blvd is peppered with popular Canadian brands – like Mlle Fab’s fave, BodyBag by Jude,and atelier b. Boutique Unicorn , RUSE Boutique and Vestibule Boutique will have you pawing the racks for hours, finding something unique and on-trend for everyone in your group.
Now – Lunch!
When I have no man in tow, I love to eat at vegan or vegetarian cuisine. Aux Vivres in Le Plateau is a perfect choice. Packed with the freshest of veggies and amazing dressings, this cozy place will leave you full and not broke!
If you find your group in Old Montréal around lunchtime, Venice MTL is another great option for fresh poke bowls in a cozy atmosphere with a California twist.
Now! Cocktail time!
Old Montreal is swimming with wine bars and restaurants, my favourite is Santos. On Tuesday nights, their ladies night has an unreal promotion. Spend $25 on tapas and you get unlimited specialty cocktails. The food is incredibly delicious and perfectly sharable, and the drinks are girl-trip certified.
I think you should treat yo selves and splurge at least one meal while in this culinary capital. With options like Chef Chuck Hugh’s Le Bremner and Garde Manger, Joe Beef and Le Vin Papillon it can be hard to choose. I found dinner at Le Vin Papillon in Griffintown the perfect spot for adventurous ladies. A non-menu, menu – the server will let you know what they have fresh for the night and you can mix and match, creating a memorable dining experience. This house-made coconut tapioca, raspberry sorbet with beer foam and toasted coconut made me want to come back again for more.
And now – time to detox, relax and unwind before you travel home. It’s spa time!
Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau, is an eye-catching, totally unique experience. Docked at the Old Port, this floating spa is inside a converted historic ferryboat. Offering massages, yoga and a restaurant, it is known for its waters. Following a circuit of ‘hot, cold, and relax’, you dip and plunge to detox and enliven. There is no more a beautiful view than from their hot tubs overlooking old Montreal. I loved my time spent here, lounging from pool to hammock, soaking in the incredible views.
Shake off the March drabs and set your sights on Montréal. A remarkable city celebrating 375 years!
M Fab BonJourney