I recently spent a weekend out in the Canadian province of Quebec. It was actually 4 days over a long weekend. The first two days were spent in Quebec City, but the last two were in Montreal, which is what I will write about.
By Canadian standards, Montreal is a very cool city. There is a lot of history, a vibrant night life, and architecture to match.
Where To Stay
I stayed in the Days Inn on Boulevard Rene-Levesque. This turned out to be a pretty good choice. The price was reasonable and the service pretty good. The rooms were nice and there is free internet and printer access on the 2nd floor for all the guests (just use your keycard).
Boulevard Rene-Levesque is inbetween two of the areas we wanted to see as well. St. Catherines was the next street to the north and Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal) was to the south. Both you can walk to if you don’t feel like trying to find parking.
I would recommend staying on Rene-Levesque too, if you don’t feel like paying higher prices to be in Old Montreal. It might take you 15 minutes to walk there, but it puts you closer to St. Catherines anyways.
Note On Parking
Parking sucked more than just a little bit, in my opinion. Parking isn’t necesarrily standard at the hotels. Make sure you ask if parking is included in your hotel cost and if it is not, what it does cost. Our hotel offered underground parking and parking in an exposed lot. We went for the exposed lot for $12/day.
Please note my section in Where To Stay on parking at hotels. Parking can be hard to find in the busier sections of the city. We especially found it hard to find in Old Montreal. But if you do find a spot at night, chances are it will be free, which is really nice. Make sure to read the signs as well. Everything seems to have a time when it is either free to park or you cannot park there at all.
A number of signs along the busier routes will look like bus signs, but if you look closely, there might be a free parking time.
Another neat feature is their new parking meters. You park at a spot and there will be a little sign post for your car spot. Remember the letter and number (like B132). You then walk to the machine, punch in your parking spot code and it shows you how much time is left and you can add time using coins or credit cards. It then prints out a receipt and you do not need to put it back in your car. Just keep going on your way. Very convenient.
Shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Definitely check it out. There are some malls and just a whole ton of stores to look through. You can park on a number of the side streets and just start walking.
My wife is a big fan of Simons where you can find a large variety of clothes for reasonable prices. It is a chain so you can find it more places than just St. Catherines.
By the way, we went farther east down St. Catherines late at night and found ourselves in a section of the street that must have been the “gay village” I have heard about in Montreal. Lots of restaurants and clubs, but 99% of the people on the street were men and a lot of them were obviously couples.
This is a neat section of Montreal. The night life was very busy. Tons of restaurants and quite of few of them had live music. There are patios all over, tourist shops, hotels, street performers, and a few street vendors. We arrived on a Saturday night and the place was packed with people. I’m probably ignorant of what tourist season is really like, since we were there in May, but it was still pretty neat.
On Saturday night, we went to Jardin Nelson. This was a cool little restaurant that had a patio section inbetween two buildings. Massive up-side down umbrella type things where there to catch rain and funnel them into tubes going down into the ground. A jazz band played up on a little stage while massive glowing panels on the walls changed colours. There are heat lamps there as well so it was quite warm really.
One of the Patios in Old Montreal
The Sunday night, we went to The Keg. Not exactly unique to Montreal, but it was quite nice.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This is in Old Montreal as well. Very neat if you have not seen cathedrals before. A lot like Europe. We just walked right in, but I think you might have to pay a fee sometimes. We could take pictures, but we were kept to the back of the church because a service was about to start.
Across from Notre Dame on the other side of the fountain/statue is the original Bank of Montreal. It is a pretty neat building as well.
The Big O
I had to go see the building. If you do not know, it is the Olympic Stadium. You can see if from almost anywhere in the city it seems. A massive structure. They say it has cost close to a billion dollars with the original construction, repairs, and other problems this building has cost over the years. Apparently neither the city nor the province wants ownership of it now.
Take a drive up here and look around. It gives you an excellent vantage point of Montreal. The downtown, river, Expo site, and the Big O are all visible from up here. Again, you were supposedly supposed to pay for parking, but we just hopped out, took our pictures, and left.
University of McGill
Just blocks north from the shopping part of St. Catherines is the university. If you like to check it out, it has some neat buildings and lnadscaping. The university crowd is always fun too.