D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Montreal Vacation - The Day-By-Day

Saturday, June 23, 2007 4:24 PM

So this past week we went to Montreal to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. I've been to Montreal before for Dev Teach and on business, but this was the first full week to explore Montreal, and my wife had never been. Info here serves a few purposes: For one it serves as my personal journal that you may find entertaining. Secondly, it has some good tips/reviews/comments on Montreal and Quebec City that, if you're planning on taking a trip there, you might be interested in reading. So let's get on with it.

Day 1 - Flight Out

We took WestJet out to Montreal from Winnipeg...they still don't have in-flight TV's on all their planes though...bugger. Once we landed, we got the next bit of bad news: Budget was all out of the compact car model that we had booked...so we had to settle for a Dodge Charger instead. ;)

Montreal Tip 1: Check for your hotel's parking policy.

Downtown Montreal real-estate is at a premium. In fact, one travel book I read said that 60% of all Montreal-ers rent their living spaces. What does this have to do with parking? Well...there isn't any that's free. Many hotels in other cities will give you free parking for staying at the hotel. Ours charged $18 a day, so if you plan on renting a car just check the parking policy ahead of time to make sure that you aren't getting a surprise bill.

Another thing to consider is whether you need to rent a car at all. There's a flat rate for taxis going from the airport to downtown Montreal ($35), and you really don't need a car at all to get around Montreal. Between the Metro and just walking, having a car is actually more of a pain (trying to find parking, extra gas, etc).

Back to the trip...

Driving in Montreal isn't as scary as I thought it would be. Nobody goes the speedlimit for one thing, but everyone is very courteous in merging and lane changing. you get used to the position of the traffic lights too (in Manitoba they're over the center of the road...in Montreal, most are off to the side and lower).

We hit Crescent Drive for dinner and called it a day.

Day 2 - Shopping

We spent Sunday shopping. Montreal has an Ikea, so we checked that out and found a residential mall as well. We then got totally lost in suburban Montreal. When we did get back to the main throughways we missed our turnoff twice, and twice drove through the underground tunnel portion of the 720. We got a good idea of where everything was in Montreal though.

Day 3 - Tourist-Type-Stuff

Monday we hit the Bio-Dome, Insectarium, and Botanical Gardens. The Bio-Dome is a big zoo in a bubble, but worth checking out if you're going to see the Botanical Gardens anyway.

  1. The insectarium was very kewl, and a must see if you're fascinated by bugs. They have this one sweet exhibit of live ants cutting leaves and flower petals, carrying them back to "drop zones". I also found out that I weigh the same as over 5.5 million ants...must be the added muscle.

The Botanical Gardens are a must see. it's like walking through a huge, well maintained park...but with way more plants and flowers. Gorgeous everything.

Montreal Trip 2: The Metro Is Your Friend

We had never been on a subway...ever...so it was an experience we were looking forward to. Getting around Montreal is crazy easy using the Metro, and super fast. Tickets will run $2.75 a pop, although I'm pretty sure that we might have been able to get a book of tickets at a discount...never looked into it though. Once you ride the Metro a few times, you get the hang of it and it will be your best friend when exploring Montreal by foot.

Day 4 - Quebec City

Are you a history buff? Do you just HAVE to see every historic site when you vacation? Then definately check out Quebec City...otherwise, spend your day at Isle d'Orleans or the Laurentians or some other place that ISN'T Quebec City.

If you're going to visit Quebec City realize that

- It's a 3 hour drive from Montreal (2.5 if you drive faster than the speed limit, which everyone does)

- Don't bring a standard transmission car unless you're really skilled at driving on steep hills

- You need to know where you're going in the city ahead of time...I mean EXACTLY know...routes, streets, parking, the whole bit.

There are very few signs pointing you in the direction of important locations. We drove into the park that houses the Citadele, but never saw any signs showing how to enter it for a tour...so we missed out. We also looked for the location of a museum that talked about the battle that occurred on the Planes of Abraham between the British and the French...but the Canadian parks employee we talked to didn't speak English and couldn't help us. There was also posters up talking about how there was a re-enactment of the epic battle that occurred daily...what it didn't mention was that it was performed using local children to act it out...nothing like what you see with the States and their Civil War re-enactments.

So think about it before you head out to Quebec City...we got some nice pictures and a good workout, but that's about it.

Montreal Tip 3: Don't be stupid, wear the right shoes!

You may be tempted to look all haute couture while visiting Montreal and Quebec City. If you enjoy having huge blisters on your feet for the remainder of your trip, then by all means: couture it up. But the reality is that you will do a tonne of walking in Quebec City and Montreal...and not just straight-ahead type of stuff: these places are hilly like you wouldn't believe. Make sure to pack good running shoes and be realistic about what you're going to be doing on a given day. Wearing heels or dress shoes to the Botanical Gardens is asking for trouble.

Montreal Tip 4: Knowing French

You don't need to know French to visit and enjoy Quebec...as in the province. However, if you venture out of Montreal then be prepared for some language barriers. On our way back to Montreal, we stopped at a McDonalds in some small French town on the way. I asked the girl if she spoke English and she said a little...so I proceeded to order a "Numero Une". She looked at me like I was speaking spanish. How could I mess up saying "One" in French?! But it all worked itself out, so all good. But be prepared: Montreal is English friendly, but Quebec City and the smaller communities might not be bilingual.

Day 5 - Old Montreal and Anniversary Day

After working out in the morning, we headed out to Old Montreal via the Metro. The Conceirge at the hotel suggested this great spot called Jardin Raymond at Place Jacques-Cartier...amazing place (see all my restaurant reviews toward the end of this post). They had an outside patio hidden behind their regular building, with live musicians playing.

We hit some of the historic sites on the map: Chapelle Notre Dame de Bon Secoures, Chateau Ramzay Museum, le Ben and Jerry's (ok, not so historic, but c'mon...its Ben and Jerrys).

We ended up at the Basilique Notre Dame, a towering church based on the Notre Dame in France. The church is unbelievable...I felt like I was in the last level of some gothic Castlevania-type game. The detail work, architecture, lighting and atmosphere was unbelievable. If you're going to go make sure you go early though, as they close around 5ish...and bring money as they charge $4/person and they only take cash.

That night we went to a restaurant called Le Latini...review is below with the others.

After dinner we walked down to the waterfront with a tonne of people to check out the fireworks that were launched from La Ronde (6-Flags-run park in Montreal...we never actually went there).

Day 6 - Shopping Day and seeing Toronto get Owned

St. Catherine's is the main shopping street in downtown Montreal. There's actually a huge underground mall as well that you can access from numerous places along St. Catherine's.

So yeah, picked up some clothes, etc. etc....

but then Thursday night rolled around...

I was able to get some tickets to the Montreal Alouettes/Toronto Argonauts pre-season game. Even though it was only pre-season, it was great to see my team play at home. We were in the top-most row of the stadium overlooking an end zone (from an angle though, not directly behind). Very good seats, although you couldn't make out what was happening at the other end too well. We got 3 Montreal TD's in our end though, so it was all good.

They provide a free shuttle service via transit buses to and from the game to various stops downtown, so getting to the stadium is a breeze.

Day 7 - Last Day

We spent most of the last day in Montreal shopping (mainly souveniers for family and stuff). Urban Outfitters is a kick ass store btw.

Day 8 - Leaving for Home

Today I left Montreal relaxed, rejuvenated, and focused. It's funny how a week with no laptop let's you focus on things around you. I read two books over the week: Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Copeland and Roasting in Hells Kitchen, the auto-biography of Gordon Ramsey...both excellent reads. Funny...it took getting away from everything just to get through not just one but two books in a week.

Montreal is a beautiful place, and you really do need to experience it at least 3 to 4 times in your lifetime...more if you can. The culture, the people, the atmosphere...its like nothing you find out here in the Western prairies.

It's late and I'm tired...so I won't be doing the restaurant reviews until tomorrow in a separate post. But believe me: finding food in Montreal is NOT a problem.



# re: Montreal Vacation - The Day-By-Day

I am planing to go to Montreal in a couple days. I may stay with a friend of mine.. Any website I can see attractions in Montreal ?
Thanks 5/6/2008 10:36 AM | Miami

# re: Montreal Vacation - The Day-By-Day

St. Catherine's is the main shopping street in downtown Montreal. There's actually a huge underground mall as well that you can access from numerous places along St. Catherine's. 7/31/2008 7:31 AM | forummekan.org

# re: Montreal Vacation - The Day-By-Day

Montreal is a beautiful place, and you really do need to experience it at least 3 to 4 times in your lifetime...more if you can. The culture, the people, the atmosphere...its like nothing you find out here in the Western prairies. 4/3/2010 2:40 AM | otoemlak

# re: Montreal Vacation - The Day-By-Day

Your vacation was wonderful. Your experience made me to think about carnival cruise lines. I always wanted to go on a ship to see new countries in this way. Soon, when I will come from this holiday I you tell my story too.
3/27/2011 3:06 PM | inout

# re: French travel vacation

I must admit I am a bit envious of you because you get to travel so much. I am planning a trip to France next month through the holiday rentals France travel agency. I will get the chance to practice my French but also to find out more about this beautiful country. Canada is also on my list of destinations I just have to reach but it won't be able to until next year. 2/12/2013 11:19 PM | MarcDebois

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