Archive for the ‘Montreal’ Category
In the heart of downtown Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica is a beautiful haven of peace.
Modeled after Notre-Dame in Paris, the Basilica is an ornate wonder.
The energy inside was very positive. I love the overwhelming sense of peace that strikes while inside a holy place.
In the mood to shop. Take a day trip via highway 15, up North to St. Sauveur in the Laurentians. You’ll find a cozy ski resort town full of quaint local shops.
Montreal has a unique fashion scene. Clothes, unlike the gray, frozen landscape, are brightly colored and full of texture. I was in winter sweater heaven.
And a bit of good news. The American dollar converts in our favor in Canada (for now ; ) ).
In the Southern countryside of Quebec, past long stretches of snowy valleys and ice-covered lakes lies a magical experience.
When Lynne told me to bring my bathing suit because we’d be going to a spa I did as I was told expecting nothing more than the typical gym amenities such as a hot tub and sauna.
I was surprised our spa visit was planned out as a day trip. My questions were all met with “you’ll see”, so I sat back, and didn’t think much of it. The drive to Balnea Bromont-Sur-Le-Lac was a picturesque two hours outside of downtown Montreal.
When we finally arrived, it was as if I was staring at medieval castle at the top of a very large hill. The building was impressive and imposing. Walking through the doors, we were greeted by the calming scent of eucalyptus, then placid “bonjours”, before being presented with a locker key, bottle of water, bath robe and a towel. After locking up our goods and changing into our suits Lynne dropped the bomb. I was informed that the hot tubs were outside (in the 15 degree weather) and that part of our spa circuit would include a dip in freezing cold water (also outside). Enter apprehension. Montreal is gray and frozen in the winter. We just drove through feet of snow. It was too late for me to request that we do something else to pass our time. I was not excited about being in my swim suit in the fifteen degree weather.
The spa was set up in a round of circuits. The first stop was a hot tub (we had several to choose from, each with it’s own theme/concept), the second stop was a steam room/sauna (once again, there were several to choose from), the third stop was a dip for at least thirty seconds in a vat of ice-cold water, the fourth stop was a twenty-minute rest in one of the many relaxation rooms.
The moment our flip-flopped feet began trudging through the snow (there was about five inches on the ground and it was actively snowing outside) I began to shiver. Taking my robe off and slipping out of my shoes, I began an internal dialogue of curses. However, the moment I slid into the outdoor hot tub overlooking a chain of mountains, I was at ease. It was so peaceful in the water. Soothing nature sounds were on loop from a speaker system nearby, aromatherapy was released into the air. It was great. I could have relaxed out there for the entire day (unfortunately, we were on a circuit and that was not in the cards). After thirty minutes, we were ready for the second circuit. Getting out of the water from one station to the next was painful. Our second station was a eucalyptus scented steam room. We steamed our pores clean for about twenty minutes, before diving into an ice-cold outdoor waterfall. Surprisingly the outdoor cold waterfall wasn’t too terrible. The moment I got out, I was hyper-aware of my circulatory system and limbs. It is hard to describe, but my veins felt larger, my blood warmer. Our final stop on the first circuit was a peaceful rest room set up with lawn chairs and pillows and panoramic views of the mountains.
The circuit is apparently an extremely healthy way to relax. The heat, steam and cold, remove toxins, improve circulation and improve the clarity of your skin. We did three rounds and stuck around for lunch at the Balnea cafeteria which was another pleasurable experience.
I would recommend this spa to anyone interested in a getaway. The saunas and hot tubs are co-ed, so this would make an amazing romantic getaway.
Balnea Spa Bromont-Sur-Le-Lac
319 Chemin du Lac Gale
Bromont, Quebec J2L 2S5
The Jean-Talon Market is the great central market of Montreal. Impressive in the winter, I was told it is even more impressive in the summer when scores of people congregate outside and in to browse the food stands.
Be prepared to have your nostrils assaulted by the alluring sweet and savory aromas of French food. Fresh crepes, they’ve got them, fromage (cheese), mais oui, and in an assortment of varieties. Fresh flowers, bread, meat and fish, are also sold out of neat little stalls and mini-shops. Everything is locally produced and tantalizingly fresh.
I walked away with a jar of lavender/violet preserves and a jug of rum infused maple syrup. I love charming little touches.
Also present were several cider vendors. The cider is a local favorite. Mild in alcoholic content, it is used to wash down a good meal, a digestive of sorts I have been told. Vendors are more than happy to provide you with samples if you request one. I’m not going to lie, I’m actually not a fan of cider, it was too reminiscent of beer for my tastes (I am a die-hard wino).
The market is a great place to find goods hailing from the indigenous Inuit population. Most of the Amerindians have been herded onto reservations in the North. This seems to be the sad story of the Americas. I bought some shaman-blessed traditional Inuit tea, promising mental clarity and detoxification. We’ll see…
Anyhow, if you want to get into the mix and get a sense of local culture, the Jean-Talon market in downtown Montreal is a must-do!
When you visit Montreal, and if you are doing it correctly, prepare to put on pounds. I’m really not sure how the local population stays so thin (one of the secrets of the French I can only imagine).
Local food is a rich delight. I didn’t have a single bad meal. Well, I had one, but that’s another story for another post involving a very stubborn and bland fish called Monsieur Lionelle Rouge.
One of my favorite local delicacies was poutine, a fattening bowl of crispy fried potato wedges, large chunks of fresh curdled cheese and a savory gravy sauce. Poutine, I learned, comes in many varieties (such as – with chicken, with pasta sauce, etc.). I opted for the tried and true original.
The portions that I saw were large. Be warned, you may not be able to move afterwards, you may have a heart attack, but it is so, so, good. And at the end of the day, doesn’t that make it worth it?
I headed to Montreal to see Lynne. Lynne of Mozambique fame (reference entries way way down….no…keep going…there you go). It has been over a year since I said farewell to Lynne near the dusty Mercado Central in Inhambane and over a decade since I’ve last set foot in Montreal (I used to go every February in high school with the French teacher).
My main objective during this trip – catch-up with Lynne of course and EAT EAT EAT!