trip report: montreal
You guys, we did it! We flew with a baby! Granted, the flight was only a little over an hour, but still.
Most of my friends who have already flown with their infants told me it really wasn't that big of deal, but almost any new thing with a baby seems scary before you try it. It took me weeks before I could pull her onesie over head without worrying I was going to a) suffocate her b) break her neck or c) awkwardly touch her soft spot.
Maybe I should write a whole post about flying with a baby, but until then, here is my advice distilled: wear baby in a carrier through security. Buy travel bags for your stroller/carseat if you're gate checking. Nurse/bottle feed/paci during take off and landing (for the change in air pressure). And most important: bring an extra outfit for you and baby in case of a mid-flight poop situation.
On to the trip!
We decided to go to Montreal for the same reason we travel pretty much anywhere (see: Nashville. Charleston. Austin.): to eat. Also, since my birthday is July 3rd, it's always a good week to travel because of the holiday. We also knew we wanted to get Avvie on a plane as early as possible, so she was acclimated to flying. Montreal was an easy trip from New York AND the food scene there rivals our own, so it was kind of a no brainer. Sorry, America.
We stayed at the W Montreal, which is right on the border of Downtown and the Old City. There's a subway entrance in the basement of the hotel and you're walking distance to a lot of fun neighborhoods. Plus, they had travel cribs and they even made a gift bag for Avvie with a stuffed animal and some block toys.
It's her new best friend. My mom thinks she likes it because its nose looks like a boob. Potato, potato.
We opted to take an early (8:45 AM) flight from New York so we'd be in transit during her morning nap. While she obviously woke up early because we had to get to the airport, she did sleep the entire flight, which I'm sure our neighboring passengers appreciated. We brought our stroller base (no seat) and our carseat, along with our Baby Bjorn to transport her around the city, which worked very well. Especially in the Old City, where it's almost all cobblestones, putting her in the carrier was a lot faster (and smoother) than the stroller.
We walked to Olive & Gourmando right after we landed, which had incredible pastries, sandwiches and huge, fresh salads. The weather was so mild we just parked ourselves on a bench in the Old City and ate everything right there. One of my favorite parts about Montreal is how European it feels, but it's only an hour flight away. It was nice to bust out some of my rusty French, too.
After naps for everyone and a quick trip to Marche Atwater, we arrived -- early-bird style -- at Joe Beef at 6 PM. Even though it's not a huge restaurant, they were super accommodating with our stroller and gave us a quiet table near the window. Avvie snoozed for most of the meal, when she wasn't making friends with the waitresses.
If you're a big food person, I'm sure you've either eaten at, or craved a meal at Joe Beef. It's one of the top dogs of Montreal cuisine, and for good reason. They're known for excellent cuts of (duh) meat, extremely fresh produce, and intensely flavorful sauces and rubs. The menu changes nightly, so much so that they don't even print them; they're written on chalkboards around the restaurant, or your waiter or waitress can recite everything for you.
Needless to say, nothing disappointed, but this asparagus dish above was truly stellar. For my main, I tried their lobster pasta, which is one of their more famous dishes. There's a whole damn lobster in there!
Since Avvie goes to bed around 8 PM, our trips definitely end earlier in the night than in years' past. We moved her crib to the hallway of the hotel room, so at least it was a little darker, but Mike and I spent the rest of the night not talking above a whisper. #parentlife
The next morning we took the subway up to Marche Jean-Talon, which was one of the most fun outdoor markets I've ever been to. We sampled a ton of Quebecois strawberries, since they were in season, and I got oatmeal with apples and cheddar for breakfast. There is no better way to start the day.
The stand, Gruo, also had fantastic granola, which I bought to bring back home. Above is the banana bread flavor.
From there, we walked south to check out the neighborhoods of Mile Ex, Mile End, and Le Plateau. Mile End felt the most like Brooklyn to me; gentrifying with a huge Hasidic population. Also, lots of bagels. While there, I successfully breastfed in a cafe, so go me!
Along our route we stopped for all carbs, including both famed bagel shops (St. Viateur and Fairmount), and Patisserie Kouign Amann. And, here it goes: I think Montreal bagels are better than New York's. They're smaller and saltier and just so pleasantly chewy. Also, the kouign amann we had rivaled Dominique Ansel's, which is truly saying something because Ansel's is my favorite dessert in the world. Don't leave Montreal without trying one.
Dinner that night was at Au Pied de Cochon, the other grande dame of Montreal's food scene. While Joe Beef isn't light fare, compared to the gargantuan portions at APC, it might as well be Chopt. Virtually everything at APC has foie, pork belly, cheese, or maple syrup. Sometimes, it's all of those things. This is not a place where you ask for the lightest entree on the menu. You fucking get that pork foot and you eat the whole thing.
This, my dear readers, is the pied de cochon (pig's foot), which was served on a bed of pommes aligot (basically cheese with a little bit of mashed potato), some ridiculous sauce with a ton of morels and shallots (and butter and cream and booze, I would imagine) and a massive piece of foie on top. We also ordered gnocchi that was prepared in a cheese wheel and probably the best chicken liver pate I'll ever try. It is now a week later and I'm pretty sure I'm still a little full.
The next day, after being rolled out of bed, we headed over to Faberge, which has a truly great brunch menu. I tried poutine ... meh. I'm not a huge french fry person to begin with, so maybe it's just not my jam. I would happily eat an entire bowl of cheese curds, though. If you know where I can find that, hit me up.
We took a leisurely stroll after breakfast, stopping to hang out in a park for a bit and just enjoy the weather.
For lunch, we opted against Schwartz's Deli (kind of the Katz's of Montreal) after seeing the line and instead ate ice cream at La Diperie. The concept there is pretty cool: only vanilla soft serve, but then you can choose from dozens of dips and toppings to make it your own. We did the double Oreo, because, Oreo.
Montreal's Jazz Fest is going on right now, so we wandered over to the Quartier des Spectacles, where most of the concerts were taking place. It was pretty hot and not super great with a stroller, so we took an air conditioning break at the Musee d'Art Contemporain, since they had a Ryan Trecartin exhibit going on. He is one of my favorite video artists, although I think watching his pieces is kind of like being in a permanent fever dream.
From there we walked back towards the Old City, because I really wanted to see Habitat 67 in person. I first saw the building on the cover of a Stars album and I've been curious about it ever since.
Dinner that night was at Restaurant Lemeac, a traditional French spot. Excellent, sticky toffee pudding! Definitely better than a regular birthday cake.
We had enough time the next morning to take a nice stroll through the Old City and then grabbed breakfast at Le Cartet. This is the sort of place I wish we had in our neighborhood. Part restaurant, part coffee shop and part grocer, the food was fantastic and the vibe was super chill.
This was my first birthday as a mom (!). Last year, we were in Paris, I was newly pregnant and the whole concept of motherhood and raising a baby felt pretty damn scary. I'm pretty proud of myself that a year later I can change poopy diapers in an airport bathroom, breastfeed in public, but also still have time to do some of my favorite things (namely eat and sleep). Obviously a lot of that is possible because of Mike, so today, as always, thank you.
And to my little person: you are a pretty wonderful gift, too.