Here’s the great thing about Montreal: It’s less than an hour flight from JFK. Wait, let me rephrase. It’s supposed to be less than an hour flight from JFK, unless both Delta Air Lines and JFK team up to turn your allegedly brief trip into an epic saga.

It all started when, after boarding the plane in record time, maintenance decided to check the tires only to discover that one of them needed changing (perhaps something to check ahead of time, boys?). After deboarding and reboarding (and another two hours of sitting on the runway due to signal chaos), finally we were airborne (and all a little cranky).

But despite the headaches of JFK and Delta, the arrival in Montreal is so pleasant that it’s easy to transition seamlessly into laid-back European mode.

How could you not love this city? It’s a destination for Francophiles, artists, musicians, foodies, barflies, young, old….the list goes on. Home to four universities, the city has 40,000 college students, which breathes energetic life into sleepy, cobblestoned streets. Case in point: Every Sunday night in the summer, Montreal is home to Piknic Électronik – an all-day outdoor festival with wine and electronic music that only gets more and more frenetic as the night goes on (and inebriation sets in). Around 10 p.m. the scene erupts into an all-out dance party – on a Sunday night. Who doesn’t love coping with the Sunday night blues by grinding up with their fellow neighbor on a wine buzz with a fresh suntan? Ahh youth.

Tomorrow is set aside for a full day of exploration, but this evening we were given a taste of local cuisine at Restaurant L’Autre Version. The restaurant sits in a building that dates back over two hundred years. Inside the atmosphere is modern and urban, while the back garden is more Provence-meets-Miami with ivy-covered walls and canopied daybeds. Chef Pascal Cormier came out to greet our table (and I was not disappointed…hello ruggedly handsome chef with a French accent…) to talk about his menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. I opted for the venison tartare and grilled mahi-mahi served ‘puttanesca’ style with Kalamata olives and capers.

Tonight we crash at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal in the heart of downtown. Tomorrow is devoted to a culinary tour of the city and individual exploration. Not bad for a little taste of Europe just an hour outside of New York…assuming JFK will actually let you leave.

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