Fresh off a bus from New York, I was delighted to take a proper look at Montreal, where a few friends and I had planned to spend our second week of a three-week jaunt across North America.
All we’d heard about the place before arriving was hockey, poutine and everybody speaking French. While these simple impressions did prove accurate in time, we saw a great deal more over a packed week of local and touristic delights that gave us an intimate view of the unique and gorgeous Canadian city.
We arrived on a cold and rainy night, but fortunately the camera was still in my bag as we took a stroll down Boulevard St-Laurent from the Plateau towards the city centre. This one-way street features some of the city’s best bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. Its Christmas lights created a wonderful reflection on the wet road.
The next morning we headed straight back to Boulevard St-Laurent in search of a tasty coffee hit. Montreal's Mile End district wears its hipster tag proudly, and there are endless options for a fresh cuppa served by a friendly bearded man. We tried a different cafe each morning, but Le Cagibi (pictured) was the clear winner for both style and taste!
Having satisfied our coffee cravings, we set out to find the very best of Montreal's renowned street art. These enormous building-sized pieces were my favourites out of a fascinating tour that kept our heads turning on a chilly afternoon.
Our local Canadian friend had a treat for us over the weekend: a trip to his family’s country retreat in Dunham, an hour’s drive south-east of the city. Craving some fresh air and snowy scenes, we made straight for the hiking trails on nearby Mt Sutton. The mountain is home to a popular ski resort, but we just missed out on the start of the season.
There were more than 80 kilometres of hiking trails on the mountain, but in the icy conditions we only managed to see five! It was enough to take us up to this beautiful winter scene at the lookout on a frozen Lake Spruce near the mountain summit.
More inspiring travel photography from Andrew Tallon
We marked our return to Montreal with another great view of the ice – this one in the stands at Centre Bell, home of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. Ice hockey is like a religion in Canada, and the booming crowd motivated the ‘Habs’ to dominate for most of the game that ended in a 2-1 home win against Columbus.
The good win deserved an appropriate celebration, which kicked off in a few of the better placed bars along Boulevard St Laurent on our way home from the game. We finished the evening in true Montreal style: chowing down a late-night feast at the city’s most famous poutine restaurant, La Banquise.
Our next day featured more tourist pursuits. We finished an excellent tour of old Montreal in Place de l’Armes outside the Basilique de Notre-Dame, a huge gothic-era cathedral constructed in the 1820s. I framed a shot of the Basilique with the Maisonneuve Monument in the foreground – a statue erected to commemorate Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal.
On the last night we tried to cap off our visit with the best view of the city from the top of Mont Royal. Unfortunately, the clouds came in low and fast, surrounding us in mist as we approached the viewing area. These two travellers found themselves with the same problem!
We were determined not to be thwarted from a good view of the city, so we made our way to the edge of the harbour in the small peninsular suburb of Cite du Havre. The above image was taken right out front of another famous Montreal landmark, the uniquely designed model community and housing complex of 'Habitat 67’.
If you’re headed to North America, do yourself a favour and put Montreal on your list. You won’t be disappointed!