Sure, the Burlington area has a lot to offer us: restaurants, bars, live music, shopping, a sick bike path, house parties, farmers markets, beaches, skiing. We even have cheese and ice cream factories and breweries virtually in our back yard. What more could we want?
Well, we all know Burlington is small. I mean, it’s not called “the smallest biggest city” for nothin’. And that is part of why, sometimes, we need to just get the hell out of town. Far out of town. About an hour and 45 minutes—to be exact—where we find ourselves in the majestic metropolis that is Montréal.
We can’t deny there is something alluring about the wanderlust of adventuring north, crossing the border, flashing our passports, and following French road signs. Even more alluring is the sprawling, bustling cityscape of endless shops, lounges, clubs, dives, and fine-dining establishments. Not to mention, the under-21 crowd can finally indulge in legal alcoholic liberty (often without being carded). And now that the Canadian dollar is equal to about 80 US cents, you get an automatic 20% off everything. There’s no better time to go.
But, as we all know, we don’t always have the cash to dish out on a few days and nights of high life in the city. There’s transportation, lodging, food, drinking, activities, more drinking—it all adds up fast.
This past weekend, some friends and I kicked off spring break with a trip up to Montréal, Quebec. Saving up for a cross country road trip this summer, my boyfriend Billy and I have been operating in strict survival mode when it comes to spending (one of the biggest reasons for this blog!). With that being said, we wanted to take advantage of spring break by going on a mini escape, so this is what we did right, and this is what I would suggest you do:
1. Drive—Recruit a buddy who has a car, and split the gas. The more bodies you fit in that car (legally, please), the less you pay. Our gas was less than $12 US per person. We parked in a garage that cost us $58 CAN to park Friday night through Monday morning. This also came out to about $12 US per person. Otherwise, a two-way Greyhound trip from the Burlington Airport can cost $60-$70 bucks. Then if you drive to the airport, parking there jumps to $12/hour after the 4th hour.
2. Book your stay with Airbnb—Anyone who doesn’t have an account with this site, make one right now. It was established by pilots who were flying all over the world and getting sick of staying in hotels. Oh, and it’s the best invention ever. People list there places for you to stay in; you can book one room or a whole place depending on what you’re looking for. We found a perfect little apartment downtown on a street surrounded by bars and restaurants. The best part: it was $71 US/night. That means the four of us paid $53.25 US per person, for a total of 3 nights. That’s $17.75 US per person, per night, for a bedroom with a queen bed, a bathroom, kitchen, living room with a pullout queen bed, huge TV, Netflix, and free wifi. This was the view from our balcony!
3. Cook your own meals—Dining out while traveling is debatably necessary (I do, after all, condone exploring through food above all else) but meals will empty your wallet almost as fast as booze will if you’re not careful. So after getting our mandatory poutine, crepes, and fondue, staying in our own apartment allowed us to use the kitchen to cook breakfast and dinner.
4. Do the free stuff—We did a lot of walking. We walked from our apartment downtown to and around the Latin Quarter, the Plateau neighborhood, and the Old Port. But besides the walking, we did some free stuff as well. We went to the Montréal Museum of Fine Art and the Jean-Talon market: a village-like indoor food market with halls of artisanal quebecois foods, like fresh fish, produce, eggs, meat, handmade pastas, beautifully prepared ethnic foods, and gorgeous, colorful macaroons. This is where we bought asparagus, spinach, and ravioli to make for dinner, and eggs and potatoes for breakfast the next morning. The museum was a block from our apartment and because we had walked everywhere else, we decided to splurge on the roundtrip Metro ride to the market and back. This brought our intracity transportation to a total of $6 CAN (less than $5 US).
5. Pregame—This may be an obvious one, but those who are going out to the bars legally for the first time can get a little hasty and wind up spending more on drinks. Find a grocery store for beer and wine, or an SAQ liquor store for the harder stuff and map out a few spots you want to hit up before you start pouring the drinks. Remember, you can’t use your 3G data in Canada unless you want to get hammered with fees, so always have a plan before you leave the wifi and don’t lose your friends!
With all that said, Montreal is a blast. I hope these tips help you enjoy a weekend “abroad” without feeling money-guilty on the ride home! And on that note, bon voyage!
Here are some more photos of our trip!
And here are some other places we went that I would highly recommend:
Café Chat l’Heureux—At “The Happy Cat Café” you’re not only enjoying fabulous foods, desserts, and coffees, but you’re doing so amongst free roaming kitties IN the café! Located at 172 Duluth Est, Montreal, this spot is worth the walk from anywhere.
La Banquise—Also in le Plateau neighborhood at 994, rue Rachel Est,
Montréal, this is the place to go for poutine. It has every combination of ingredients imaginable piled on a heap of fries, cheese, and sauce. And each one is as good as the next. It’s food is so good, the line out the door speaks for itself. I’ve endured this wait twice and I can promise you won’t regret it.
Au Festin de Babette—Finding a cafe in Montréal that was classically cute and charming enough for us was no easy feat. When we came across this gem—once again, in le Plateau—on our last day in the city, we were in love. We hung out there for probably a couple hours, sipping the best mochas we’d ever tasted and noshing on a hearty brunch of eggs Benedict, quiche, and crêpes. We wrapped up our French-Canadian trip in the most delightful way at 4085 Rue St-Denis, Montréal.