What's one of life's big secrets on happiness? Or how about two? Hint - the answer is revealed every time you do something new.
Montreal, our next stop in The Inspired adventures. After a tremendous NYC experience we were ready to hit the road towards the great white north of Canada. With limited options on husky pulled dog sleds we settled for a more conventional approach.
Known for its arts, culture, and many culinary delights, Montreal's European swagger is found along Saint Paul’s cobble streets, its famous wood-fire baked honey soaked bagels, and of course through its multi-cultural, larger than life people.
Disclaimer: Montreal roads suck, big time. And they seem to be getting worse. But I'm in a good mood today so we'll avoid that pothole riddled "I've seen better roads in war-torn countries" topic, for now. So back to the beautiful monuments for one more moment.
When experiencing Montreal it is hard not to start with a good old fashion food review. So thats how this story begins, with gastronomical full fat richness.
WARNING: Vegans and gluten-frees look away now, or concentrate on the photo below before moving on. Green is calming.
Restaurants: On this trip there was none better than Liverpool House, home to a recent Trudeau and Obama meet up that was well worth the hype. First, the Lobster Spaghetti, which was of such amazing extravagant butter filled richness Russian Czar's would have asked for portion control. And then the steak - out of this world, from beef raised locally, cooked near Chicago style, and smothered in a chicken liver cooked gravy. Because if you haven’t heard FAT IS BACK! Down with evil SUGAR! Insert cheese curdling poutine-covered pitchforks here.
Then came "Au Pied de Cochon", like Joe Beef, owner of Liverpool House, is another institution that must be visited while in Montreal. We ate the signature dish, the “pied de cochon”, or in English, the pig leg dish. This folks is why sometimes it’s just better to stick with the French! The meal consisted of a massive pigs leg worth of ridiculously rich and tender pork cooked with skin crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, mash potatoes, mouth-watering gravy, and a bighearted slab of yes - foie gras. We died several times during this meal but the aroma of the food kept bringing us back to life, forcing us to eat just one more bite.
Portus 360 and the Culinary cooking school are also worth an honorable mention. Go to Portus 360 for the 31st floor revolving restaurant view but not for the Portuguese food, which is good, but not great. And go to the government sponsored cooking school for some amazing cappuccino, dessert, and insanely cheap $17 three course meal prices. But don’t expect too much for appetizers or main courses, because the students are still learning. That said, reservations can take months so plan accordingly, the dessert alone may be worth it.
Note: I promised myself this was my last sugary dish before going sugar free. But apparently, according to controlled studies with scientists probing rats (sounds wrong) sugar is more addictive than CRACK. So no promises.
Then something completely unexpected –The Vault or "Club La Voute". Previously a bank, a big one, the massive stone façade outside looks like the set of the next New York bank robbery blockbuster starring Nick Cage, and John Travolta. But now, thanks to some mastermind genius, the lower rooms have been converted into a night club of a special variety, with a cirque like experience (http://clublavoute.ca).
Credit first to Sylvia’s brother who brought us inside the building and then down the steps explaining to us that this was a place we had to see. So we walked, not expecting much, but then the surprises began; With full length jail bar walls, and four foot thick vault doors that previously housed hundreds of millions, La Voute truly was an incredible site to behold.
The Vault Door: And yes there is Sylvia photo-bombing the shot.
And then, through the vault door - a beautiful mirrored hallway into the club. Windex wonder of the world No 1 - it was clean. Real clean.
As we took each step deeper into La Voute all the doors remained open, but no one was home, so we continued to walk in, until we met Rudy as we entered the main bar / club area. This amazing man, who was either owner or manager of the club, happily welcomed his unexpected guests in, and then calmly proceeded to give us a VIP tour of the facilities, including a secret room or two. Rudy even agreed to take a picture for the cameras. And we both gave credit where credit was due. Thank you Rudy and La Voute!
Unexpected warmth like this is hard to forget which takes us to The Inspired tip of this volume. Class is in session!
The Inspired Tip: Life boils down to two things – so make time for them:
Experiences that matter most
During our visit we experienced the warmth and generosity of friends and family, we ate phenomenal food at some of the best restaurants Montreal has on offer, and we enjoyed the simplicity of exploring the streets of Montreal and McGill University. In the end it was a combination of all of these things that made the trip a great one. New experiences are important for the human soul. In our evolutionary DNA are blueprints that ask us to travel, to experiences the unknown, and see new things.
The new experiences provide a balancing act with that of the experiences that matter most – reconnecting with family and friends, and reminiscing over days gone by with people and places we don’t get to see as often as we should. Life truly is about the experience. And getting in as many as you can before the vault door closes.
Experiences push us towards progress, they challenge us, and they prepare us for the new version of ourselves that is right around the corner. So make time and find the balance, prioritize visits to new places, see family and friends. In my experience, taking this approach will bring you not only happiness, but things you never expected. Life is but a short flicker and then we are gone, take it in and have no regrets.
With Montreal a wrap, its now time for a trip back to London, no not Ontario, the other London, where I lived for several years after graduating University. Time to visit some good old friends, reach an almost milestone birthday and maybe experience something new as well, assuming I'm not afraid of heights.
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