The FAST Guide To Montreal

There are a million reasons why Québec, la belle province, is the best place in the world to be during summer – Montreal especially. Even Oprah is curious to know more about the “French Canadian” quality of life, as inquired on her website:

Live in Montreal? We Want to Hear From You!

We want to know what life is like in Montreal for a typical Canadian family and how it’s different from those of us in the United States. How is your daily routine different from a typical Americans? Are there customs or traditions you follow that are unique to your family, Montreal or Canada? Does your family speak French at the dinner table? Are you a hockey fanatic? How is Montreal different from say life in Cleveland, Ohio? If you or someone you know is the quintessential Canadian, we want to hear from you! Tell us your story. If we were to spend an average day with you or your family, what would we see?

I’m kind of glad they didn’t ask if we get around in canoes, a question which up til I was 18 came up often when discussing my homeland with Americans – lol! Well, I truly hope Oprah’s team will get a better picture from this post! For Montreal coverage on the daily, check out The Montreal Buzz blog.

I haven’t called Montreal home since 2006, so every visit is a marathon of family, friends, work, food and booze. With its festivals, terraces, fine dining and pretty people, Montreal lives up to its awesome party town reputation every single year.

So let’s start with the obvious tourist stuff. Old Montreal is small, charming & lively. In the midst of the historic city center, the Notre-Dame basilica is nothing short of mind-blowing. MTL is cosmopolitan and not obsessively religious for the most part, but we do love and take pride in our many beautiful churches.

ABOVE: Notre-Dame Basilica

Art is such a breathing part of our culture. It’s everywhere – not only in the stunning monuments but all over the façades and inside the hundreds of art galleries and museums that grace the city streets.

ABOVE: Montreal Street Art

ABOVE: Inside AKA Gallery / Photo via Vigilant Fashionista, home of world famous painter Corno

As cold as it gets in the winter, summers in Montreal are torrid. Located right above the water with an amazing view on downtown and on the South Shore (you knew the city’s an island, right?), Bota Bota spa is the perfect spot to beat the heat. On a good day, you’ll even catch professional divers taking a plunge in the moody waters of the St-Laurent river. At night, expect private parties with great DJs playing sensual beats. Tantalizing, right?

Bota Bota

Dive into the drift (in speedos) at Bota Bota – Photos by John Koo

Food has always be at the core of my family’s priority. Growing up, the second we were done with our last bite of home-made dessert my mom, aunt and grandma would start talking about the next meal. I’ve been spoiled with gourmet lunches all through high school – although I didn’t always eat them. My taste for eating out comes from my dad who took me for boiled lobster, steak frites and sushi every few months since I was a kid (spoiled, I meant it), and whose wife founded Accords, an amazing restaurant in Old Montreal. Here are some of my favorite eats!

ABOVE: Scallops and berries & Heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese ice cream appetizers at Accords // Resto / Bar à vin

ABOVE: Poutine at Pataterie Chez Philippe

ABOVE: The best brioche French Toast and tasty hazelnut coffee at L’Express

ABOVE: Beef Carpaccio at Misto : gotta have it at least twice per trip! There is also a killer carbonara on the menu!

ABOVE: Succulent strawberries from local farms… I worked 6am to 6pm shifts on my family’s farm (30 minutes from Montreal) from 12 to 16 years old and can proudly say that it gave me the discipline, work ethics and strength required to start my own business today…

ABOVE: Home-made strawberry cake from grandma – a seasonal favorite!

On the weekends, a lot of families head to their lake houses to play on the water. Everyone has a friend or a family member who likes to extend an invitation to their “chalet” during summer. The country side is green and glorious. Nature’s wild. At times we caught a bear chilling around our property. But mostly just deers, frogs and mosquitoes. We do have canoes, kayaks and a paddle boat there. But most lakes allow motor boats and people jet ski or wake board.

ABOVE: My country girl look. 

If Montrealers love to party, I think it’s safe to say they love to laugh even more! Maybe you’ve heard about it, but comedians in Quebec get more play than movie stars, but not as much as hockey players of course (we read 25 Stanley for daily sports gossip). Every month July, Place des Arts is transformed into a larger than life laugh factory for Festival Juste Pour Rire / Just For Laughs with outdoor stages, crowd animation and tons of groupies. Although touristy and hot, I think it’s even a better time a year to visit this town than Grand Prix Weekend (which is really exciting, too).

ABOVE: Toilet sign at the Just For Laughs site.

And you wanna know about strip clubs right? Let’s just say that the best 3 spots for an American to plan a bachelor party are the following:

– Wanda’s
– Chez Parée

Now Google ’em!

Next shout-out goes to Osheaga, our mini version of Coachella. The music festival is set in Parc Jean Drapeau on Notre Dame island – a great park for tourists and locals alike even outside of the festival as it is home to an amazing cycling path, regular daytime electronic music gatherings throughout the summer (Piknik Electronic), a casino and several other glorious summer festivities.

ABOVE: Main Osheaga stage set for Cypress Hill, at 4h20pm.

On Sundays we like to gather at the base of the mountain (Mont Royal) to listen to some drums and play aki sack.

ABOVE: Tam-Tam Montreal pic via The Montreal Buzz

Bars and clubs are cool, but house parties are the way to go. Housing in Montreal is still not as expensive as other big cities in Canada and the rest of the world, so you are sure to be invited to a dope pad at least once in the summer for a decadent champagne and lobster party.

ABOVE: Best lobster party in Rosemont


L’Agent Goodies…