Montreal, Quebec | A Canadian Fourth of July


Over the Fourth of July weekend, we took a little trip up to Montreal. Yes, we celebrated America’s birthday by running away to French Canada. We actually picked Montreal because it was close by (1 hour flight from New York) and it had been on both Jesse and my lists, but neither one of us had been there before. So all jokes and irony aside, it was a fantastic vacation and was every bit as beautiful and historic and delicious as I had hoped it would be.

We stayed in a beautiful airbnb apartment next to Old Montreal and Chinatown.

It also happened to be the Jazz Festival while we were in Montreal, and we got to enjoy it from our perch at Toque!, a restaurant on the street right in the middle of it all.

Walking around the historic quarters of Old Montreal right at dusk– magical.

Yes, there are a lot of language politics around French and English, and most people speak French on a daily basis, but it’s also very bilingual, so we had no problems getting around with English.

Below, Montreal’s gorgeous City Hall and Notre Dame Basilica, which we toured later on.

Montreal is decked out in beautiful street art everywhere you go.

We headed to St. Viateur’s for a famous Montreal bagel– hand rolled in honey water, these little beauties are more crisp than your typical bagel, and not as doughy as a New York bagel. I quite liked them, and especially the homemade strawberry cream cheese too.

We walked around the Plateau area, and I saw this New York book, flipped through, and suddenly came across Jesse’s building inside. What are the chances?! I later bought the book for him when we got back to New York.

In the afternoon, we headed to the market, Jean-Talon, and browsed all the beautiful produce.

We ended up buying all the fixings for a homemade Fourth of July meal… in Canada.

Such pretty heirloom cherry tomatoes and colorful little carrots!

We ended up with: roasted potatoes with heirloom carrots and garlic, a salmon pate pie from a deli at the market, a fresh salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes, grilled pineapple rings with fresh plums, and finally, my red white and blue dessert with our mini mix of different berries, over some vanilla ice cream. Also yes, that is a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge from Ikea adorning our airbnb apartment’s walls.

The next day, we made a mini excursion to the island of Sainte-Helene, where there is a biodome, some lakes, and a big park. We even went kayaking around for an hour, but I didn’t take my camera with me for that.

Afterwards, we returned to Old Montreal and visited the inside of the Notre Dame Basilica, which was absolutely stunning.

Next, we hit up the famous Schwartz’s Deli, which is like the Katz’s of Montreal– tasty smoked meat sandwich with a side of cherry cola! Jesse and I shared one sandwich, because we were still planning to head to dinner later on!

More of my favorite activity– walking around Old Montreal at dusk. On the right below, Marche Bonsecours,

The view from the Old Pier.

And our dinner spot, selected by me! Le Club Chasse et Pêche, or the hunting and fishing club in English.  It was a cozy cave-like spot tucked away on a side street– easily our best meal in Montreal.

We kicked off our last day with brunch at Beauty’s Lunchonette, which is a Montreal institution.

Just as well known as the diner is the proprietor, Hymie, or “Beauty.” He is now 92 years old but is still there, greeting guests at the door!

Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s packed with these beautiful living sculptures crafted into elaborate scenes.

Finally, after a poutine snack, we headed to Au Pied de Cochon, the restaurant known for its heavy, heavy foods like this duck in the can– where a duck breast, a lobe of foie gras, and a small stew of carrots and such are all stuffed into a can and cooked inside. They serve it over a plate of celery root puree, opening the can and pouring it all out right at your table. It was tasty, but really a bit too much, even for me.

Thanks, Canada, for a fantastic Fourth of July! Montreal was an absolutely wonderful city for a little weekend getaway. We’re only halfway through 2013, but it’s been a crazy awesome year of travel already!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often jetsetting around the world. Follow her on facebook for more photography and travel adventures.