Montreal: Trip in Review
At the end of July, we made a quick jaunt to Montreal – our first visit there. It’s a lovely city with friendly people, good food, and lots of sightseeing and entertainment options. We were there for Montreal’s Just for Laughs (Juste pour rire) comedy festival.
I’ll blog a little bit over the next week about some of the major highlights. We stayed for three nights.
From our home base near Milwaukee, we flew Air Canada to Toronto, then changed planes and flew into Montreal.
Airport to Downtown
After landing at the Montreal airport, we followed the signage for the STM 747 bus which has convenient (and cheap–$10 CDN) service. Your ticket gets you 24 hours on Montreal’s bus and metro (subway) network. During our stay, some of the city centre was closed for an auto race, so we hopped off the 747 bus at the Lionel-Groulx metro station and then made our way to hotel via the metro. Super easy!
So what should you do in Montreal?
Here’s what we did:
- Walk up to the top of Mount Royal Park (Parc du Mont-Royal)
- Tour Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal)
- Get acquainted with Montreal through a local food tour
- Take a cruise on the Saint Lawrence River
- Visit Saint Joseph’s Oratory (Oratoire Saint-Joseph)
- Learn about Olympic history at Montreal’s Olympic Park (Parc olympique)
- Go to the Montreal Biosphere to learn about the environment
- Stroll through the Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal)
- Visit fun and funky neighborhoods like the Gay Village
- Visit a museum like the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal)
- See a show! The Just for Laughs comedy festival was going on when we were there.
A Bilingual City
So you’ve probably heard about things like the French-language “police” in Quebec? I was curious how things would go. I can speak a bit of Spanish and a tiny bit of Italian. But French? It’s a big, fat no–or non!
You need not be worried though. Simply sprinkling in a few French phrases (bonjour, oui, non, s’il vous plaît, merci, parlez-vous anglais) helps.
During most of our restaurant and shopping situations, we encountered English-speaking staff. However, most the metro stations will not have English-speaking staff. Once when we asked for help, we mimed our way through a transaction–and everything worked out OK.
If you’re used to English-only when traveling the US and Canada–Montreal is a good experience for stepping outside your comfort zone.
Montreal has a lot of bang for its buck. It’s cheaper (and closer) than Paris–and easier to get to. But you still have that distinct feeling of being in a “foreign” culture and experience things as an outsider. Late summer was a beautiful time to visit, too. Our trip focused on food and entertainment and were not disappointed. We would return to Montreal any time.