I am a discount traveler in search of a trip. Breeze Airways is a newish airline started by JetBlue’s cofounder. It’s a step up from Spirit or Frontier. Seats recline, bag fees are reasonable, and there’s no charge to change or cancel a flight. Also, for better or worse, their flight attendants don’t dry hump passengers. Breeze’s strategy is to offer direct flights so cheap that you’re convinced to visit places you weren’t trying to go to in the first place. Slick! This is how we ended up in Hartford, Connecticut.
Amber and I got to Hartford at 1 a.m., three hours later than planned. We lost an hour waiting on wheelchair assistance for an elderly couple. Once we boarded, we had to deplane due to an issue with a door sensor. Breeze’s “contract mechanic” was off for the night. I don’t know the details, but I imagined a guy laid up watching Sportscenter, ass crack showing above his sagging pajama pants, answering his phone after three call attempts, like, “Yeah, aiight. Be there when I get there.”
Hartford might not be the best place for late night food. We found one spot open: the Triple-A Diner. The menu had like 200 options. From lobster and steak to omelets. We split a double burger and salad and called it a night.
We got five hours of sleep at the Hampton Inn. I still had enough energy to make the five-hour drive from Hartford to our final destination, Montreal. I suspect it’s because the night prior I went without a Victory Golden Monkey, or red wine, or Grand Marnier, or Harlequin.
That’s rare these days. I wish I could say that I picked up a drinking habit during the worst days of the pandemic. It actually started when television streaming really took off like 10 years ago. The two go hand-in-hand. I talked to my doctor and he said I’m fine. But I’m also in an obsessive middle-age health optimization phase. Antioxidants. Nose breathing. Superfoods. Fasting. Going sober would allow for better sleep and better brain health. I might also get my abs back.
I’m down to one beer most nights (albeit the aforementioned Golden Monkey with 9.5% ABV). And maybe I have a small glass of wine after the beer. On weekends, or a day that sort of feels like a weekend, I’ll have a five milligram edible to help with sleep. But I exercise every day and eat colorful foods. That’s an interesting compromise: work out and eat well so I can mistreat my body with substances.
After three hours of driving, we stopped in Burlington, Vermont. We bought a bunch of food from Trader Joe’s and saw a rainbow from the highway. It seemed to be a pleasant city/college town and I was glad to integrate it. We fit right in with our rented Subaru Outback, though I also should have worn my Birkenstocks.
A couple of hours later, we were in Montreal. We checked into our Airbnb. It had an outdoor shower and a painting of a red woman with a big ol’ donk. The unit was in Le Plateau, the hippest of hip neighborhoods. It’s walkable with more restaurants and bars than you could visit in a year. There’s plenty of street art and local shops. Best of all, you don’t have to give much thought to getting shot. No matter how tough Drake tries to sound these days, Montreal and Canada as a whole do not adhere to the United States’ worship of guns and violent conflict resolution.
We got the party started in Montreal the right way! By buying Nizoral 2% ketoconazole shampoo. It’s prescription only in the U.S. but available over the counter in Canada. Apparently it slows down hair loss, which reduces the number of times my kids yell “Look at Dada’s v-cut!”
I asked for the shampoo in stammered French. “Avez-vous…niz…ketocoza..?” The pharmacist scowled, cut me off, and began speaking in English.
From there, we ate at a ramen spot and picked up magic figs from the guv’ment’s marijuana spot: Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC). We wandered and found a speakeasy, Big In Japan, where we nursed fancy cocktails that were inexpensive thanks to the strong U.S. dollar. The bartender suggested a nightclub, but munchies hit and we returned to our Airbnb. We smashed a bloody flank steak, a whole bag of chips, and two chocolate bars. Gluttony. Lovely gluttony.
We did a good amount of touristy stuff during our 2018 family trip to Montreal, but it’s a large city and you miss a lot when lugging kids around. So this time Amber and I explored more on foot. Walking 10-plus miles on a rainy afternoon through the Port of Montreal, Old Montreal, and neighborhoods nearby. Afterwards, we gave in to achy calves and caught an Uber back to Le Plateau, where we split a Lebanese meal at Omnivore.
After a nap, we hit the streets and stumbled upon Candi Bar. It’s a nightclub/bar where they serve weak drinks at high prices and charge $4 for a mandatory coat check. The music’s cool and the crowd is young. I felt out of place wearing my new Banana Republic sweater, looking all business casual like I wanted to discuss the Federal Reserve’s recent interest rate hikes.
By 10 p.m., the weather was getting worse. Rain and wind and not too many people willing to brave it for a night out. We left Candi Bar and had a drink and popcorn at a more mature bar called Urbanista. We then stopped next door at Le Majestique. It’s a late night restaurant that’s famous for its seafood. We shared oysters. Thanks to a crusted-over squeeze bottle, I splashed hot sauce all over the sweater that was to be my featured piece of winter clothing from 2023 to 2025. It also got in my eye. I saw that as a sign to take my old ass home. We ordered a burger and poutine to-go from Patati Patata and caught an Uber back to the apartment.
We left Montreal first thing Sunday morning. The border line into Vermont was short, and unlike our entry into Canada we were not asked rapid fire questions about guns and drugs and what we plan to do. (Amber to the border agent: “Eat.”)
A few hours later we were back in Hartford. Our flight with Breeze Airways arrived and got us back to Ohio in time. Not bad for $100. Our next going-just-because-it’s-on-sale trip? Maybe a flight to Tampa, Florida followed by a drive/swim to Havana, Cuba.