[Travel advice] Montreal

Random Observation/Comment #348: There’s something about listening to Rhapsody in Blue live that just makes the whole vacation better.

see lemons bonjourThings Montreal Does Well:

  • Architecture of common houses.  Driving through Montreal, I just noticed there was something commonly interesting about all the apartments – they all have balconies and really high ceilings. These apartments are all 2 or 3 story NYC brown-stone-like housing with long winding stairs headed to the second floor from the front.  I’m guessing that each floor is rented for a different family.
  • Poutine. Eat it! It’s like mashed potatoes with cheese on crack. Mont Royal Hot Dog (a block from St Viateur bagel café, which you should also go to) has some of the best tasting poutines in the world.
  • Bagels. Usually you either order a white (sesame) or black (poppy seed) bagel, but St Viateur bagel café has gotten more classy and extended to many other crazy combinations. I really just love the smell of these bagel cafes because the brick oven is completely in sight and the smell of fresh bagels is a wonderful thing.
  • Au Pied de Cochon. This is a new favorite restaurant, although the service can be spotty.  I loved the bison tongue and the fried ball of duck fat/foie gras. Just order it. Here’s the full yelp review. You’re welcome.
  • Biodome. I’m not sure how touristy this place is, but it’s a pretty cool looking zoo. Within the biodome part, we walked around looking at uncaged animals. As a photographer and penguin lover, I thought it was worth it.
  • No pennies. Finally, they got rid of pennies somewhere. I’m just mentioning this because it was random and a refreshing fact.
  • Jazz festivals. Man, this place can throw a jazz festival. It spanned all of downtown with 6 full stages a few blocks from each other. Because they were fairly close together and played outside, the scheduling worked so you can walk from place to place to hear the 45 minute sets.  My favorite was the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Things Montreal Can Improve:

  • Parking. Parking has gotten much more expensive and confusing. Stickers on the cars mark where locals having parking priority. If possible stay downtown and ride your bikes. If you do get parking, they usually only taking coins, so have a bunch of them. To stay on the safe side, look at the other cars parked on the block: if they have a sticker, you probably shouldn’t be parking there.
  • French attitude, or Frenchitude, of the Frenchists. To be honest, it’s not that bad (or at least not any worse than New York or Paris attitude), but it’s something you’ll recognize. People in Montreal love to speak French and for some reason I just get the feeling they really hate tourists – but I guess who doesn’t? Damn tourists…

Lessons Learned:

  • in June 2013, the US to Canadian dollar conversion was around 1.04, so I just paid with USD cash.  If you don’t’ have a credit card that waives conversion fees, remember to bring enough cash. Your change, of course, will be in Canadian dollars. If you’re driving on the way back to the states, the duty free is a good way to spend the rest of your Canadian money.
  • If weather permits, spend some time outside in the Parc du Mont-Royal.  It has a lot of hiking and biking paths and it’s great for a nice stroll.
  • Montreal stays pretty cool even during the summer. I would definitely check the weather because it’s most likely going to be slightly muggy, but not too blistering hot in June/July.  Definitely bring a hat and a light vest.
  • Walking is favored since parking sucks, so bring comfortable shoes.

What a beautiful city and overall lovely country, eh? I love how the Quebec area in general has a lot of cultural pride and has not tried to become a city it’s not.  I’m completely sold on coming here again just for the Foie Gras Cromesquis.

~See Lemons Love Montreal