No place in Canada says romance like Montreal.
So, why not surprise your significant other this Valentine’s Day with a whirlwind getaway to enjoy some of the city’s amorous indulgences.
Getting there is half the fun when you skip traffic and ride the rails. Business class on VIA Rail sets the mood for an exhilarating excursion.
Rolling east from Toronto on Train 62, efficient and friendly staff in VIA 1 arrive with beverages to complement fresh bagels from legendary Montreal bakery St. Viateur.
Settling back in soothing, ergonomic seats, the expansive countryside whips by at 150 km/h while you enjoy your companion’s company. VIA’s rebuilt business-class coaches employ 2-1 seating (two seats on one side of the aisle and singles on the other) and that translates to ample seating space and legroom.
Noon heralds the arrival of lunch — a choice of chicken tikka masala, pasta with vegetables and a cold salmon plate. Complimentary wine heightens the experience.
Your journey should be anchored by a hotel that specializes in romantic diversions and Hotel Le Germain on Mansfield St. has mastered the craft.
Just a short walk from Central Station, this luxury property, with 99 units and two suites, is part of an all-Canadian chain that includes the ALT and ALT+ brands.
Public relations manager Julie Tremblay says the Le Germain chain pioneered an eco-friendly and healthy attitude. The hotel’s signature Granny Smith apples can be found in the lobby and beside each elevator door.
“We try to personalize our guests’ stay as much as we can,” Tremblay says.
Old Montreal is the heartbeat of the city. Narrow cobblestone streets date back to the 17th century and the architecture is stunningly beautiful.
A leisurely stroll will take you to Maggie Oakes restaurant, overlooking Place Jacques Cartier.
The ambiance is warm and the decor ultra-chic.
Chef de cuisine Wadensky Fontaine describes his menu concept as “very broad.
“We have people from many parts of the world (converging) here, so we like to offer a wide selection,” Fontaine says, stepping into the glass-walled dry-aging fridge, where steaks tenderize from 35 to 100 days.
Beef is “almost exclusively” from Quebec and produce harvested from La Belle Province when in-season.
The server arrives with a spoon-sized amuse bouche of salmon belly poached with soy and ginger, then blow-torched and complemented with radishes. A charcuterie platter is stuffed with spicy Italian meats, creamy foie gras, terrine, pickles and crispy bread. The New York strip steak is buttery soft and the grilled lobster tail is delectably tender.
On the edge of the St. Lawrence River in the bustling Bonsecours Market area, the new Observation Wheel affords lovers spectacular bird’s eye views of the city in all directions.
Glass-enclosed cabins on the 60-metre-high ferris wheel are heated in winter and air conditioned in summer. A night-time ride, enhanced by cocktails at the attraction’s cafe, is a must.
After a day of exploring, sign up at the hotel for a soothing in-room couples’ massage or spa treatment from the specialists at Appia.
“You always get a personalized treatment and our products are manufactured only in Montreal,” says massage therapist Jenn Clervoyant. “Because we come to your suite, you’re never rushed.”
Begin the next morning with a spritually stimulating yoga session for two at the hotel.
Tourism Montreal’s Thom Seivewright grew up in the city and has travelled to 56 countries.
“After visiting all those places in the world, it really opens your eyes to how good we have it here,” says Seivewright, highlighting the city’s thriving arts and culture scene.
Montreal was home to legendary songwriter, singer and author Leonard Cohen, a Seivewright favourite.
Cruising past the late icon’s former home, he muses how Cohen would walk out the front door in a housecoat and slippers, and cross through Parc du Portugal to a diner on St. Laurent Blvd.
“They’d fill his plate with food and he would walk back home,” Seivewright says with a smile, adding that the street across from the park was Cohen’s inspiration for his song Rue Marie-Anne.
The Leonard Cohen exhibition, A Crack In Everything, is featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sainte-Catherine St. through April 9.
If sweets are your guilty pleasure, Juliette & Chocolat will tempt you with heavenly crepes, velvety hot chocolates and decadent desserts.
Make sure to save room for a trip-closing dinner at Laurie Raphael at Le Germain.
An amuse-bouche of marinated sunchoke with arugula foam is followed by luscious poached foie gras with wine-infused red cabbage, candied apple and cranberries.
The perfectly seasoned and seared filet mignon is accompanied by carrots and greens cooked in carotene butter, roasted sweet onions and charcuterie sauce.
If you have time and the energy for a nightcap, Montreal’s social scene is second to none. You’ll love it as much as the person with whom you share the adventure.
Check VIA Rail’s website on Tuesdays for deep discounts on fares. Go to viarail.ca.
Check out the amazing and romantic opportunities the city has to offer at mtl.org.
STAY AND PLAY
Plan your romantic getaway at a Le Germain hotel at legermainehotels.com.