The Summer is passing fast and I think it's time for a vacation. I have been traveling a lot for work lately and I am on the road almost every other week. So far this year I've been to Houston, Tucson, Asheville, Charlotte, Orlando, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami and the Keys, Atlanta and San Diego. I haven't had a real vacation since my Paris trip in November 2005 (see "i heart paris").
Two weeks ago I realized I had a free week and decided that I should use it to my advantage. It may be the last time I get a vacation until Fall. My first choice was to go to Amsterdam, but the good hotels were all booked and the ones that were left were too expensive or dumps. My next choice was Prague, but frequent flyer tickets only offered me a flight through Warsaw with a 7 hour layover. What do you do in Warsaw airport for 7 hours? The I decided I would try Berlin. It sounded like a fun city and the hotels were cheap. Unfortunately, there was a "love" festival going on which filled up a lot of hotels and those that were left had inflated prices. Besides, United Airlines was offering me the same Polish connection and I didn't want to waste my time in an airport. After all this I decided to steer away from Europe because I was only planning a short trip and would spend more time flying and getting over jet-lag then I desired.
After a few calls to United I easily found available free frequent flyer seats from Newark (Paris of the east) to Montreal (Paris of the north) on Air Canada. I vacationed in Montreal at about the same time last year (see the archives on this blog) and decided it was a good idea. After all, I had a good time and I have been dreaming about the food ever since. How could I go wrong? It's only a 1.5 hour flight from Newark, the food is delicious, the shopping is great and the people are friendly. So I booked the flight and a room at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel located in a decent place in the center of the city. Even though this is a decent hotel this is going to be a big let-down because last year I stayed at the luxury Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Typically I couldn't afford the place but due to a clerical error from Liberty Travel I got a $250 room for $125. You see, it was posted at $125 "per person based on double occupancy". I was one person and when I inquired they told me $125, not catching the error. I doubt the Queen Elizabeth would give away a room for $125.
Anyway, the Four Points would be fine but two days ago I poked around a web-sight called biddingfortravel.com and found that I could probably do better. On Bidding for Travel, people posts their winning bids from Priceline so you have an idea what hotels are going for. They also list the hotels that are usually offered with each zone. After reviewing all this, i went to priceline.com and entered my bid. $70 a night, central Montreal, 3 star hotel for 4 nights. Most of the hotels offered in the Montreal area are pretty good. The only two I was concerned about was a Novotel, which was a little to far to the west and a Holiday Inn, which was a little too "Holiday Inn". So I clicked my mouse and the bid began. As the wheel spun I watched and then the result, I was awarded a room. I crossed my fingers and looked for the hotel name.... THE HYATT REGENCY! Wow! I couldn't have asked for better. A $200 a night hotel room for $70 ($86 with tax). See slide show
It's gonna be a good vacation!
So I'm off. This is my second trip to Montreal and I've seen many of the sights so I am looking forward to wandering, eating and shopping. I might even find something cultural to do, but don't count on it. Mostly I want to hit 4 restaurants that I loved last time I was there, L'Express, Boris Bistro, Au Petit Extra and Au Pied de Cochon. That's 4 meals out of 8 (not including breakfast). I should also try to find a place with good Poutine, that Quebecois specialty. I think it's french fries covered with gravy and cheese curd. I also have a few new places on my short list; Le Grand Comptoir, Le Vaudeville, Bistro L'entrepont, Cafe Cherrier, Le P'tit Plateau, Le Paris and Les Heritiers. We'll see where I end up.
I also just remembered something I had that was memorable at Au Pied de Cochon, it was a dessert called "Pouding Chomeur". The dessert is a piece of very fluffy cake topped with a mixture of cream and maple syrup, then baked at a high temperature until golden and bubbly. Sort of a Canadian version of Sticky Toffee Pudding.
The other good part of this trip is that Quebec no longer allows smoking in bars and restaurants.
I depart for Montreal from Newark Liberty Airport on Wednesday, July 12 at 8.30am. I will begin blogging from the airport and update until I leave on Sunday, July 16. Join me!
If you would like to read my adventures from Montreal in 2005, click on the categories or archives on the right or scroll through this blog.