I go back to Montreal pretty often, so it’s nothing new for me, but last weekend I drove to Montreal with a friend of mine for a fun girls’ weekend (it was a 3-day weekend because Monday was a statutory day in Ontario). It’s always a lot of fun. Montreal, my hometown, is such a vibrant city, never a dull moment.
I should really specify “the Montreal area”, because, although I love the city of Montreal, some of my favourite places to go to are not actually on the Montreal island, but in the Laurentians area. Beautiful place! You can escape the hustle and bustle of the city in the mountains, with lots of lakes and trees. Many Montrealers own cottages in that area because it is not only beautiful but it’s fairly close, only an hour outside of Montreal and you’re already in the ski hills. A couple of hours and you’re in the famous Mont Tremblant area.
So when I asked my friend if she would prefer to spend Saturday in the city or the mountains, I was happy to hear that she chose the mountains! It wasn’t her first time there and she has seen the city as well.
Three days is a short time when you consider that we drove just under 2,000 kms in that time. We left Thursday night for a late drive and came back Monday afternoon, in one of the worst traffic I’ve ever encountered in my 15+ years of driving that route. Oh my! Our butts were hurting! over 10.5 hrs sitting in a car really takes a toll. haha
But anyway, back to the fun weekend. On Saturday morning, I used this opportunity to go see Judy who lives in the area. Judy was the lucky winner of my first-ever draw on my Eyecandypopper Facebook page! She won an awesome cookbook entitled True Foods, from Andrew Weil M.D., and I was happy to hand-deliver it to her. The cool part is that I used to go to high school with Judy and hadn’t seen her in many, many years, so that was fun to see her and her family. The reunion was short however because we still had to go for breakfast to my favourite restaurant in the area: Au P’tit Cochon Santé (which we call The Little Piggy), in Rosemère, a lovely city where I lived at some point while growing-up in that area. This restaurant is awesome! Fresh local foods, some organic, always delicious. A healthy take on usually greasy breakfast food. We shared 2 plates, that way we get to have sweet and savoury 🙂 So we had their French toast sandwich (picture above), with tons of fresh strawberries, a creamy goat cheese and walnut ‘filling’, tons of strawberries, oh wait, I said that already haha, but there were a lot! and some strawberry or raspberry coulis on top, and of course local maple syrup to drizzle on. MMmmm….!!!! so delicious! We also had a breakfast panini, with ham, melted cheese, over-easy eggs and sprouts, served with lemon & herbs roasted potatoes and a huge plate of fresh fruits. That kept us going for the rest of the day!
So in the afternoon, we drove to a cute village in the Laurentians, called Val-David, and figured we’d just decide what to do once we got there. I knew we could probably go for an easy hike somewhere. When we got there, we saw that there was a ceramic art exhibit (pottery) called 1001 Pots with hundreds of local artisans’ beautiful art. It was only $2 to get in, what a bargain for a fun Saturday afternoon! We quickly split and went our ways to look at the many, many, many pieces of pottery. A few were inside, and most were outside, set on tables.Although I rarely buy expensive pieces of art (my house is so tiny!), I thought it’d be nice to find a cute little bowl or something. I did find a small bowl that fit the bill, made by local artist François Labissonière, based in Mandeville, Quebec. In fact I loved his entire collection, the colours are just incredible yet simple, but I also couldn’t resist buying this large ‘pot-au-feu’, a large casserole that can go in the oven, is safe for food, but that reminded me so much of my late grand-mother’s clay pot she always used to cook her amazing dishes like cassoulet white beans or petits pois (peas) with small white onions from her garden. It was $90 + tax and I wasn’t expecting to spend that much, but I couldn’t pass it up. It was made by local Montreal-based artist Djoudja Nour-Eddine. I saw it about 5 minutes after we walked in and I tried to forget it, but as we walked by it on our way out, it was still there, waiting for me, and after confirming that the paints used were non-toxic and safe for food, I had to buy it. I have yet to wash it and start using it, but it is currently sitting on a console in my living room, because it is a very pretty piece of art on top of being useful and using it in the future to cook with. I just love pieces like that that are pretty and useful, and unique. I can’t wait to start using it! I’m thinking I will make a quick cassoulet perhaps, or just French-style white beans….
I think we spent almost an hour and a half there, in a perfect weather, not too hot, not too cold, some clouds but yet the sun was shining. Very strange. It briefly rained a few times during that afternoon, but somehow always in between our activities, when we were in the car. Perfect timing! We saw several rainbows during that afternoon, including a huge double one while driving on the highway.
After the pottery exhibit, we followed signs that said we could go visit the organic gardens from Clef des Champs, which happens to be my favourite company that makes ointments and salves like Calendula, Comfrey and Arnica. I had completely forgotten that they were in that area! I’ve always wanted to go see them, and there it was! They are located a few kilometers outside of the village, at the top of the mountain, so we had to drive up for a bit, pretty steep sometimes, on a gravel road, to get to their little house built there that serves as a small boutique for their salves, tinctures and spices (they have by far the best tasting spices I’ve ever tasted), but also where you can grab an organic tisane (herbal tea) crushed with ice or a green chai latte made with almond milk, or an infusion, as well as purchase your ticket to get in the gardens. The price to get in was $9/adult. I have to admit, I thought it was a bit much, maybe $5-6 would’ve been more reasonable, but we went anyway, and weren’t disappointed. Although it might be boring for some people, it was really nice to walk around, watch all the bees and bumblebees happily buzzing around, see all the various plants and read about their medicinal uses. All the buildings are built with nature in mind, using natural materials and they all have a green roof with vegetation on them. The views were amazing from high up on that mountain and we had a good little hike too. My friend LOVED it.
Before driving back home, we stopped at an artisanal organic bakery I had been before, a really long time ago, called Boulangerie La Vagabonde. We got there in pouring rain, 20 minutes before they were closing but were welcomed by a smiling employee called Fabi (or is it Fabie, I can’t remember what she said), and lucky for me, they still had various options left from the day so I bought 2 chocolatines (that almost square-looking croissant with chocolate inside, one of my all-time favourite bakery treats — I grew up in France after all!) to eat for breakfast the next day, a small raw ‘pad thai’ salad, an ultra chocolatey brownie with roasted walnuts on top, and a Kamut boule (round fresh bread). Everything was consumed over the next few days and was delicious. If you’re ever in that area, make sure you stop there for lunch or a snack, they are open 7 days a week, serve salads and sandwiches, some raw meals, have a decent selection of cheeses, desserts, fresh juices and smoothies, teas and coffees and almost everything is organic. They also have some activities for kids during the summer.
In the evening, we got dressed-up and went out towards Montreal (city) to have a nice dinner (I don’t have any pictures but it consisted of lightly fried calamari with aïoli dipping sauce, a house salad with raspberry and balsamic dressing and a homemade spicy crispy chicken tacos with coleslaw and some sweet potato fries and chipotle dipping sauce. We shared the meal, which was great to have a taste of everything) and then met a friend of mine for a drink. We wanted to go see the fireworks in the Old Port but it was raining, so that wasn’t interesting. A long but full day, where we got to see country and city. All in a day’s worth of almost 300 kms. hahaha
On Sunday, after sleeping-in and relaxing/playing with my sister’s cats in the morning, we went to what I consider the best waterpark in the world! 🙂 It’s in Saint-Sauveur (Laurentians again). It’s the biggest waterpark set in a natural/mountain setting, surrounded by trees, and the slides are built right in the mountain, so instead of climbing metal stairs, you climb the mountain to get to the top! For one ride, you actually take the ski lift to get up. It’s quite amazing and it certainly keeps you in shape since you have to constantly walk/climb. My friend got a small cut on her elbow on the 2nd slide, we had to go get a bandage at First Aid so she wouldn’t drip blood in the water, but that made her decide that she wouldn’t do the 3 ‘rough’ rides (rafting and tubing), however because it was a cloudy day, more on the cool side, the park was almost empty, we didn’t have any waiting time for any rides and we did 2 of each (except the 3), after 3 hours, we were done! We even went on The Viking at the end, a unique rollercoaster going down the mountain, in between trees, where you control the speed! It’s awesome!
I took a few pictures on our way out, but obviously I wasn’t able to take my phone with me on the rides!
After that afternoon in the water, we were exhausted and hungry, so we went to a classic junk food spot (La Belle Province) to eat an “all-dress” hamburger, which is a burger with mustard, onion, tomato and coleslaw. We also shared a poutine, a classic Quebec dish made with fries, cheese curds (a cheese made especially for that), and gravy on top. Now every restaurant has their own gravy, which changes the taste, so if you ever tried poutine in one place and didn’t like it, that doesn’t mean that you won’t like it in another place. As a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of poutine, so I ate a lot. Now of course, I don’t eat all that but once in a while, when I go back to Quebec, I do enjoy a few per year, as a treat. There’s nothing wrong with that, since living healthy is a lifestyle, not a diet, we don’t count calories. I certainly wouldn’t eat too much of these, but a few per year seems perfectly fine. If you’ve never tried a poutine before and make your way to Quebec, you should give it a try! 😉
Monday morning was running errands before leaving, so that means going to a fresh spring where I always go to bring water back home. Yes, you read that right. I get fresh spring water right out of the mountain (well, the owner has been kind enough to get a duct installed for people to use), I fill up several large water jugs (18L each) and put everything in the car and bring them back with me. It might seem like much, but once you taste what real water tastes like, you might understand. Plus, it’s free. I’ve been doing that for over 12 years and it was one of the best change I’ve ever made for my health. I still remember when I brought some home for the first time, I gave some to my cat, who I used to give tap water, and then filtered water, and then store-bought spring water, but I had never seen her drink. I knew she was drinking because the water in her bowl would eventually lower, but it wasn’t much. However, when I gave her that water, she sniffed it, and started drinking immediately, for what seemed like 5 minutes. She couldn’t get enough, like she had been thirsty all her life. I had felt the same way drinking it, but to see it from my cat really convinced me that this was real water, the stuff we’re meant to be drinking, not processed water. I’ve never looked back. Since water is so important to our lives and that’s pretty much the only thing I drink (other than fresh veggie juices and the occasional miscellaneous drinks, whether it’d be alcoholic, or chocolate milk, or Kombucha), it makes total sense to make an effort to get high quality water.
So after the water run, a quick stop at one of my favourite organic health food stores called La Moisson, in Ste-Thérèse, to buy some supplies to bring home, we met an old friend of mine who recently moved back to the area after living in the U.S. for many years. We hadn’t seen each other in over 17 years so it was a nice reunion, over a delicious breakfast at The Little Piggy, of course! 😉
And these are my beautiful purchases from the Ceramic Art Exhibit…