Traveling To Montreal

Being married to a Montrealer means I get to visit this city really often. Over the last 5 years I’ve traveled to Montreal 9 times. Here’s my take on what it is like visiting this North Eastern Canadian city:

  1. This city is old. Really old. Streets, buildings, concrete, bridges, and roads are definitely on the old side. This place started becoming official in the early 1600s, but has been inhabited by Native Indians for Millenia.
  2. Montreal is truly an European city. If there is a city outside of Europe that has mimicked Europe it’s Montreal. This is more of an older, cultured city that has a patina of Euro gently smothered over it. Think old and historic not new and sleek. 
  3. The city is named after the only large mountain on the island, Mount Royal. Downtown sits at the foot of the mountain. Generally speaking the island is pretty flat. Mount Royal is the only topographically salient structure.
  4. Old Port is situated in the Old part of Montreal. Its cobblestone streets and small eateries and cafes give it a distinctive European tinge to it. If you come all the way to this city you need to get on foot and stroll up and down Old Port.
  5. The infrastructure of the city is ancient as anything. All the plumbing, pipes, sewers, concrete are ancient. But the most egregious offense is surely potholes the size of typewriters that are littered throughout the city. Hit one of these at a decent rate and you may loosen up your suspension a bit. If you live here, you should probably buy a tank. Or a raised SUV at the very least.
  6. It’s so cliche to talk about traffic in a large city. I get it, every city has bad traffic. But Montreal has traffic because the roads are so narrow and haphazardly planned. There are 2 million people who live on this island. Throw in some snow and ice and it’s ruby and diamonds all night long on the highways.
  7. The police are strict. They aren’t messing around. I knew a friend in Montreal who got stopped for running in the middle of downtown. “Hey why are you running, what’s the problem?”. If you have rust on your car, you can have your car impounded by the police. Police strongly enforce minor infractions like using your phone while driving, not locking your doors when parked, parking on the side of the street for a 2 min Dep stop. The Montreal police force is ready. Are you?
  8. Montreal loves construction like no other city. Almost every time I have been there, a chunk of the island is dug up. My wife’s neighborhood was literally dug up 10 feet deep. I have no idea what they are doing, but shutting main lanes on a major road creates insane traffic. Last year I went and huge chunks of St. Catherine street were missing. They are digging and digging hard. For what, I do not know.
  9. Montreal has a ton of gyms. I can’t explain the phenomenon, but I noticed that the island is rife with good gyms. Powerflex, World Gym, YMCA, Gold’s, etc. Choose a gym and lift three ways till Sunday. 
  10. Montreal does stores and plazas well. They have a large variety of grocery stores, produce markets, dep’s, and their Carrefour mall in Laval is a monster. Shopping is great in Montreal. Go to St. Catherine’s in downtown and you have shops lined up for a mile.
  11. Montreal is very multi-racial and multi-religion: Arabs, Jews, North Africans, Quebecois, Chinese etc. All of this helps Montreal offer a wide spectrum of food. I love it.
  12. Naturally Montreal is very French. It is the official default language and culture. All menus are in French. Signs and print can be in French too. Many people speak French and yet many people speak English. 
  13. Montreal has a ton of cafe’s. They have chains like Second Cup and Cafe Press. They also have a variety of individually owned cafe’s like Premiere Moisson. Grab your laptop and get coffee and pastry. That’s exactly what I do when I go.
  14. My experience tells me that Montrealer’s are not particularly the warmest of folk. They are pretty functional and transaction oriented. You would expect to see more pleasantries exchanged in general but I didn’t see a whole lot of this. People here just want to get stuff done. 
  15. People in Quebec pay high federal and provincial tax sales tax. 
  16. Drivers in Montreal are not afraid to honk you for any reason. Stay sharp on the road.
  17. I noticed that the younger generation in Montreal, say under 40, aren’t glued to their smartphones. It’s actually rare to see people stationery scrolling through their phones. It doesn’t seem to be a thing from what I can tell.
  18. Montreal has some amazing houses. Bois Franc neighborhood has amazing condos and townhouses not to mention an insanely beautiful park. Nouveau Saint Laurent truly has some of the nicest brick and stone mansions that I have ever seen. The vast areas around Mount Royal are older and have a lot more character, think brick houses with vines growing on it. Kind of like the main house that the X-Men live in.
  19. As for the weather, the winter obviously is punishing and the summer can be very hot. But it’s really the winter that you have to look out for. It is easily on par with Chicago’s winter.

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