- Capital: Ottawa
- Language: English and French
- Location: Northern half of North America
- Currency: Canadian Dollar
- Population: 36 million
If you find yourself in Montreal, make sure you go to the top of Mt. Royale and look out over the city for a pretty amazing view. After that, It is definitely worth checking out McGill University which happens to be constructed on the side of a giant hill (and if you can, try to get into one of the parties later on. It will be incredibly weird, but definitely memorable). Also try some of the micro breweries (Dieu du Ciel in particular). Just do it. You'll thank me. Finally, don't be like me, a fool who stayed in one place. It is the second biggest country in the world. Go out and adventure through it!
There is this phenomenon that occurred for one week in March for university students in the US. It involves one full week without any classes or academic obligations, and goes by the name of Spring Break. At this time, most students travel some place warm like Florida (since many parts of the country are still quite cold in March), buy fake IDs and party on some beach like it's the end of the world. My friends and I decided to do something different. Instead of flying South, spending the money on plane tickets and fakes in order to soak up the sun, we hopped in a buddy's car and drove North to Montreal, where the snow was still falling, the people were friendlier, and the drinking age was 18. This was our spring break.
March 2012 and March 2013
Looking back, I wish I took a little extra time to venture out into the second biggest country on planet Earth, but my adolescent self was determined to party and celebrate, so my friends and I ended up spending the whole spring-break trip in Montreal. But I can't really complain overall because it is a pretty fascinating and really fun place to be. It's like if you took half of a North American city and half of a European city, stuck them together, and populated it with Canadians (so everyone is super friendly).
The first thing to strike me while there was that the whole city is on the side of a hill, which eventually tops off at the summit of Mt. Royale (which the city happens to be named after). Naturally, I had to go to the top, so first day there, I grabbed my friends Doug (see Russia) and Hoitt, both of whom were also on the trip, and we all decided to go running to the top. Unfortunately, however, the whole path up was a sheet of ice, this was Canada in March after all, but that didn't stop us. We persisted, fell down multiple times, but eventually reached the top and looked out over the city in awe. The whole city, from the baroque architecture of McGill University to the vibrant downtown area, was visible all the way to the water. Looking back, I wish I bought a camera so I could have something to show here, but you'll just have to take my word for it. And all the bruised knees and twisted ankles we sustained on the way up were entirely worth it.
Then there was the nightlife, and Montreal did not disappoint. Throughout the day, things tended to seem pretty relaxed and easygoing, but the second midnight rolled around, it was as if someone flipped a switch. Live music was pouring out of every bar and the whole city emerged to partake. But while this all would have been fun to join, we had a little bit of a different plan. My friend Matt, who was also on the trip, happened to have a good friend from highschool who was now attending McGill, so we decided to go for that instead.
I'd like to tell you how that went. I'd like to fill in all the details and share the experience, but I don't exactly know how to explain it. Just imagine if filmmakers David Lynch and Terry Gilliam got drunk in the editing room together, and then you might understand. Anyway, what had been Canada on the outside had now transformed into this new dimension. Customs, languages, and perceptions of our surroundings all changed as this new world opened up. And there were dogs. Several dogs were running around in the midst of all of this, so I course, I took it upon myself to interact with and pet all of them. Dogs are awesome.
Once we left, the streets were alive. Music seemed to be coming out of every bar, and the previously deserted sidewalks were swarmed with all walks of life. It was time to hit the bars and have our fair share of Molson and Labatt Blue. I'd like to go on here, but my memory is unfortunately a bit hazy, so let me just use a picture to sum up everything afterward:
Back in the US, whenever we thought of Canadian beer, Labatt and Molson usually were the only things that come to mind. I cannot emphasize how unfortunate this, because of all the places I've been (excluding Vermont and maybe Germany), Canada had some of the most amazing, wonderful, taste-bud-satisfying micro breweries. For me, this became apparent almost instantly when I entered my first Canadian liquor store. Something caught my eye. It was something strange, unique, and mysteriously captivating. It was in the shape of a beer bottle, embroiled with the words Dieu du Ciel, but there was something different about it. It was artistic in such a way that seemed to temp me to drink it right then and there. Each one had a different design, more interesting and intricate than the one prior. It was as if they were calling me to follow to follow into this new, undiscovered world. I chose the vanilla-cocoa porter, appropriately named Aphrodisaque. And by 'chose', I mean to say that I bought six of them.
Later on that evening, opened the bottle and slowly moved it upwards to drink. I took a sip and let it settle for a second. Then it hit me. A whirlwind of flavor swept over me like never before. This was Canadian beer in it's fullest and truest form. How did I spent all those years south of the border and not know of this? I felt as if I was a medieval knight who had spent his entire life looking for the holy grail, only to find out that his neighbor had it all along. My world outlook was forever changed.