I wrote this piece for a scholarship earlier this year. I've always loved it and have always wanted to share it. As I prepare for my upcoming trip back to the city that stole every inch of my heart I look back on the unforgettable experience I had in December and wait with bated breath for my return at the end of the month.

Wintertime in Montréal is like an icy, edgy playground that unapologetically defies all your expectations. Its people are as unfazed about the harsh winters as we are about a spring day. The beautiful white covered streets remind you, ‘just have fun tonight!’

It’s where hipsters, festival freaks, Parisians and the Québécois French perfectly collide, evocative of a French movie with English subtitles. I realized the people are what you come for; the people are the most captivating.

Happy to share their city by embracing a myriad of lifestyles, you’re instantly greeted with a slice of old school Europe in an avant-garde pie. Montréal is the definition of a cultural juggernaut. It's people’s uninhibited creative spirit is best showcased in the progressive gastronomy and mixology scenes, and stunning street art waiting in the most unexpected places.

The city’s overwhelming sense of hospitality embraced me as I walked into a little restaurant in Old Port on a wintry night before Christmas. Greeted by the magnetic smiles of two charismatic bartenders, I let the hazy red lights envelop me in a sea of people fusing the city's diversity.

The bar’s pulsating beats thrust me into the scene the city is known for – great frivolity and quality conversation. How could I resist? Our nonstop discussion about the city flowed in sync with my exquisitely curated cocktails and, six hours later, I walked into the shivery night, warmed by the visible passion my new friends have for their hometown. This exuberant passion for life made me fall in love with Montréal, and I smiled to myself, thinking of the Christmas Eve invite I had received from one of my perfectly styled cohorts. Some of the best things take you by surprise.

Before I knew it, 24 hours had flown by, and ten Italian-Canadians were greeting me as if I was one of their own. I felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance and celebration as they entertained me with stories of their close-knit family. By the end of the evening, even though I was more than 3,000 miles from my family, I was filled with the Montréal “joie de vivre”, feeling perfectly at home.

As I stepped into the cold on Christmas Day, maple taffy from a sugar vendor in hand, the city’s uninhibited vibrancy flowed through me. I thought to myself, ‘how did I get here?’. The answer was unmistakably transparent: I didn’t want to just see Montréal; I wanted to feel its citizens’ underlying attachment, even if just for one more night.