Montreal in the Snow

Monday, March 11, 2013

Canada in the winter - by default you think of snow.  Montréal is no exception.

In fact, Christmas 2012 turned out to be the largest snowstorm in Montréal since 1971.  With a total accumulation of 45 cm, this was a true Canadian winter experience.  While walking around Old Montréal, there were times when we could barely see 5m ahead of us.  At the time I really wished that we had a skidoo, as I could see tracks in the snow from the locals using theirs to get around the city. I wonder where they store these machines on the island?

Sharing my Hometown

Rue_Saint-Vincent_Montreal_Winter.jpgMontréal is my hometown and I always enjoy sharing my city with someone who hasn’t been before. Where did we go? All the nooks and crannies that tourists don’t often see.   Since my guest had never been to Quebec or experienced its unique French Canadian culture, we set out to explore my city, armed with only a rough idea of what should be done during our stay.

We chose to travel to Montréal by train, rather than making the 6 hour drive from Toronto.  Besides avoiding snowy road conditions at this time of year, the best part of traveling by train is that the route takes you through areas where no asphalt or dirt roads can.  Sit back and watch the pristine countryside while relaxing with a wonderful glass, or two, of local red wine.  As a bonus, the train is rarely delayed, is free from the security craziness you endure at airports and once you arrive you are already downtown and right on the subway line.

Getting around Montréal

The Montréal subway is fast and comfortable. The STM uses an RFID card system and offers some nice packages for travelers. Disposable cards are dispensed from bilingual kiosks which accept all major credit cards. The options available for you to purchase include:

  • single  rides ($3),
  • evening pass ($4) good from 6pm to 5am - perfect for getting home after a wild night partying in downtown Montréal,
  • 1 day unlimited pass ($9) which lasts for 24h from the time it is purchased - it is a very good deal,
  • Unlimited weekend  ($12) from Friday 6 pm to Monday 5 am, and
  • Three day unlimited pass ($19) good for 3 consecutive calendar days.

Note: If you have arrived via plane, instead of the train like we did, the unlimited transit use also applies to the 747 Express Bus, which is the shuttle service running between downtown and Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.

The central train station is located in the underground, in the heart of downtown Montréal. It connects to the underground pedestrian network called RESO (click here for a printable RESO map) which comes in very handy if the weather is not very clement.  Since the station is a major commuter hub, it is full of nice shops.

I recommend that you check out Boulangerie Premiere Moisson, a fantastic bakery. Stop by early to get your bread, as the commuters love to bring a fresh loaf home for dinner. You’ll notice that the french heritage runs deep in Montréal.Montreal_Underground_RESO_map.jpg

What and where to eat in Montreal

Montreal_Winter_Angels_in_Snow_Christmas_Holidays_Church.JPGMost of our stay was centered around eating since we were there over the holidays. During our stay  we were very well fed. For the most of the week, we enjoyed traditional French Canadian meals cooked by my mother, with her tourtierre being the favorite dish by far. (Thanks to my mother for keeping that tradition alive.)

Assuming that you don’t have family in Montréal to cook for you, you can enjoy some great traditional quebecois food "du terroir" meaning, game meat and local fish as well as traditional meat pies at these places to eat in Old Montréal. Though these are not inexpensive meals,  you will have a truly wonderful quebecois dining experience at Aix Cuisine Du Terroir and La Sauvagine.

In my opinion the second best place to eat in Montréal, after my mom’s house - of course, is a great French Italian restaurant called Cafe Bistro La Marinara.  I feel at home with the wonderful hospitality of the host and the head chef (who are both owners). It is very well priced for the excellent quality of the food. Though this place doesn't fall under traditional french canadian food, I believe it is one of the best places to eat in Montréal and is by far my favorite restaurant. I even brought my mother, who it gave rave reviews. I have a habit of chatting the owners and staying until closing. I discuss my own culinary experiences and they give me tips and ideas. Even though I only manage to  go there couple of times a year, the owners always recognize me and welcome me by my name. Once in a while I even get a free Port.

As our visit was soon ending, we took the subway to the Plateau, a wonderful area of Montréal by the mountain, so that I could take my friend to Mont-Royal Hotdogs. The well-known restaurant was buzzing with snowplow drivers and truckers hauling snow, who were looking for a warm meal after a hard day of work. Being a typical French Canadian greasy spoon, it serves poutine, steamed hot dogs (steamies as they are known by the locals) and hot submarine sandwiches, which are far superior to anything you can get at your local sandwich place.  Sorry Subway. If you still haven’t had your fill of greasy spoons go to Poutine La Banquise, where they have 28 different versions of poutine on the menu.


When in Montréal you really should sample some local cheese. Why cheddar in the rest of Canada is yellow or marbled while in Quebec it is white has always been a mystery to me! Most importantly, never leave Montréal without sampling an 8 inch thick smoked meat sandwich at  Schwartz's Deli and grabbing a bagel from Fairmount Bagel. Trust me, when I say that neither are the same anywhere else.

With our stomachs full of poutine, smoked meats and craft beer, and our luggage filled with gifts, we headed back to Toronto, munching on a bag of fresh warm cheese curds (my favourite), which squeaks in your mouth just like it is supposed to.

My Montréal Recommendations

  • Boulangerie Premiere Moisson,Gare Central, 895 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest #90, Montréal
  • Cafe Bistro La Marinara, 1218 Stanley St. Montréal
  • Aix Cuisine Du Terroir, 711 Côte de la Place d'Armes, Vieux-Montréal
  • La Sauvagine, 115 St Paul E , Ville-Marie
  • Mont-Royal Hotdogs, 1001 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est,  Montréal
  • Poutine La Banquise, 994 Rue Rachel Est,  Montréal


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