Dudley Do Right, Elves, and Winter in Montreal

We’re pretty sure you don’t need us to remind you that the holidays are just around the corner. Whether that thought excites you (to see someone who just loves the holidays, check this out), or fills you with dread, we’ve decided to make shopping for gifts easier than … shoveling your driveway after the first snow dump of the season (well, actually, almost anything is easier than that, right?)

Throughout November and December we will be posting gift ideas and specials both on our site and on the blog, but for this kick-off post, we decided to focus on 10 things about winter in Montreal that make us smile:

1. Canada Geese (no, not the jackets, the birds…) We always know winter is hovering around the corner when the birds start to fly South. They fly over the city, they rest in the country, and they are majestic, romantic, determined and so very beautiful.  Sometimes I pull to the side of the road just to watch them and listen to them honk their way by…

2. Snow. Sometimes Mother Nature goes a little crazy, but for us, the first snow of the season is a thing of great beauty. The city gets quiet, the snow is so clean and pure, and everyone – if even for a little while – marvels at the onset of winter. (Then it gets gross and slushy, cars get stuck and we all get cranky, but at least for the first little bit we all practice functional memory disfunction).

3.  Nightlife. Yes, nightlife. Montreal is one of the only places I know where, when it’s -40 (yes, really), folks go out and party. Not often, and not all night, but Montreal is the home of the Winter High Lights Festival, complete with something called the Nuit Blanche where shops and restos are open all night long and the city is full of cold, crazy people who are looking to warm up, eat well, and shop. Happens in February (when it’s really, really cold and winter seems endless). For more info, check out the Winter High Lights Festival site. There is also our fabulous Fetes des Neiges

4. Hockey. I have never been accused of being sporty. When I was younger I used to ski, but now that snowboarders have taken over the hills, I use that as an excuse to stay home, sleep a bit and cook. However, for a very (infinitely) brief period when I was in school, I played hockey. Every Montrealer follows hockey – some more assiduously than others, but everyone to a certain degree – and we all basically know how to skate, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to lace up and hit the ice. Only thing was, I could never quite remember which goal was our goal. My short career was marked by more goals for the other team than for our own. My number was retired and my career ended. Cant say I minded too much!

5. Beaver Tails. Only in Canada could a deep fried, sugary dessert be called Beaver Tails. Story differ as to the origin of the yummy, warm and very fattening delight, but the general consensus is that the first Beaver Tales stand was on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa which people can skate down once the water freezes over, in a Canadian version of an Anna Karenina winter scene. If you want to try and make Beaver Tailes at home, check out the humbly named best mom on the block site.

6. Looking for a romantic winter outing? How about a glacial stay in an ice hotel? The first ever Ice Hotel was created in Sweden twenty-three years ago. I guess the idea is that for climates where winter takes hold for basically half of the year, you might as well embrace the cold and make the best of it. I’m game for a water-bed, but sleeping on a bed of ice? Not so sure.

7. Snow Days – sometimes there is just too much snow. Kids cant make it to school, getting to work is out of the question (primarily because digging the car out would take all day long), and walking the dog means opening the back dog to watch rover bound through the snow-banks. Days like that remind us of this poster which evokes all the joy of winter wonderlands…

8. Skating. Montreal takes its name, in part, from the mountain in the middle of the city that is called Mount Royal. It’s our equivalent to Central Park, but (at least in my mind, it’s infinitely more magical. Granted, when it comes to Montreal landmarks I am not at all objective…)  On top of Mount Royal you’ll find Beaver Lake (Lac des Castors in French), with a newly refurbished skating rink, miles and miles of outdoor cross country tracks. The mounted police kind of remind me of Dudley Do Right, but aside from that, it’s quite perfect.

Skating Season: December to March
Outdoor skating season — usually mid-December to mid-March, is, of course, contingent on weather conditions and tends to vary every year. So if you’re planning a skate session before the end of December or after mid-March (especially if you want to rent skates on location), do yourself a favor and call (514) 280-8989 before showing up to make sure the rink and rental office are open. Even if it’s skating season, it’s best to call beforehand to confirm ice conditions or check online.

9. Montreal is once again a stop on most big-time concert tours. Last night I saw Rufus Wainwright at one of the glorious old churches in the City’s East End (catch his latest video here).  Last year we hosted Lady Gaga (at least twice), Rihanna, Ricky Martin, all kinds of heavy metal bands with music to make your toes curl… and everything in between. (Got to admit I also saw Barbra Streisand. Hey, I went with my parents. And actually, she was pretty impressive. Not my everyday music choice, but still… ) So, I’m planning on bundling up and heading out to see some great shows this winter… Adam Levine/Maroon 5 – make some space in that front row, I’m there!

10. Sitting outside with a cup of hot chocolate, wrapped in blankets and staring out at a frozen lake. Doesn’t get much better than that, right?

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