Writing Retreat #2: Montreal

by Jackie D on February 22, 2016

IMG_8111So, what exactly do you wear when it’s -15 degrees F outside? You wear this: three pairs of tights (one regular, then one pair of wool, then one pair of fleece-lined); a cat print dress; a pink sweater; a leather jacket; an insulated thermal jacket lining thing from UNIQLO; a scarf that covers most of your face; a hat; a coat; gloves; prayers.

Shockingly, I wasn’t too freezing. There were a couple of times when I couldn’t feel my fingers, but other than that, I was surprised to find that despite the fact that I spent a good 2-3 hours outside during the day, I wasn’t ever cold to the point of being absolutely miserable or scared for my life.

Of course, the purpose of this trip was to stay mostly indoors, anyway. It was my second so-called “writing retreat,” a little break from real life to get away from my daily responsibilities to work on a book I’ve started to write and hope to have finished by the end of the year.

12767583_10104211510056913_1049914312_nIMG_8136The train ride from New York to Montreal is 10 hours each way, and for me, that’s the perfect amount of time to be sequestered in a train car trying to get something done. A few people had a “Girl are you crazy?” reaction when I told them about this — probably because 10 hours is a long time, and because my commute to and from work during the week is quite the train trek in itself, so why on earth would I want to spend my limited free time riding the train even more?

Because I love the train. I am never so inspired or so relaxed as when I am sitting beside a train or car window. That forward-moving motion is one of the most comforting things in the world for me. And when I need to really crack down and make progress on something — a blog post, a personal project, a grocery list — it helps if I lock myself in a room or cafe or somewhere I’m forced to just forget everything else and focus on this one thing for a second, because I have a really short attention span (case in point: between the time I started typing that sentence and the time I ended it, I got up to refill my coffee, then checked the mail, then texted a few friends, then checked my Discover Weekly Spotify playlist, then one of the song titles reminded me of Canada and I was like “Oh right, I was writing a blog post about Canada a second ago.”)

IMG_8103IMG_812512769646_10104211509982063_352048375_nSo, this trip was mostly about the 20 hours I spent on the train, and not the 24 hours I spent in Montreal in between. Even so, I managed to fit a lot into those 24 hours and -15 degrees: I stopped by the absolutely gorgeous Palais de Congres just as the light was hitting the windows perfectly (it stopped about five minutes after I got there); I met up with my friend Marie-Eve (another friend from blogging/the Internet!) and she treated me to coffee and a cookie because she’s the best; I popped into the famous church where Celine Dion was married; I paid a visit to the absolutely fantastic and quirky Museum of Fine Arts (which is free for people ages 12-30!); I ate a delicious plate of poutine that my stomach only slightly regrets (and I waited in line outside for this poutine for 10 minutes, in -15 weather, so I think that means I am officially an honorary Canadian now, right?)

It was a fantastic weekend and I added 10,000 words to my writing project. I already have somewhere in mind for my next weekend writing retreat….hint: it will involve a train ride again, only this time I’ll be heading out from Paris instead of New York, and yes I am mentioning this right now solely for the purposes of bragging, don’t even try to act like you aren’t surprised and/or jealous.

(PS: if Montreal is part of your travel plans anytime soon, my friend Marie-Eve wrote a book about it! She even has a chapter dedicated to the most Instagrammable spots in Montreal, which should def be a required chapter in any guidebook ever)

Other writing retreats & Canada visits:
Writing Retreat at the Madonna Inn
Snapshots from a Business Trip to Canada


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