Travel: Montreal..Places Not to Miss
What To Expect
Montreal is a beautiful sophisticated city set on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec Province, Canda. If you travel there, you will never forget it, if you're sensitive to the cold, travel before October because it does get very chilly! Summertime tempertatures don't usually go above 85 degrees F. If you are lucky enough to live on the Northeast coast of the United States, its basically a straight shot due north. The trip takes about eight hours driving from Philadelphia, PA to get there, and, if you're lucky enough to live in upstate New York you are four hours closer (yey!).
French and English are spoken about equally there and visitors who don't speak an ounce of French can get along just fine. Native Montrealians are more than happy to help. There is one big difference between Montreal and other big cities in the States; these people are in no hurry and conduct their business in a very relaxed state of mind and manner. This is sometimes a perplexing characteristic for some travelers to get used to, I found it to be quite a nice surprise. So stay and chat a while at that intimate sweet cafe you found; the owners won't mind at all.
Montreal is the safest city I have ever visited and also the cleanest. Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, Chicage and Washington D.C are all wonderful big cities with a lot to offer, but Montreal can offer you the feel of Europe without having to travel across the Atlantic to get to there!
A City to Walk In
The best way to get to know Montreal is to walk it as much as possible. Just about anything you could want is centrally located. Banks, money exchange centers, all kinds of stores, shops, casual cafes and upscale restaurants are there for the taking, a feast for your senses. If the night life is for you, you will find a vast array of clubs, venues and entertainment to amuse you. You will not run out of things to do. When you walk the city, you truly get the feel of what Montreal is all about.There are different areas you should visit, each with its own unique point of view. For example the Latin Quarter ("Quartier Latin") is chock full of small businesses, artists, musicians, cafes, restaurants, and two colleges (Magill and Concordia Universities). One of my favorite things to do in Montreal is just to watch and listen. These people are very engaged in their world around them, and love to converse about current events. I understand some French, so I was able to pick up bits of information here and there. It is very easy to enjoy yourself in Montreal.
Each building is unique and has a history you may want to look into. This is the main reason to walk through Montreal. Some great landmarks not to miss are Musee D'Art Contemporaire, McGill University (victorian architecture), Canadien Centre for Architecture, and, Basilique Notre Dame (gothic revival architecture). I cannot do this building any justice in words. Just go see and experience it. Take my word for it! This building is soul changing and awe inspiring. There are many other sites to see, so make sure you take some type of travel guide with you and refer to it often! Some of the older buildings are ornate, (townhouses) some with wrought iron embellishments around the windows and balconies, tiny gardens in the petit courtyards, and some with detailed working fountains carved right into them. Although you may have chosen to do a lot of walking while in Montreal, don't forget to dress the sophisticated part (elegance is the key to feeling right in step with the locals). If you visit in the fall I very strongly advise you to dress in light layers (merino wool is great for this); it get very cold! I have a feeling these people would dress up for breakfast. I think its a wonderful way to be.
Your Options for Getting Around
The Metro is probably the best way to get around. A good thing to know (at least the last time I was there in October of 2007) is that fares are by the ride not by the distance. There are at least 65 stops all over the city. Quick and easy is definitely the way to go. Rides cost C$2.50 or US $2.15. Not bad and you can also get a strip of six tickets for C$11 and US $9.80 Of course the best deal when I was there with my family was the weekly pass which, at that time costs C$18, US $16. Prices may have changed slightly since then. Your dollar will buy more (most times) than Canadien money; but check the exchange rate because it can change frequently.
If you insist on driving throughout the city, free parking can be pretty tough; I've been told that metered parking is plentiful. You're better off just finding a parking space where you can stay all day. Parking spaces on Sherbrooke Boulevard changes every 12 hours; two extra outbound lanes are added (you may end up being parked in these lanes, so you will have to move your car to the inbound side of the road before the twelve hours are up or you will be ticketed. If you are staying at a large hotel, your best bet would be to park the car in the hotel garage and take public transportation.
You can also easily rent a car in Montreal, most of the US rental companies also work in Canada. Myself, I'd rather take the Metro; it stops at virtually all sections of the city and you avoid parking headaches! If you happen to be visiting Montreal in the Fall or Winter, definitely ride the Metro and you can spend all day visiting the "underground city". You never have to go out into the cold if you don't want to.
What To Do In Montreal
The question might be...what's not to do? Virtually anything is a possibility. It just depends how long your stay is. My family and I haven't by any stretch of the imagination seen all the great possibilities in Montreal, but we have seen a few. Here are a few suggestions that might interest you:
- Go to The Botanic Gardens: ("Jardin Botanique"); truly lovely, activities for all ages are included.
- Don't miss the Underground City. If you are a shopper, anything you could possibly desire is in the Underground City. Enough said!
- Stop by Magill University
- Stop by Park du Mont-Royal; depending what time of the year it is, you could be ice skating, paddle boating or sledding. This is a great place to go for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts alike. Go to the Belvedere Kondiaronk to get wide angle view of the whole city, also called "Lover's Lookout".
- Go to the Banque de Montreal. This building is from the mid 1800's; it is impressive on the outside and the inside. Its a domed building on the outside really very beautiful on the inside. It might seem like an odd stop, but its worth it just to experience the architecture. There is also a free banking museum inside of it.
- Basilique Notre Dame (built 1829). This church (for want of a better term) is a transformative experience. It shows mankind at his/her creative best. James O'Donnell, an American architect designed it. It has been said that he was so changed from the experience of creating this church that he converted from being a Protestant to Catholic. That says a lot. He is also the one and only person buried there.
- Don't miss the cafes! Anytime you need a break on your walking tour, just stop in, get a light lunch and have fun people watching. You can be sure the natives are watching you! Just let your taste buds do the exploring here.
Some Travel Tip Books
The Lovely Area Where We Stayed
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