When I landed in Montreal, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was welcomed into a French-speaking city with a familiar North American vibe. I immediately felt the city’s energy and the laid-back atmosphere of the people.

I appreciated that Montreal values a good breakfast, and I headed over to L’Avenue in the Plateau area. L’Avenue is a eclectic, bustling restaurant with a line out the door and down the sidewalk. The inside has a 60’s and 80’s retro ambiance, decorated with graffiti-painted walls and a motorcycle hanging from one wall. When the server handed me the French-only menu, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The food is the main attraction, and each guest is served a fruit kabob upon seating. The Eggs Benedict is the most popular dish, but I decided on the Canadian-style sampler of French toast, pancakes, sausage, bacon and potatoes — and Canadian maple syrup to top it off! I didn’t want to leave feeling like I missed out on something.

After I was stuffed with plenty of carbs to burn, I headed to Old Montreal to explore the 16th century architecture and cobblestone streets. While walking through the area, I found myself among a sea of selfie sticks and DSLR cameras, with people snapping photos in front of the Notre-Dame Basilica. The church is famous for its wood-carved interior, and Celine Dion was married here. Old Montreal’s historic building facades are juxtaposed with a variety of 21st century businesses, ranging from clothing boutiques to coffee shops.

I decided to stop at Tommy Cafe for a cappuccino. The interior of the former British Empire building is the perfect setting for a group chat, study session or refuge from a passing rain cloud inside the bi-level coffee shop.

The Old Port has transformed into an entertainment district populated with a list of activities, including: wall-repelling, zip-lining, scary houses and a pirate ship obstacle course. You can also find food vendors, retail shops, restaurants, a museum and park space for people to enjoy the mild summer days. The port is active with jet-skis, yachts, dinner cruise boats and cruise liner ships operating along the Saint Laurent river.

The city of Montreal is actually an island,  measuring 300 square miles — roughly three times the size of Manhattan. Montreal is similar to Chicago where they experience brutal winters, as well as beautiful summers, so there’s always something amazing to see.

If you want to escape the city and surround yourself in nature, head over to Mount Royal. Mount Royal is the crown jewel of Montreal, standing 717 feet above the city. Part of the mountain is occupied by a park, which is great for getting active on the many trails by walking, running or bicycling. The Belvédère Kondiaronk lookout point is perched above the skyline, and it’s a great spot to soak up the panoramic views of downtown. At sunset, the island is covered with a natural glow, and the sky is painted in hues of blue and pink. I never would have guessed Montreal would be this fun!