My feelings about winter are somewhat conflicted. It is definitely not my favorite season yet I love the moment when I wake up, look outside out of the window and I see that everything is covered in snow for the first time. I usually jump out of bed and start dancing around; my boyfriend thinks I am insane.
I understand that I might be in the minority but I kind of enjoyed the polar vortex winter in Toronto last year. I loved seeing the city covered in snow, being the first person to walk through deep snow on an early weekend morning and I spent hours sitting by the window and watching it snow. Well, I also remember cursing the snow when I was stuck in traffic and a couple of times my fingers and my toes got so cold that I couldn’t feel them for hours. But overall, I definitely liked the polar vortex winter better than the previous five winters in Europe with no snow, grey skies and constant rain.
This winter has been pretty European so far. When we were leaving for our Christmas roadtrip, it was 10 degrees and it felt silly to actually pack proper winter clothes. We walked around Montreal on Christmas Eve and it was 16 degrees Celsius. We drove 4 hours further north to St Anne de Beaupreu, where my uncle had rented a beautiful airbnb house that would be our home for the next 10 days and there was no snow, how disappointing.
You can’t imagine my joy when I was when I woke up on our second day, peeked outside of the window and saw that everything was covered in a layer of fresh snow. Naturally I jumped out of bed, did my happy dance, took a couple of pictures, made myself some tea and I spent the next hour looking out of the window with a big smile on my face.
This trip was everything I hoped for – we got a ton of snow, I convinced Jerry to try cross country skiing and he might have enjoyed it for a small fraction of the time, we went on a great snowshoeing trip, we made fire every night, we spent a lot of time hanging out with my uncle, his wife and my five year old cousin. On the way there we stopped in Montreal and somehow, on Christmas Eve we got to my favorite café 30 minutes before they closed for their Christmas break and we enjoyed two amazing lattes – this is my take on Christmas magic!
Montreal was actually the first place in Canada I had ever visited, I spent three weeks there in the summer of 2014 for work before I moved to Canada. Many people say that it is the most European city in Canada, I don’t think there is anything European about it…most people are charmed by the cobble-stoned streets of Old Montreal and while that is nice, my favorite parts of the city are the area around McGill University, the Plateau and Mile End with lots of Jewish delis, cafes, parks and quirky stores. Here are my favorite spots in Montreal, all of which I have visited multiple times and I love coming back:
Pikolo Espreso – is where I had my first and probably still the best cappuccino in Canada, it is a beautiful cozy café with friendly staff and they serve the amazing Phil and Sebastian coffee
Aux Vivres – possibly the best vegan restaurant I have even been to! They serve beautifully colorful and extremely flavorful food and they make everything from scratch – including their tofu, tempeh and sauerkraut.
Schwartz Deli – the antidote to my previous restaurant choice, legendary smoked meat sandwhiches, you will find this place on every foodie’s Montreal list and it definitely lives up to the hype
Mont Royal – huge park on top of a hill that overlooks the whole city. When I visited Montreal in the summer, it was filled with runners and families with kids. When we walked up on Christmas morning, we saw a group of 50 cyclists wearing Santa costumes…it’s clearly fun to visit all year around!
Fairmont Bagel – traditional Jewish bagel bakery that is true to it’s advertising and it’s open all year round, 24/7 – which we tested out at 11pm on Christmas eve, when we stopped by to pick up two dozens of bagels! (St Viateur, which also claims to be open 24/7 was closed!!)
We stayed in this hostel – the location is great!
We stopped in Quebec City three times – it is nice old town, the city walls are pretty impressive, there are some very nice restaurants and it is definitely worth a visit but we liked the countryside around the city a lot more than the city itself. Oddly parts of the city reminded me of Prague, mostly because of the Christmas markets and tourists shops. These are a couple of places that we went to:
Chez Boulay – French bistro where we stopped for lunch, the food was very good and their lunch menu was very affordable (dinner is a bit more pricey)
MA station – cozy café, where we stopped for lunch one day – I would recommend it
Café Nektar – café with a great variety of coffees from roasteries all over Canada
Ile de Orleans – island in the St Lawrence River, it was one of the oldest settlements in Quebec, it’s connected to the mainland by a very impressive bridge and in the winter it looks like a Christmas movie set. In the summer it’s apparently covered in strawberry as raspberry fields and it is the only part of Quebec that I can say really felt European.
Cross country ski area – St Anne cross country center is one of the biggest ones in North America, it’s pretty great and it has a good variety of routes of different difficulty levels. You can rent skis and snowshoes there and there is a little cantine as well. The downhill ski area is just 7km away from here, if you prefer that.
note on photos: I have been putting off posting this because I was not that happy with the quality of the photos, it turns out snowy fields and grey sky do not make the most colorful pictures…but once I switched to B&W I got excited about the photos again. Let me know what you think!