Poutine on the Ritz

Hello Dear Readers!
Remember when I said I ended my night in Montreal reasonably sure I wouldn’t be hungover?

Yeah.

I guess my plan to drink lots of water and not enjoy too many adult beverages backfired on me because I woke up absolutely miserable.

But time pauses for no man. So I heaved myself out of bed, showered, ate, and dragged myself into the back of a cab in order to go to the Biodome.


And guys, this place is awesome. It’s the old Olympic Park, which the Montreal-ans have converted into a number of different spaces. The Biodome itself is this huge indoor stadium, divided into four separate sections. They’ve recreated different ecosystems in each section and filled them with plants and animals from the ecosystems.


Pictures don’t really show how cool this is, but it’s really neat to walk from the tropics to a cool fall day in a matter of moments.



I also got myself a ticket to the insectarium (ew) and the botanical gardens (awesome). The gardens are huge, and I spent a wonderful amount of time wandering through them.

Then, since it was getting late, I headed out to La Banquise, courtesy of this recommendation here, and indulged myself in a huge pile of greasy poutine.

Mmmm

 

It was just what the doctor ordered for my hangover and I enjoyed practicing my 2 words of French on the wait staff, who politely indulged in my ridiculousness.

In total, I spent almost exactly 24 hours in Montreal. I met some cool people, found a secret speakeasy, gorged myself on poutine, and wandered around some really beautiful places. In short, I had a wonderful time.

I’ll be back.

-Carissa “Schwarzenegger” Rawson

Feeling French in Montreal

Hello Dear Readers!
I was in Vermont just recently (for school) and found myself with a spare day, so decided to make the quick drive up to Montreal. I’ve been to Canada a few times, but only on the west coast, and I was really looking forward to seeing if French Canada was worth all that jazz. Spoiler alert: it totally is.

Anyway, it’s two and a half hours from Northfield, Vermont, up to Montreal, so I hopped in my rental car and sped up the highway to check out French Canada. I anticipated no problems at the border, since it’s, ya know, just Canada, but the border patrol agent was having none of me.

He asked me a thousand questions, looked extremely skeptical when I said I was just staying for a day, and questioned me specifically on what I was going to do in Montreal.

“Well,” I told him, “I hear the poutine is good.”

He busted out laughing and then sent me to extra security. Clearly, poutine is not the winning answer.

After they scanned my passport, examined every stamp in the book, and interrogated me (politely. It is Canada, after all) about my plans, they finally let me through.

And then I was in! It was only about another hour to Montreal, where I stayed the night at the Intercontinental. (I used my Ambassador status to get awesome perks).

Since I was just there for the night, I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste my time. I know I’ve told you guys about the Spotted By Locals app before, but it’s essentially a curated list of things to do and see in specific cities, made by the people who actually live in them.
Which is how I found myself in a secret speakeasy hidden down a set of stairs, sipping on a handcrafted cocktail and generally feeling very posh.

I hung out at the bar there for about two hours, just enjoying my drinks and the general atmosphere, before striking up a conversation with the two people next to me.

This side of Canada is weird, in that it’s…very French. But at the same time, they’re very similar to us. They’ve got all the same stores, roads, and buildings, but everything is written in French and everyone is perfectly bilingual. They slip from English to French and back almost unconsciously, which is really cool but also really difficult for me to understand as a non-French speaker.

But it’s fun! These two were very much French Canadian, and I spent a good portion of time staring back and forth between them as I attempted to deduce what they were saying via body language.

Eventually, they told me they were headed out to a different bar, and invited me to come along.

Now, as a single female I’ve got to be careful about where I go. So I did the natural thing and asked,

“You aren’t gonna murder me in a back alley, are you?”

To which they responded, that no, of course they weren’t, so clearly that was good enough for me.

(I know I’m being flippant about this guys, but I am actually extremely careful and would never head out somewhere without telling someone/if I felt the least bit unsafe/ etc etc. Don’t worry.)

We left the speakeasy and walked a few minutes down the road, to this very fancy, very busy night club.

Now, I know you’ve all seen photos of what I wear. I was in green pants and my walking shoes, coupled with a blouse, which was the nicest thing I had with me. As a traveler, I just don’t have room for fancy pants clothes.

Me.

In contrast, the guy I was with was in a full suit and the girl had on a cocktail dress. I was in no way fit for entry and thus hid behind the both of them as we walked into the club.

I then spent the whole night thinking “Don’t look at my feet, don’t look at my fe- oh god he’s seen the tennis shoes.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a real night club before, but this place was really cool. It was packed, shoulder to shoulder, and between the giant bottles of Grey Goose and sparklers, people shouted at each other and sipped glasses of wine. And this was on a Thursday.

We were there until at 2am, at which point the guy in our group had had a little bit too much to drink, so his friend (they were just friends hanging out) decided it was time to go. We Uber’ed back to my hotel and I let them in the lounge, where we hung out and drank coffee until the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, a little more sobered up, they took off in a cab and I trudged up to my room, reasonably sure I wasn’t going to be hungover.

Ha.

-Carissa “Fancy Pants” Rawson