This year we spent our Christmas Eve with my boyfriend’s family in Montreal, and on Christmas morning headed to Mont Tremblant for a few days of skiing. The Canadian province of Quebec borders New York state, and Montreal is only about a six-hour drive from New York City. This geographic closeness belies the distinctness in language, climate, culture, and of course, food.
The Québécois are notoriously proud of their heritage, and the moment you cross the border you see their flag everywhere (white cross on azure, between four white fleurs-de-lis). Apparently the fleurs-de-lis are not taken from the royal flag of the Bourbons, who used golden lilies, not white ones, but the French influence is still palpable. On our first day at the resort, we got into an elevator with another visitor, who started asking my boyfriend about the lifts. When boyfriend answered in French, the man asked, “Vous êtes canadien ou américain?” Hearing his answer, the man said with relief, “Canadien? C’est bon!”* Perhaps only a minor episode–but as someone who moved halfway across the world at a young age, I’d learned to observe and make inferences about national character; and this man’s clear satisfaction at speaking to another Québécois even in an elevator, spreading across his Gallic face, was the quintessence of the French Canadian spirit.
That is not to say, however, that people in Quebec are not also generous, almost universally polite, and generally open-minded, especially in Montreal. Most people in Montreal are perfectly bilingual, which makes travel easy, and there is no lack of vegan food options in this eclectic and bohemian city. Most organic stores (look for the word biologique) carry lots of vegan, gluten-free, and other healthy options. In restaurants, say that you’re “végétarien.” (“I don’t eat dairy”: Je ne prends pas de produits de lait.) On packaged goods, look for these labels: sans produits de lait (dairy free), sans beurre (butter free), biologique et naturel (organic and natural).
But most of all, nature lovers will find plenty to enjoy in the mountains, which are not as high and majestic as those on the West Coast, but full of charm and soft, ice-free snow.
*-Are you Canadian or American? -Canadian? That’s good!
Instead of driving all the way back from Mont Tremblant to New York City (at least an 8-hour drive), we stopped by Montreal.
Plan Your Trip
Ermitage du Lac: 4-star boutique hotel. Continental breakfast, comfortable rooms and free ski valet.
Fluide Juice Bar: Open for breakfast and lunch. Organic, raw, vegan, and vegetarian options, and extensive juice menu. Soup of the day is very good, as is the raw vegan brownie. 🙂
Spag & Co: Hearty, excellent pasta and pizza menu. The vegan fettuccine primavera with grilled vegetables and garlic sauce is delicious and perfectly al dente. We may or may not have gone here two days in a row.
Aux Vivres: Casual and light-filled dining room with open kitchen, and good take-out option. Try the Dragon Bowl, or their famous vegan BLT sandwich on chapatti (Indian flat bread).
How did you spend your Christmas week, peaceful dumplings?
Also in Travel: 7 Dream Adventures for Nature Lovers
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling