Montréal: The Escape Everyone Needs

Let me start off this blog post by saying that I love travel. Growing up, oddly, I didn’t enjoy travel very much. I was a bit of a spoiled child (to a degree), because I was fortunate enough to go on yearly family vacations and outings. Vacations became sort of normal, so it was easy to take them for granted as a youngster. If my parents wanted to take the family on a trip to Florida for spring break, I was always the first one to huff and puff. What can I say, I would’ve rather stay home & hang out with friends. Pro tip: GO ON AS MANY TRIPS AS YOU CAN WHILE YOUR PARENTS WILL PAY FOR IT.

Once I moved away from home for university, I found a new appreciation for travel; I realized that it’s an escape from my day-to-day reality & stresses. Plus, it was rare to get the opportunity to travel in university, as I was either studying, visiting family, or working. Since I went to university in Ottawa, Montréal was a common escape since it was only 2 hours away by bus or train.

This past weekend, the W Montréal invited Chris, Alayna, and I to Montréal for an event called Queer Me Out. I quickly accepted the invitation, as Montréal has always been a dependable getaway – and let’s be real, I was craving some authentic poutine. So off we went, to one of Canada’s largest and culturally-diverse cities, to embark on a queer adventure.

Montréal is about 6 – 7.5 hours from Toronto by train or bus, respectively. To be honest, I don’t mind long car or train rides… I find them calming! However, we we’re able to travel to Montréal by plane, using my ~favourite~ airline, Porter. I’ve used Porter Airlines countless times throughout university – they’re small Toronto-based airline that is cost-efficient, super convenient, and has incredible customer service. Plus (and this is the best part) wine, beer, and snacks are complimentary during flights. So you KNOW that I take full advantage of that each and every time I fly Porter.

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Enjoying a cappuccino before my flight in the Porter Lounge, Billy Bishop Airport, Toronto.

After landing in Montréal early, since Porter got us all on an earlier flight (YAS!), Chris, Alayna, and I headed to the city centre. From Montréal’s international airport, you can take transit, which takes about an hour to the city centre, or hop in an Uber/taxi! I’m an Uber/Lyft kind of traveller, but there was a surge when we arrived, so we found a taxi that gave us a $40 flat-rate.

Throughout this blog, there’s going to be a recurring theme – poutine. Oh yes, Canada’s delicious delicacy of salty fries topped with creamy gravy and Québec cheese curds… YOU ARE WELCOME, WORLD. Needless to say, grabbing a poutine was the first thing that Alayna and I did when we got to our hotel (Chris decided to take a nap, typical). After walking around Old Montréal, we found a cute little restaurant called LOV. LOV specializes in vegan food, and since Alayna follows a vegan diet we decided to give it a try.

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Alayna and I both ordered classic poutines and onion rings, both completely vegan!

Let me just say – if you go to Montréal and don’t visit LOV for some vegan poutine and onion rings, you are not doing it right. The poutine was salty and savoury, and the vegan “cheese” was incredible – any meat or dairy lover will be very satisfied with LOV’s menu. The onion rings we’re out of this world, definitely the best that I’ve ever ordered at a restaurant. OK – let’s move on, or I’ll just keep getting hungry and never finish this post.

Upon checking in, Chris, Alayna, and I assumed that we were sharing one room. Since the W Montréal was providing accommodations for us, we previously told them that the three of us would be fine sharing a room. To our surprise, they gave Chris and I our own room, and Alayna her own room! Super super super nice of them.

The actual rooms were ~gorgeous~ and very spacious. We felt a little bit spoiled, but no ones complaining. Our rooms were decorated with gold accents, a larger than life bathroom, and THREE (yes, three) different kinds of speakers – because one is ~never~ enough. There was a general Bose speaker, an Homedics Sound Spa for ambient sounds (helped us sleep!!), and an alarm-clock-speaker-hybrid for our smartphones. Needless to say, the W Montréal did not disappoint. Below are some snapshots from Alayna’s room; while our rooms were exactly the same, hers always seemed to be a lot cleaner… whoops!

That night, the W Montréal put on their final Queer Me Out speaker series. Queer Me Out is a project by W Hotels that celebrates queerness, and offers discussions around the issues within the queer community. The specific panel that we attended was a conversation about transcending style between designers, models, and stylists who are thinking beyond the gender construct. It was hosted by none other than Mr. Tyler Oakley.

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Tyler Oakley moderated the panel, filled with queer designers & artists.
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The panel included Avie Acosta (left), who is a transgender model in New York City.

I was a bit skeptical that the discussion would engage me, since I’m not too big on high fashion – I was sooo wrong. The discussion was very interesting, and the diverse group of panelists offered a wealth of perspectives on the issues queer people face in artistic fields. One of the panelists, Becca McCharen, talked about her experience with the male gaze in the fashion industry. As a lesbian woman, she discussed how she tries to reduce and eliminate harmful aspects of the male gaze by hiring and working with female artists, including trans* women & POC. Another panelist, Avie Acosta, argued that transgender representations in fashion are too often used as a trend. She explained that conversations around trans* identities has given brands & fashion outlets the idea that it’s “cool.” She wants to see more diversity in the fashion industry to provide visibility for gender non-conforming people, as opposed to following fads & trends.

I found the discussion at Queer Me Out to be insightful and honest. It was amazing to see a diverse and inclusive event put on by W Hotels. By creating more safe spaces for LGBTQ+ dialogue, the W Hotels is positively contributing to our community.

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A candid shot of Ryan Woods, Alayna Fender, and I at the Queer Me Out reception.

After the event, a bunch of us ~hit the town~ and danced our hearts out in Montréal’s colourful gay village. I’ll spare you the details, as it includes terrible dancing (on my part), far too may vodka sodas, and a late night poutine run (told you it was a recurring theme!).

The rest of the weekend was a fun little vacation for Chris, Alayna, and I. We explored Old Montréal, and realized how beautiful the city truly is. Translation: we spent 3 hours taking candid pictures and facilitating our own little photoshoot. Here’s what we came up with:

 

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A happy little traveller.

 

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The entrance to Montréal’s Old Port.
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A little walking bridge alongside Montréal’s Old Port.
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Bae caught me off guard.

All in all, Montréal was the perfect getaway. If you’ve never visited, you need to get your butt over to Montréal and consume as much poutine as your heart can take (literally and figuratively). If you’ve visited before, go back and see it again. This was my fifth time visiting the city, and I always have new experiences every time I visit.

Until next time, Montréal / Jusqu’à la prochaine fois, Montréal.

– MR

 

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