After I got back from Roma I had 4 days before fall break and the girls trip to Montreal!! Sorcha, Sara, Ruby and I all stayed in a hostel right outside the inner city in Montreal. I pretty much spent the entire weekend walking and walking and walking! It was the best way to see the city and wow was it an interesting place. A fusion of French and Canadian culture and then a culture of its very own.
The first day there we spent exploring old Montreal and the Port. This part was my favorite, really European inspired. Amazing bakeries, cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and the Notre-Dame Basilica! Old Montreal links in with the financial district, you walk a couple of blocks and leave Europe to enter downtown, feeling as if you are back in Canada. Later that night we headed (unfortunately not everyone made it out haha) to this bar that played Latin music, top 40 and classic 90s hits…again I could not quite figure out what the cultural theme was that was going on here but the Latin music was great!
Saturday was another day of exploring. We first went back to downtown for a huge breakfast and to look at more of the shopping district. After we wandered up through the Plateau area - lots of vintage stores and boutiques. I also loved this part of Montreal; filled cute little houses, and streets lined with restaurants and bakeries. We found this amazing chocolate shop that is known throughout Montreal, Juliette & Chocolat - so many brownies and these little pots of chocolate heaven! We came across an amazing Italian restaurant where we stopped for dinner before heading out to the Club 737 - a sky bar located above one of the tallest towers in Montreal. It had a very interesting crowd so we didn’t stay long but the view was amazing, would be so much nicer in the summer when it wasn’t freezing outside!
The next day I went to meet our friends who were couch surfing in Montreal (really cool way to stay for free when traveling and meet people who actually live in the city). They had been recommended a place for brunch so after an hour walk, continuing on up through the Plateau, we arrived on a street filled with restaurants. The place we went to was so French! Thank god our friend Kiri was there (who is from Switzerland and speaks French) or we would have been very confused. This area was very French Montreal and as we walked further into the back streets we found more residential areas. Later that afternoon we worked off breakfast by climbing Mount Royal (which did not seem like a mountain to me). The view was stunning though, we managed to time it so we were there just for sunset and before it got too cold! We again got recommended this tiny burger place for dinner where I attempted to try the famous Canadian dish that originated in Quebec - poutine - chips with gravy and curd cheese. It actually was amazing and now I am hooked!! It doesn’t help that they sell the stuff EVERYWHERE so the smell just comes wafting by every where you walk in Montreal AND Toronto!
Our final day in Montreal was again filled with more walking. Exploring more of old Montreal and the Latin district for yummy Mexican food. (I swear I spend way to much time writing about food, I can’t help it, I feel like my trips center around it - I apologize for the extensive descriptions haha) Sorcha and I also went ice skating where we spent the majority of the time awing over this girl who was amazing at ice skating - had to pull Sorcha away haha but I was pretty impressed at my ice skating skills, seems like the good old Townsville rink paid off
Great weekend, nice to get out of Toronto and away from University - even if the break was technically only 2 days off (what kind of mid semester break is that!?). The weather was perfect too, not ridiculously cold and the last day you didn’t even need a jacket!
Since then I have just been hectically writing essays before next week. Its like crunch time but god I have ZERO motivation. Last weekend I accompanied the Germans, as the token Australian, to this club called the fifth social (loved it - hard wood floors, vintage furniture, cool music - must go again). But boy do Hans and Jan love their jagermeister shots - do not think I’ll be drinking that beverage for a while! We also went and saw the new Bond movie last week - it was amazing. Another great thing about Canada - movies come out early! On Sunday, right behind our residence, there was a Christmas lights show. Fireworks and the official turning of the Christmas tree lights on and some random Canadian singers who sung Christmas carols I had NEVER heard of. It felt a bit premature as Christmas is more than a month away but oh well! I love this time of year!! Oh and how could I forget, I went and explored the distillery district with Erin and Sara - interesting little area filled with markets, bars, bakeries, interior stores and the old distillery factory. Also checked out Rex Bar (jazz bar near my residence), live jazz music played every night, seems like the type of place that has been around forever! Just taking in all that Toronto has to offer.
Only two more weeks left of classes and then two weeks of exams. I officially have a month left here as a Torontonian student. I’ll be so sad to leave but happy to come home as well. I am definitely coming back here as soon as I can though!
I left for Roma last Saturday morning. I literally just missed Hurricane Sandy. I flew out over New York and flying back in you could really see how much destruction the storm caused, so sad. I was lucky to be away for the week. It was not very bad in Toronto, just really windy/cold and stormy. I had an amazing time in Roma. It was my first time in Europe so I was even more excited! I went to see my Mum who had been outside Roma in a small town for a yoga workshop. I decided I would meet her and her best friend Maryse, who is from Haiti, for a week before she left to go back to Australia. We stayed in a beautiful hotel right behind the Pantheon, really close to everything which was great!
I arrived on Sunday morning. Mum and I walked around our area and went to visit her friend who lives in an apartment above the Spanish Steps. Her apartment was amazing; it was 3 stories and had a beautiful rooftop garden with an amazing view of Roma. What I would do to live there! We had afternoon tea on the roof and I had my first real Italian tiramisu - so much better than any other tiramisu I’ve had. Dinner was in a restaurant beneath the Pantheon – beautiful view and delicious cheese/bread/prosciutto.
The next day we went to the Vatican, which was absolutely amazing. Walked through St Peter’s Basilica and climbed to the top of the dome where we were greeted with a stunning 360 view of Roma. The Basilica was mind blowing; so much detail and such fantastic art work. I got to see one of my favorite sculptures by Michelangelo, Pietà. A beautiful piece of art work, definitely one of my favorite sites, I would recommend anyone who goes to Roma to visit the Vatican! We then ventured into the Vatican City, found some beautiful shoe stores and a small deli with roasted artichokes (my FAVORITE Italian snack)!! It was nice getting away from the tourist spots and seeing the real parts of Roma. That night Mum and I walked around the back cobbled streets and ran into the Trevi Fountain, where of course I made a wish! Unfortunately, up to this point the food had been pretty basic. All really bad non-authentic Italian food – we were unimpressed. But finally, after some research, we found a tiny little restaurant nearby and had some authentic Italian cuisine!
On Tuesday we went to Il Vittoriano dubbed the ‘wedding cake’. This is another one of my favorite monuments. It is so grand and stands out from miles away. From here we caught one of the tour buses to take us around Roma to the major sites. It was a sunny day so it was lovely to sit at the top and listen to the commentary about the history of the city. Considering I did Ancient and Modern History I was in my element. We stopped off at the Vatican again to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which was again mind-blowing, the absolute detail was incredible. The gallery you walk through to get to the Chapel was just stunning; filled with amazing artwork from the ceiling to the floor. The tour bus also took us to the Colosseum and the surrounding ruins, the famous Bernini fountains and Castel Sant’Angelo; just to name a few. That night we got recommended a little restaurant in the old part of Roma. Hoping for some good food we decided to try it and to our delight it was absolutely amazing!! The restaurant is known for their tangliolini cheese and pepper pasta – sounds basic but that was all you needed. The dish came out in a toasted parmesan bowl with the pasta inside, heaven, along with great antipasto to start and tiramisu for dessert. And our waiter was hilarious, old Italian man who basically ordered for us haha oh and the place was filled with Italians (always a good sign).
Wednesday morning Maryse’s husband surprised her and arrived in Roma from Tel Aviv to join us. It was great as Daniel took over as our Roman tour guide (he grew up in the city as a young boy). We went to Piazza Navona to see the famous Bernini fountains. At the center of the square is the the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers. It depicts the Nile, Danube, Ganges and Platte rivers all coming together. I liked this fountain almost better than the Trevi – I loved the story behind it and the actual sculptures representing each river were incredible. We then walked around the Ghetto (Jewish part of Roma). Again it was nice to get away from the tourist spots. We ended up eating in a traditional Jewish Italian Kosher restaurant where I finally got my wood-fired pizza (none of that steel oven pizza for me haha). Later that afternoon Mum and I did a bit of shopping in the main fashion district – of course we stopped at Zara (my ultimate favorite store), Mango, Le Intimissimi (the Victoria Secret of Italy – in loveeeee) and had a look at the beautiful designer stores (especially the giant Louis Vuitton). That night we went to dinner at another great Italian restaurant – the yummy food streak was going well! And I forced my mother to come with me to this amazing gelato shop I had heard of nearby, totally worth it! The gelato was kept in these steel containers (so not on show) I was a bit skeptical but when I saw the massive queue and tasted my café, tiramisu and pistachio flavored gelato I knew I had found a good one!
Thursday we rented a car and ventured outside of the city. Our first stop was Villa d’Este – the stunning gardens up in the hills, known for its amazing water features that run throughout the whole park with Bernini sculptures scattered everywhere. UNESCO listed it as one of their world heritage sites. I would recommend anyone who goes to Roma to make the journey to see the gardens – really is very beautiful. You might recognize it from the classic Lizzie Maguire goes to Roma movie haha after venturing around the garden and taking in the spectacular views we continued driving around the countryside. Passing olive grove after olive grove and driving up the hills into different towns perched at the top. It was a public holiday so not much was open food wise but eventually we found a restaurant located up in the olive groves. This was one of my favorite restaurants because I swear we were the only English speaking people there. Italian families were all together enjoying the public holiday and it was so nice to be a part of it all! Getting outside of the city was lovely, I felt like I really got to see the authentic part of Roma. And after living in a huge city like Toronto for 3 months it was great to get some fresh air! That night we went back to our favorite restaurant in old Roma – yet again it was amazing! Drank wine and ate yummy food.
Friday was my last morning in Roma. Mum and I went back to this little coffee shop nearby that we would go to every morning for breakfast. Espresso, fresh orange juice and a croissant was my breakfast diet for the week! After a slight delay with my flight I was back in Toronto, Mum was off to Australia, Daniel was back to Tel Aviv and Maryse off to Haiti.
I had an amazing trip; I definitely plan on going back soon and travelling more around Europe, possibly working or living there someday. I think it is clear that the history and food were my favorite parts of Roma – I was in paradise, oh and the wine/fashion was amazing too! To finish the trip off I was very happy because since I had arrived in Roma I was determined to be mistaken for a Italian and on my last night two random Italian guys came up and asked me some crazy question in Italian…of course I answered, “me no speak Italian?” haha but I was so happy! I think I could fit in quite well to the Italian lifestyle.
Until next time! Still have to write about my Montreal weekend! With only 4 weeks left until our Christmas break expect not to hear much from me! Ciao!
p.s. excuse the spelling errors and poor grammar - I am half asleep