Before I travel anywhere, I always take into consideration the weather patterns of my travel destinations. (I learned the hard way how chilly San Francisco could be only after my first visit sans any warm clothing.) I have visited several cities within the province of Quebec, Canada, like Trois Riveres and Quebec City. However, of all the cities I have ever visited within Quebec, Montreal left the most earnest impression upon me.
Yes, Montreal can be unforgivingly cold during its autumnal and winter periods of the year. Still, traveling and acclimatizing to new places, locales, and climes is supposed to be challenging — not easy. Montreal has more significant things to offer to the curious traveler than cold-inducing chattering teeth.
If you have never tried the renown Canadian-centric beer brand Labatt, well then, you are missing out.
It is legal to smoke Cuban cigars in Canada if you’re into that sort of thing.
Montreal has a very staid and significant relationship with Catholicism. Mark Twain once famously remarked that theoretically, one could not throw a brick in any direction in Montreal without striking a church’s pane glass window. The word, “Tabernacle,” is an actual curse word within the Quebec province, particularly among the Quebecois, and is associated with taking God’s name in vain. Its closest American analogue would be, “goddamn,” supposedly.
The bar hopping scene is extremely chill, vibrant and culturally disparate. Montrealers politely wait in line for public buses, which was an odd, though welcome thing to experience as a native New Yorker.
However, if there is one recommendation I can make to you before a visit to Montreal, do not dare leave the city without sampling a hearty plate of poutine.
The Appeal of Poutine in Montreal
If, as a traveler, you endeavor to understand a foreign country, its peoples or culture during your travels, sampling its cuisine is a great way to start. While poutine may not be the official dish of the country, it is popular nationally in Canada and in Northern US states (where it is also colloquially referred to as, “disco fries”) beneath the shared border. The dish, which originated in Quebec, can best be described as a gloriously majestic gloppy mess. Believe me, that’s meant as a heartfelt compliment. Poutine, in its most basic form, is a plate of French fries that are generously sprinkled with chunks of tangy, savory cheese curds and then completely slathered over with copious amounts of hot gravy.
Healthy? Perhaps not. Mesmerizingly appetizing, addictive and delicious? Yup. Plus, if you are worried about encountering a cold weather Montreal during your visit, then this unforgettable dish will definitely warm you up. You can find poutine in most diners, eateries, and restaurants throughout Quebec, as well as in most corporate fast food restaurants. (I even sampled poutine in a McDonald’s, which while delicious, is not really a true Canadian cuisine experience.) One of the best places to try poutine in Montreal, perhaps in all of Quebec, is a place called La Banquise.
La Banquise, Home of The Best Poutine in Montreal
La Banquise, in business since 1968, is a 24-hour restaurant and bar in Montreal that specializes in preparing over 30 different varieties of poutine dishes. They also serve general fares like hamburgers, hot dogs, beer and a children’s menu. However, their main specialty is creating out-of-this-world cuisine variations of basic poutine. Each signature poutine variation even has a nickname.
“La Bacon” is poutine dish is topped with bacon.
“La Elvis” is topped with ground beef, onions, and peppers.
“La Reggae” is topped with ground beef, tomatoes, hot peppers, and guacamole.
“La Boogalou” is a poutine dish features toppings of pulled pork, sour cream, and coleslaw. My only regret during my last visit to Montreal is not staying longer and spending a sabbatical-like period sampling every poutine variation on the menu at La Banquise.
As a traveler in a foreign land, one cannot visit every potential locale, tourist hotspot, or eatery of personal interest. Even if you could, you would end up spending all of your time sampling everything instead of appreciating and savoring why you went in the first place.
A frostily-cold clime though it may be, Montreal is still a travel hotspot because of the culture, social happenings. The civic courtesy you will experience there will warm up the vagabond soul within. Make time to be spontaneous in your travels, of course, but prioritize all of your available tourist time. Above all, make room for poutine in Montreal.
Author’s Favourite Travel Gear
Thule Subterra Backpack: Not for the minimalist! The 34L Subterra Backpack features an interior bag inside the exterior bag that can be used for clothing and supplies. This well-padded and protected backpack is electronics, laptop, and gadget-friendly too.
Vibram Furoshiki Shearling Boots: Very fashionable unisex travel boots that fold flat for ease of access and for easy storage. These fashion and utility forward boots will also keep your feet warm in the coldest of weather.
Translate One2One Language Translator Earpiece: Translate any other language within earshot via a small earpiece with only a 3-to-5 second lag. The Translate One2One language translator earpiece is compact, fits snugly over an ear and features the latest in translation tech that works without a WiFi or internet connection. The latest model translates nine languages into your mother tongue, including French.