July 13, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

The Great Northeastern Road Trip

5 min read

Lost in Translation: Adventures exploring Montreal’s charm and cuisine

By Kaelie Piscitello

“Don’t say ‘BONJOUR’ to the border agents” was the only piece of advice my brother gave me before I drove to Canada for the first time. I thought this would be common knowledge, but it turns out the border patrol will search your car if you do this.

The Northern Appalachian Mountains painted the horizon that stretched in front of us throughout the drive, and the scenery kept me awake and alert for my six-hour drive. I didn’t want to miss a second of the beautiful landscape.

The Canadian border near Montreal appeared serious, but it couldn’t help but make me smile. Many signs began to pop up to let us know we were getting closer. I was alerted that an exit was the “last chance to turn back before Canada,” and I read a sign right in front of border patrol that cautioned, “Warning: Canada ahead.” My friends took my brother’s advice about saying “BONJOUR” at the border but couldn’t help yelling it once we closed the windows and drove away.

A Steep Climb in Montreal

Most of my first full day in Montreal consisted of exploring the downtown area. My friends and I bought our first day pass for the Metro, costing us just under eight United States dollars, and took the subway to Mont Royale Park. I was impressed by the Metro’s cleanliness, speed, and consistency with timing. I’m used to the run-down Boston T, which comes once every hour, is dirty, and has many delays, so the Metro felt incredibly luxurious.

At Mont Royale, my friends and I decided to climb the stairs to the top. We had climbed about two flights of stairs when we passed a young boy on his way back down, counting “401…402..” My friends and I exchanged confused looks but kept going. By the end, I was exhausted. The boy was a little off with his counting, but I climbed 339 steps to reach the overlook! The view was beautiful, and my friends took the opportunity to pose for pictures.

The walk made us extremely hungry for lunch, so we ventured into Downtown Montreal and ended up at Café Vasco da Gama. I ate a light sandwich and enjoyed resting for a few minutes while I was there.

Afterward, my friends opted to explore some of the neighboring shops, and we found ourselves poking through H&M and Garage. Many of the stores were chains one would typically find in the United States, but the prices were lower than Massachusetts, so I took advantage of it.

That night, my group ate some delicious pasta at an Italian place called Sorino. I enjoyed one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, mushroom tortellini with a Bolognese sauce. I also split some calamari with my boyfriend, and it had a thick, chewy texture. The pieces were much larger than I’m used to, but it was delicious, nonetheless.

Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the more picturesque locales in Montral. Photo by Kaelie Piscitello

The Lovely Old Town

The next day, my friends and I explored Old Town Montreal and ended up in a rubber duck store. Many of the ducks were dressed as celebrities or common professionals, and I loved reading the cheesy puns on their outfits. The old town’s cobblestone streets had a charming feel and reminded me that my surroundings were steeped in history as I made my way to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Someone told me before I left that the Basilica is an exact replica of the one in Paris, but this was incorrect. Nevertheless, the cathedral was breathtaking. It mimicked the English gothic style, but the midnight blue carpet and decorations gave it its unique flair, setting it apart from the European churches.

Delicious Eats in Chinatown

My boyfriend and I had seen great reviews of Montreal’s Chinatown before we left, so we were dying to go. We convinced the rest of our friends to also come with us and explore. We tried an all-dumpling eatery called Qing Hua Dumpling, and it turned out to be the perfect lunch spot because it had so many options.

My friends tried a typical pork dumpling and a steak and cheese one, while my boyfriend and I shared the assorted 15-piece Chef’s Choice platter, consisting of more authentic-style dumplings. One of the girls we were with had never tried a dumpling before but left, saying she had enjoyed our meal. Qing Hua truly had something for everyone.

After lunch, I noticed an Asian bakery, Patisserie Coco, across the street and decided to stop in. The prices were low, and the choices were plentiful. It was tough not to buy everything, but I restrained myself and bought two delicious coconut cream buns.

By the time we were ready to leave Patisserie Coco, it had started raining, so we decided to explore the Underground City but quickly became lost. My friends and I knew we wanted to find the shopping center but ended up in a business-centered portion instead. We spent so much time trying to see where we were going that by the time we found ourselves near the Metro, most of us were tired and opted to rest before returning to dinner.

Dinner and a Show

Dinner rolled around on the last night, and we had a hard time deciding on a place for everyone, as sometimes happens on group trips. So my friends and I opted to return to a burger joint near our hotel, Notre Boeuf De Grace, we had eaten at on our first night, vowing to try out new things on the menu this time.

We hadn’t seen any drag queens at Notre Boeuf De Grace on our first night, so we were surprised when they made their grand entrance and hosted our meal. They made dinner so much fun! The ladies figured out quickly we were not American and were kind enough to translate some of the show for us. One would also stop by our table every ten minutes or so to say, “HI AMERICANS.”

The restaurant made our night fantastic and but also sad to leave after just three days of exploring the city. Despite all the warnings about Canada the border gave us about our trip, Montreal was undoubtedly a delicious mix of French Canadian culture and style.

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