I turned 40 years old on Day Two of our Canadian adventure. Check out our memorable, jam-packed journey downtown…

We started with a pre-breakfast visit to the Notre Dame Basilica a couple of blocks from our hotel in Old Montreal. The original church dates back to the 1600s, and its current interior was inspired in part by the exquisite Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Divine colors and design.

Afterwards, on our way to a cafe to grab a croissant and coffee, we spotted these eye-catching goodies:

Just add a bow on top and these Canadian mailboxes would look like presents.

A rare Fisker Karma electric hybrid sports sedan.

We then took the clean and quiet metro downtown and got off at the Peel station.

Me likes this cool graffiti near the metro exit.

We stopped at Ogilvy’s department store on Saint Catherine Street. Major crush on the orange-and-gray jacket at the Rebecca Taylor boutique. (And the chandelier trompe-l’oeil reminded me of the graffiti sign.)

We arrived at our main destination, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts:

This is the entrance on one side of Sherbrooke Street. Officially known as the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, it was designed by Israeli/Canadian “starchitect” Moshe Safdie.

This Beaux-Arts building across the street is also part of the museum. An underground concourse connects the two.

Upstairs, downstairs: pathways to different exhibitions in the modern pavilion.

Andrew strolling through one of the galleries. I especially loved the painting by Québécois artist Serge Lemoyne of legendary hockey goalie Ken Dryden.

More to love: the decorative arts collection housed in the museum’s Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion blew me away—an overwhelming visual delight. Whether you’re a design buff or a casual fan of shelter magazines, you will enjoy this place.

Squiggly lines as seating, including the orange “Corallo” (Coral) Chair by Brazilians Fernando and Humberto Campana.

The green “Floor Fan” made from lacquered synthetic clay is by German artist Maarten Baas (I’m wondering how he balanced the weight so it doesn’t tip over). He also did the black “Zig Zag” Chair.

The “Miss Blanche” Armchair by Shiro Kuramata—very Prada, no?

Mother and child: Gaetano Pesce’s “La Mamma” Armchair and Ottoman simultaneously looks like a baby on its back with its feet in the air. Piero Gilardi’s “Mela” (Apple) Chair is cheeky.

“Poltrona di Proust” (Proust’s Armchair) by Alessandro Mendini reminds me of Pointillism and pixels.

High chairs: furniture suspended on the back wall, including Philippe Starck’s “Louis Ghost” Armchair for Kartell. (I long for one, or maybe four.)

Taking a break outside on the terrace of the Stewart Pavilion. These patio chairs resemble laundry baskets.

Taking a break inside on a stark and sleek black leather banquette.

The featured exhibition was a site-specific installation by renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Billed as the artist’s “first major show to be presented in Canada,” it was sensory overload and more Vegas than Montreal. Still, I’m glad we saw it. As a fun and exuberant tour de force, it was great birthday fare!

Honestly, this was my favorite part of the show: the line drawing that served as wayfinding signage. (Its style is similar to the “WhatIsAdam” graffiti art above. Do you sense a theme?)

“The Boats.”


“Glass Forest #6.”

Around mid-afternoon, as we were leaving, this installation adjacent to the museum drew our attention:

Follow the red-and-green brick road?

I think it’s the handiwork of the Montreal Tourism Board.

For a late lunch, Andrew thought I’d want to try a raw vegan restaurant. Eating spaghetti squash instead of pasta and a flaxseed kale wrap in lieu of fish tacos? Hell no! Give me some butter and meat. Give me some hot cooked food! So we hoofed it several blocks to a hole-in-the-wall Japanese joint called Kazu. (I told you Yelp was our savior.) I had the pork belly ramen with a super-flavorful broth while Andrew had their famous salmon and tuna bowl. Now we’re talkin’!

To burn off our meal, we trekked to the 500-acre Parc du Mont-Royal designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The park includes part of Mount Royal and the highest spot in the city. We climbed what felt like a million stairs to reach the Kondiaronk Lookout, a semicircular plaza with breathtaking views of downtown Montreal and the St. Lawrence River. The perspective was gorgeous and refreshing!

Andrew’s head in the clouds. (And you can see the leaves beginning to change color.)

A sparse crowd admiring the scenery.

We were tired, sweaty and hungry by the time we returned to our hotel. I had made a dinner reservation at Les 400 Coups, the nicest restaurant we ate at during our stay. It was located in Old Montreal but away from the main touristy area. They seated us at a cozy table  in front.

My celebratory kir Quebecois. Santé!

The place was packed on a Wednesday evening. The decor was stylish yet warm. Our waiter was friendly. I had the squash soup with smoked herring, cranberry and celery; roasted guinea fowl breast with parsnip, mushrooms and smoked paprika; and the pear, coffee and caramel dessert. A delicious end to our day…and beginning of my 40th year.


Montreal Museum of Fine Arts | 1380 Sherbrooke Street West | Montreal, Quebec | H3G 1J5 | Canada | 514.285.2000 |

Kazu | 1861 Sainte Catherine Street West | Montreal, Quebec | H3H 1M1 | Canada | 514.937.2333 | | Yelp review

Les 400 Coups | 400 Notre Dame Street East | Montreal, Quebec | H2Y 1C8 | Canada | 514.985.0400 | | Yelp review

Coming up next: The Plateau and Botanical Gardens!

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