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!
FIFA World Cup in Photos.
Montreal is one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve been visiting the city at least once every other Summer for over 12 years just to photograph the Jazz Fest, and of course, eat like a king.
But this quick post is not about the city or jazz or even food. It’s about soccer! I was in Montreal while the 2010 World Cup was taking place, and I made a lot of good friends who were rooting, screaming, and crying for their own country’s or favorite teams. Since the 2014 World Cup starts this week, I dug a few imaged out of my archives to share.
I guess not everybody is excited with the event. Have you seen the anti-World Cup street art in Brazil? Pretty awesome.
Montreal’s Jazz Fest.
Last week I enjoyed four days at the “Festival International de Jazz de Montréal” the world’s largest, according to the Guinness Records. The Festival features 3,000 artists from over 30 countries, and offers more than 650 concerts, including 450 completely free.
I was surrounded by amazing artists, fantastic food and music, and even better friends. These are some of my favorite images.
Montreal Jazz Fest 2012 – Images by Eduardo Angel
Click on any photo to see a larger version. Which one is your favorite?