It all started with a phone call. We could hear the despair in each other’s voices. It had been a long week and an even longer month. With no vacation days in sight, we were both in desperate need of a break – something that could allow us a quick escape from our mundane daily routines. But where could we go for just a day? Where could two bros find temporary solace from the ever growing pressures of life? And then it hit us…Burlington! Located less than two hours from Montreal we thought we could easily escape for the day and be back before anybody noticed. Our minds were set and our fate was sealed. We quickly gathered the bare necessities for a one day adventure…passports, credit cards, water and two packs of beef jerky.
Montreal’s concrete jungle disappeared in the horizon and was soon replaced by what seemed like endless miles of lush green hills and smooth asphalt. Two packs of beef jerky and several Hall & Oats songs later, we had finally reached our destination. As we drove through the city, the first thing we noticed was the beautiful University of Vermont Campus which looked like something straight out of an American college movie.
The most cliché thing to do in Burlington is explore Church Street Marketplace; and that is exactly what we did. Located in the downtown core, the street is reserved for pedestrians and there are over 100 places to shop and dine. The city gives off a sort of laid back collegiate vibe. This can be evidenced by the abundance of university students sporting beige khakis and driving Subaru Outback’s. If truth be told we weren’t there just to visit hipster kayaking stores or try craft beers; we were there to put Burlington’s local coffee shops to the test.
Walking through Church Street we stumbled on an interesting looking cafe called Uncommon Grounds. We peered inside and noticed the line up at the counter and people continuously pouring in; we thought it would be a good idea to investigate. Unlike many of the trendier cafes in Montreal, we found Uncommon Grounds to be very simply decorated. The one thing that stood out was a no cell phone sign hung above the register. The staff informed us that they encourage their clientele to engage in human interaction and forget about their devices for a little while. We ordered our usual latte-cappuccino combo along with a peanut butter square and a chocolate chip cookie. The coffee itself was average at best, lacking in intensity. It was mostly diluted with milk and did not present the refined flavor we were so accustomed to getting back home. The desserts however were quite good, balancing out the score.
The sun was setting when we crossed the Canadian border, only to be greeted by orange cones and construction detours. It felt both familiar and comforting to drive through the bumps and cracks of Quebec’s pothole ridden streets. As we made our way across the Champlain Bridge, we gazed at our beloved city in all of its glory. It was a city with a bi-polar climate, never-ending construction, terrible traffic and a complex political landscape. But, despite all of its faults and compromises, Montreal had much to offer. It was a city diverse in culture and rich in history. Our coffee is a reflection of that history and we couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that we were finally home.
David & Joey