It's the Saturday morning after a 4000-mile journey across the Atlantic, followed by a sleepless night (surely I should be immune to jet-lag having been travelling over international waters for more than just a stint, but jet-lag seems to have formed an attachment to me and continues to mock me.) and it's a hefty effort feigning alertness, even when our guide for the day greets us with such sunny enthusiasm.
However, the sight of decadent desserts and the smell of baking bread I find, form a soothing antidote for a confused body clock and a torpid demeanour. Premiere Moisson at Montreal's Jean-Talon Market is our breakfast destination and as we're presented with a selection of sweet, buttery, melt in your mouth pastries and cappuccinos, I'm suddenly wide awake and ready to absorb Montreal's gastronomic delights.
I love markets, but the Jean-Talon market radiates a shinier freshness and a richer vibrancy I haven't experienced before; the produce is simply more abundant in colour, shape, texture and variety. It's a surprisingly warm day, but the zesty hues of the vast array of squash and pumpkin confirm the embrace of autumn. I've never seen so many different kinds of squash and my echo of 'oohs' and 'aaahs' and the stream of clicks from my camera earn some curious and amused looks. 'You don't have them in England?' asks our guide, as we gape at the different coloured carrots. I shake my head; I've only ever come across orange carrots before. And if the splendid produce on offer didn't already astonish me, the rainbow cauliflower has me mesmerized. Purple cauliflower, anyone?
It's no wonder Montreal has gained such high regard as a foodie capital, for who wouldn't be excited about cooking and experimenting with such wonderful ingredients? The market seems to go on forever, boasting vendors of gourmet cheeses, maple syrup producers, chocolatiers, butchers, fishmongers and spice merchants; there's simply no cooking ingredient you cannot buy here.
One of the things I love about the Jean-Talon market, is that it remains a popular shopping destination with locals and offers better prices, thus giving you a far more authentic experience. It's open 7 days a week, but I'd recommend making a day of it and visiting at the weekend - bring friends, bring your children, explore at leisure, eat and enjoy.
For more images, visit my blog Head in the Clouds.
This article is the first instalment in a series of posts on my foodie adventures in Montreal, Canada.