How to spend Valentine’s Day in Montreal for under $500.
I read somewhere that Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas with over 150 million exchanged in the U.S. alone. I know, totally random fact, but kinda cool.
Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine falls on February 14 each year. Researching my travel options for an upcoming video project in Montreal, I thought “wouldn’t be nice to go to Montreal, just for a weekend, without having to spend a fortune?”
So I called my friend Esteban Mahecha who is the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met on anything related with travel and fine dining. The idea is to spend Valentine’s weekend, walk around that wonderful city, see some friends, stay somewhere comfortable, and eat really well, all for under $500 for everything. Doable? You bet it is, when you are Esteban Mahecha. Here are some images I’ve shot on previous trip to this amazing city.
Here’s his complete itinerary with actual prices and live links. Keep in mind that we are considering departing from New York City, so things might change depending where you live.
1. You’ll depart on Friday February 13th. The cheapest way to get to Montreal from New York is flying. You would need a total of 18,000 Avios points plus $110, for (2) people. So you know, Avios is the reward currency of the British Airways Executive Club. The fastest and easiest way to rack up Avios in a hurry is via rewards credit cards including British Airways Credit Cards, Chase Sapphire Preferred (transfer partner), American Express Membership Rewards Cards (transfer partner), Starwood Preferred Guest Amex (transfer partner). Complete info about Avios here.
Cost: $110 for both roundtrip air tickets from New York City. We have $370 left.
Taking a train is also a nice alternative. It takes about 11 hours, but as you already know, it is a wonderful experience. The #68 Adirondack departs at 8:15 am, and arrives in Montreal at 7:15pm. You could easily take the train and have dinner reservations for 9pm, but it would cost $286 for both train tickets round-trip.
Considering the commute to the airport (1 hour from your place in Brooklyn), plus at least 90 minutes at the airport before the flight (it will be packed), plus 90 minutes in the air (for a direct flight) and another hour from the airport to the hotel you really save about 6 hours by air as opposed to the train, and might add a lot of stress. Delays are also highly likely on Friday nights from all New York airports. But, to keep our budget under $500 we’ll choose to fly.
2. Taxi rates are fixed at $40 from the Montreal’s airport to downtown. There’s an express bus (#747) for $10 that will take you to downtown in roughly 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. The bus fare gives you a 24h pass good for the métro (subway) and on-island busses run by the STM, Montéal’s transit authority, so by taking the bus you save $20 and have subway tickets until Saturday night.
Cost: $20 for both express buses from the airport to the hotel. We have $350 left.
3. The hotel, typically the most expensive aspect for most people can be had for only $190 including taxes, for two nights at a highly-rated 3-star hotel right in the heart of Montreal’s Historic City Center. Cost: $190 (including taxes). We have $160 left.
4. Now, you want to eat at a couple of nice places, something much easier to achieve in Montreal than New York. You can get brunch or an excellent sandwich for around $25 for two without alcohol. With Saturday and Sunday lunch/brunch we have $112 left.
For your fancy dinners I’d recommend:
Friday Night: Restaurant L’Express. Dinner for two $60.
A 32-year-old institution in the fashionable Plateau neighbourhood, is a proper French bistro, run by a chef from Toulouse and a remarkably enlightened owner who still writes the menus with a fountain pen. It is French bistro cooking: superb calf’s liver seared hard to medium rare, with good frites and house-made mayo; fish soup stirred with garlicky aioli and crumbly cheese toasts; aspergesvinaigrette; pitch-perfect tarte au citron.
Saturday Night: Au Pied de Cochon. Dinner for two $70.
Chef Martin Picard’s bustling, rustic restaurant, open since 2001, has earned a cult following for its modernized, over-the-top (and insanely rich) take on traditional Quebecois food. There’s a gonzo edge to the hallmark dishes here: stuffed pied de cochon (pig’s foot) the size of a forearm, duck poached in a can (and opened at the table) and foie gras–topped poutine (the signature Québécois dish of French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy). A lesser-known highlight: Picard sources seafood from Eastern Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes from late spring through early fall, transforming his place into one of the city’s finest fish restaurants.
5. With both dinners we are down $20. You will need another $20 for the express bus back to the airport, so we are down a $40 for the whole trip.
Sorry I couldn’t do it for under $500, but $540 for the complete trip it’s not too bad!
My Asia • eBook (iPad version)
There are tourists and there are travelers. The tourists are afraid of the unknown, the different. You see them eating at Subway or McDonald’s right next to the local food market. Travelers adapt to local customs, eat what the locals eat, enjoy trying new things, push their boundaries, embrace feeling uncomfortable, and have a blast getting lost.
“This magical book is a true traveler’s photo journal in South East Asia.” The Armchair Traveler.
Discovering Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas: Visual Serendipity.
I recently met two acrobats from one of the eight shows in Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas. A multinational spectacle, Cirque du Soleil uses the imagination, arts and creative talent to present a show like no other. (more…)
Maps and the end of distance.
Maps are hot. Or that’s what it seems, since Apple is ditching Google Maps software on its latest iOS 6 and bringing turn-by-turn directions, 3D flyover, local search, Siri integration and more to iPhone and iPad users sometime this fall on their own Maps app.
Google, never the shy one, release an update to Google Maps with amazing 3D fly-over technology, biking and walking directions (I use both all the time), indoor maps, live traffic, and public transportation (including schedules!). The best new feature? Offline Maps: users can see and interact with the maps, even if without internet connection. All devices running Android OS 2.2 and above will be supported.
It is amazing that in cities like New York or Los Angeles distances determine where we live and work, on which activities we engage, the areas we discover and even our dating patterns. Due to the good public transportation in the Netherlands distance has become irrelevant. “We can reach almost any destination by train easily and relatively quick. In our busy lives we now think in time rather than distance. Therefore the current maps, as we know them today, are obsolete. Thinking in time affects a map and hence the shape of the Netherlands also depending on the perspective from which we look.”
Maybe one day we will have something like this in the U.S. Or maybe not.
Serendipity: noun; the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“Chinatown at Dusk” is the second picture on our “Visual Serendipity” weekly series. The goal is to post a new cell phone image every week (click here to see last week’s pic).
For years I’ve been fascinated with Chinatown. So many things going on, so many colors, smells, and sounds at a somewhat isolated place in the hearts of very dense cities like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. What intrigues me the most about ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown is to walk into a corner store (how do you say “bodega” in Chinese?), and see things that I can’t tell if are vegetables, animals, medicine, food, toys or decorations.
An added bonus the restaurants which are amazingly good and cheap! One of my favorite spots is Vanessa’s Dumpling House, what’s yours?
Around Europe in 3 minutes.
Three weeks traveling in Europe, frozen into 270 images, and compressed into 3 minutes. Fantastic music by Astor Piazzolla. Some of the cities visited: Berlin, Milan, Gargagnago, Verona, Venice, Frankfurt, Cologne.