À bientôt, Montréal!

snow2

Taking a winter stroll on Île Sainte-Hélène, Montreal. Photo: Patricia Maunder

It’s been quite a few months since the previous post, because life hit top gear once I began packing up in Montreal. I’m now back in Melbourne, still a way off from life on cruise control but, busy as I am, never a day goes by without thinking about my second hometown. Photos from Montreal friends showing off the autumn colour and now the first snow makes me really miss my old life: the quotidian pleasures, the rhythms of the seasons, time with mes amis. Of course it’s great to be back among everything that’s deeply familiar, including many dear friends, and rediscovering how wonderful Melbourne is, but I wish I could clone myself and live here and in Montreal simultaneously.

Forming such a strong bond was not what I expected when I arrived in Montreal. I departed Melbourne in love with the city of my birth, so it never occurred to me that I could also feel at home in and indeed truly love another town. Sure, as a tourist I had fallen for places, from Venice to New York, but I didn’t anticipate how a city can snuggle into your soul when you live there for years. Continue reading

Winter a la carte at Montebello /L’hiver à la carte à Montebello

doglsed Montebello

Dog-sledding at Montebello. Photo: Patricia Maunder

It’s been quite the dud winter so far, with little sign of improvement on the horizon. No snow to speak of until just after Christmas, and generally much warmer than usual so what snow there is keeps melting and, even worse, it sometimes rains! My plans for lots of winter fun, including skating, snowshoeing and tubing down snow slides, has been badly impacted. Fortunately, one keenly anticipated weekend of winter activities worked out perfectly, as a generous 40cm of snow fell in one day shortly before my beau and I checked into Le Château Montebello.

Fairmont’s luxurious, giant log cabin of a hotel set on extensive resort grounds has got to be one of the best places for travellers looking to tick off a bunch of Canadian winter pleasures: snow-and-ice-based sports, crackling fires, a huge Christmas tree, rustic-meets-luxurious vintage decor that’s the epitome of Canadiana (in my mind, but it might seem old-fashioned to locals?). After driving about 90 minutes’ west of Montreal, I was enchanted the moment we drove under the property’s big log entrance arch, across the snow-covered grounds, then checked in in the grand central foyer. Continue reading

A year in the life / Une année dans la vie

Gaspésie National Park, June. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Gaspésie National Park, June. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Since the start of the year, I’ve been furiously plotting how to make the most of the real winter weather, before the snow and ice disappears around early March. It seems that I’m plotting furiously quite often in Montreal because, as I ruminated upon in an earlier post, life is very seasonal here.

As this is my final full year in Montreal, I’m more aware than ever that I need to plan if I’m to grasp the best of Québec. So, to help me get organised, for locals who want to compare notes, newcomers, future expats and visitors, and the curious, here’s my take on a year in the life of Montreal. Continue reading

Autumn hot spots / Les points chauds d’automne

The Laurentians. Photo: Patricia Maunder

The Laurentians. Photo: Patricia Maunder

I have been pondering hard about what the subject of this post should be: autumn has been so outstanding this year, but I’m wary of overdoing the seasons-are-so-amazing-in-Québec thing. However, I’m hoping an autumn hot spots post may prompt a few locals to suggest where I ought to make a beeline come late-September next year, as it will be my last living in this neck of the woods. And besides, locals need reminding about just how special the fiery natural wonder on their doorstep is, and folks from further afield need to be persuaded to see for themselves – apart from America’s New England states, there’s nothing like it! So, whether you’re near or far, read on for some of the best places to enjoy autumnal splendour in Québec … Continue reading

How cool is that?! / Comment cool c’est ça?!

Me making friends with a sled dog of the future in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Photo: Marouan Belfakir

Me making friends with a sled dog of the future in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Photo: Marouan Belfakir

Winter officially ends here tomorrow. Unlike last winter, my first in Québec, I haven’t waxed lyrical, post after post, about the wonders of the season. Am I bored of snow and ice? Was it a mild winter? Au contraire! According to locals, it’s been an exceptionally long, cold winter – and according to me, it’s been fantastic! I haven’t written about it in case my sub-zero enthusiasm became tedious reading, but I can’t resist some edited highlights …

Even as a newcomer to Montreal, I knew something was up when top temperatures started to dip below zero in November. By mid-December, the tops were double-digit-below and overnight lows in the -20s (that’s Celsius, American readers!). Then, just after Christmas, that ‘polar vortex’ you might have heard about blasted through, and this part of the world was colder than Mars. Continue reading

Hot in Montreal: 5 of the best / Chaud à Montréal: 5 des meilleurs

2013 jazz fest. Photo: Patricia Maunder

2013 jazz fest. Photo: Patricia Maunder

It’s been a while since my previous post, but summer in Montreal has so much going on it’s difficult to find time to blog about it! Sunny days and balmy nights are made for doing things outdoors, including attractions that only operate during the warmer months, and so many festivals they positively collide. I could easily provide a list of 100 fantastique things to do in Montreal at this time of year, but here are five not-to-be-missed good times – from getting drenched by the city’s mighty rapids, to the world’s biggest jazz and comedy festivals. Continue reading

Spring! / Le printemps!

Balcony blooms. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Balcony blooms. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Sorry, I can’t help it, I have to wax lyrical about the seasons again! You would too if you were used to Melbourne’s fairly insignificant changes from winter to spring, compared to the almost shockingly extreme and rapid transformation here in Montreal. About a month ago there were tiny shoots and buds everywhere, then one day – wham! Everything sprang to life like the starter’s gun had gone off, and all the trees and shrubs and flowers were in a frantic race to flourish. Tulips bloomed overnight. Grass grew luxuriously. Buds transformed into big, lush, green leaves over the course of just two weeks – so fast you could see the progress from day to day. Continue reading