This time 2 weeks ago, Adam and I were traipsing through a Canadian winter wonderland, popping into cute cafes for coffee and hot chocolate (and okay a few cocktails.. basically anything to keep us warm) along the way. The city of Montreal has long since been on our travel ‘wanderlist’ both for its proximity to New York and all the rave reviews we’ve heard from friends. So when Adam got news that he was being sent for a couple of days on business – I jumped at the chance to tag along. Couple that with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day and under a fresh blanket of snow and the beautifully European-feeling city had us under it’s spell.
When we looked at ways to travel from NYC up to Quebec there were a variety of options (driving, bus, plane..) but I can’t say enough how happy I was to have chosen the train on the way there. Although the Amtrak trip will take you most of the day – you can sit back in spacious side by side seats (equipped with free wifi) as you enjoy scenic views of the Hudson River, upstate New York and Lake Champlain. While the ride was honestly gorgeous in Winter, I can only imagine how good it would be in full foliage Fall. I seriously can’t recommend it enough. 2 insider tips? Eat breakfast before you get on the train and pack a lunch. I’m not a fan of the pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks you find on trains, so a healthy breakfast beforehand and the gourmet deli sandwiches we packed picnic style in a small insulated cooler bag meant we spent $0 on the train and really added to the overall experience. And my second tip – fly back to save yourself travel time.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Now – we’re there. The upside – February is definitely not tourist season, so we really felt like we had the city to ourselves with just friendly locals to act as our guides (they’re not kidding when they say Canadians are nice – everyone went out of their way to offer kind and helpful tips throughout our stay). The downside – freezing cold and so much snow. Without shoveled sidewalks or plowed roads we truly ice skated our way through most of the city. That said, there is something pretty magical about being inside of a living snow globe. Pack warm and waterproof if you choose to go at this time of year with comfortable and sturdy boots.
PLACES TO GO
Despite the weather conditions we did our best to see the outdoor sights – the scenic lookout point atop Mont Royal(the city’s namesake mountain), the Notre-Dame Basilica and Rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal (you guessed it – the most historic and oldest area of the city), and window shopping along Boulevard Saint Laurent in the trendy Le-Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. And when we were in need of warming up – the Underground City – a huge series of connected shopping centers, commercial buildings and hotels that sits below downtown offers every shop you can imagine and even an ice skating rink!
THINGS TO DO
While we didn’t have time to partake in any winter sports, Montreal offers a plethora and if we go back in the Winter ice skating, skiing (for me)/snowboarding (for Adam), and trying snowshoeing are all on our list! And after all of that? You eat. We barely scratched the surface of Montreal’s foodie scene but if I had to recommend just a few places: Melk for coffee and pastries convenient to downtown, C’Chocolat for a decadent hot chocolate or crepe stop and Dominion Square Taverne for pre-dinner drinks. And if you only make one dinner reservation? Le Bremner. Aside from the fact that everything we tried on the inventive, seafood heavy menu was delicious and the cocktails were perfectly crafted – it’s the people and the space that really took our experience over the top. It’s a true hidden gem that was recommended by locals and sits tucked away in a basement entrance filled with cozy, wine bottle-lined booths – and once you’re in there you immediately feel at home. Like taking shots with the wait staff at the end of the night kind of home. It’s a must visit.
I think the same could be said of Montreal in general. We’ll be back… perhaps in warmer months.
I’ve already shown you what I wore on our trip to Maine (here, here and here), but I’ve been bursting to tell you more about all of the great things we saw and did. Oh and ate. Without further ado.. my fall travel guide to coastal Maine.
While I’ve been to Maine in both Summer and Winter as a kid, I had never been in the peak of Fall and now I don’t think I’d want to go at any other time. The middle of October (depending on the weather that particular year) is going to allow you peak leaf peeping and temperatures that are crisp but not yet truly cold. This trip is best enjoyed by car as so many of the towns are just a short 20-30 minute drive from one another. Allowing both scenic coastal drives and multiple stops within a single day. We saw most of south/mid-coast Maine in just 3 1/2 days. I suggest starting at Nubble Lighthouse just outside of Ogunquit and ending with Bar Harbor and Acadadia National Park.
While it probably goes without saying, you’re going to eat Lobster while in Maine. And it’s going to be gooooood. It’s offered in nearly every variety but as you pop from town to town a lobster roll from a seaside stand is an experience not to be missed. We loved the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport and Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. But don’t think your dining is going to stop at lobstah (as the locals say). We were pleasantly surprised by the amazing food options we found throughout our trip. Standouts include an unforgettable dinner at Earth at Hidden Pond outside of Kennebunkport (make reservations in advance and request a seat near the fireplace!), Duckfat (don’t miss the truffle fries) & The Holy Donut (their chai tea donut was possibly the best donut I’ve ever had) – both in Portland. P.S. While you wait for your table at Duckfat, walk over to Shipyard Brewery for a quick beer flight of local craft brews.
One of our favorite activities while exploring Maine was touring the coast’s lighthouses and sightseeing all of the gorgeous historic homes. We checked out Nubble Lighthouse near Ogunquit and Portland Head Lightin Cape Elizabeth (the cliff walk nearby was another favorite activity!). While we spotted beautiful homes in almost every town we stopped through, the houses in Kennebunkport and Wiscasset were some of the most charming I’ve ever seen. Look closely for the door markers on the homes to see the year in which they were built and often times the name of the original owners.
Admittedly I didn’t do much shopping while we were on this particular trip, but Kennebunkport was dotted with cute boutiques and Portland had a strong small shop vibe that I loved. My favorite stores downtown were Portland Dry Goods (think luxe lumberjack for both men and women) and K Colette for home goods with a chic nautical-inspiration.
Have more questions about what to see or where to go? Feel free to ask below in the comments or contact me directly here.
On our last day in Maine, Adam and I made a plan to drive up the coast to Boothbay Harbor but along the way passed through a small town called Wiscasset and couldn’t help but pull over the car. From the most charming historic homes (each had a date marker by the front door and most were built in the late 1700s through early 1900s) to beautiful scenic seaside landscapes (those Fall colors though…) it was easily one of my favorite American towns I’ve ever visited. I wore easy and comfortable separates (a quilted primaloft jacketand striped scarf for the win) for an afternoon exploring outdoors.
I’ve been itching to go to the seaside town of Kennebunkport for ages and so when I started planning our Maine road trip – I knew it had to get it’s fair share of time to explore. The town certainly didn’t disappoint. Full of classic New England charm (don’t worry, I’ve got a big travel guide coming soon!), I went with an equally classic outfit to match.