They say that Montreal is the Paris of North America: here’s why
I’ve always had a longing to visit Paris. Everything from its fashion to its desserts has left me in awe for as long as I can remember. Hopefully, one day I’ll have the chance (and the money) to live that dream. Until then, we’ll always have Montreal.
Paris is a unique city in both its culture and charm, and nothing could compare to the real thing. But our modest metropolis definitely has an appeal of its own—there’s no better city in which to take a Parisian vacation, besides Paris itself.
To start off my French adventure, I headed to Old Montreal, which is undoubtedly a little piece of Paris in Canada. Over the years, several movies have actually been filmed in Old Montreal as a way for filmmakers to recreate European cities on a budget. The cobblestone streets and historic buildings also made it the perfect place for me to pretend I was in Paris. The best thing about it is that admiring the charming shops and walking along the water by the Old Port is completely free.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paris? For myself, it’s the stereotypical image of a French café. Clichéd, maybe, but who doesn’t dream of sitting on a terrasse outside a café on St-Germain-des-Prés with a café au lait and a delicious pastry, while quietly admiring the city around them?
Unfortunately, the brisk Canadian weather put a damper on my plan to dine al fresco, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still enjoy a brunch fit for France. I decided to check out Maison Christian Faure; tucked away on Place Royale in Old Montreal, the pastry school and boutique offers a “chic snacking menu” filled with mouth-watering desserts, traditional French dishes (like quiche Lorraine), and a variety of salads and sandwiches perfect for any brunch date.
Walking into the parlour was like entering a scene from Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette: an elaborately-painted mural by the entrance, display cases filled with colourful cakes and delicate French pastries, a tower of macarons, and bottles of Veuve Clicquot strewn about. I seriously considered asking if they’d let me move in.
I ordered the quiche Lorraine, made with eggs, cream, ham and cheese, and of course, a café au lait with a hazelnut éclair (my stomach is rumbling just thinking about them). The quiche was moist and delicious, the coffee was made perfectly, and the hazelnut éclair…I was speechless. The cream was so rich and sweet that I definitely think I was left with a cavity. My friend ordered a chocolate dessert that could only be described as creamy chocolatey fudge goodness in a cup. Thankfully we got out of there before devouring everything in sight and developing diabetes.
After wandering around our personal Paris a little while longer, I (somehow) felt my stomach starting to rumble again. I hopped on the metro, the mode of transportation for any Parisian on the go, in search of my next treat: les macarons.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of tasting a macaron, they’re French meringue confections made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, and almond powder. They typically come in an array of flavours and colors, and they’re delicious!
Boutique Point G on Mount Royal Ave. E. has some of the best macarons in Montreal. The shop offers over 22 flavours which left me with one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in a long time. As much as I wanted to buy them all, I settled on six: caramel fleur de sel, Madagascar vanilla, choco-hazelnut, maple taffy, gingerbread, and coconut.
I know there’s more to Paris than eating croissants and drinking coffee; it’s a city with such a rich culture, including museums, ballets, and so much more. Unfortunately, appreciating the arts often comes with a price tag—of course, so does food, but you can always make an exception for a delicious pastry. Montreal is filled with museums and you can find some kind of performance on any given day, so you can continue your European adventure. But why not appreciate some of the more beautiful things the city has to offer for free?
One of Paris’ most famous free attractions is the iconic Eiffel Tower. People flock to the tower from all over just to admire it from afar, and it’s largely considered one of the most romantic spots in the world. Of course, there’s nothing in Montreal that could come close to its beauty, but I found the next best thing.
Place Ville Marie’s Christmas tree is a sight to see for anyone dreaming of heading to the City of Lights. Standing over 62 feet high, with more than 13,000 LED lights overlooking Ste-Catherine St., it’s a holiday tradition for many Montrealers. I thought it would be a perfect way end to my Paris trip. Even though it’s not the quite the Eiffel Tower, it’s still a beautiful way to finish a long day.
À la prochaine, Paris!