Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Safari #57: A Bostonian in Montreal

Long weekends and road trips are great, especially when they take you over the border for an international adventure.

Less than a 5 hour drive from Boston, Montreal is perfect for a weekend getaway.  It's a modern city full of old world charm offering enough culture, arts, cuisine, and nightlife to keep you coming back.  The joie de vivre you will find here will be all your very own.

General Information
Montreal is the capital city in the French-speaking province of Quebec.  The majority of tourists spend their time in the borough (arrondissement) of Ville Marie, which contains a number of popular neighborhoods including Old Montreal.  Each neighborhood has it's own pedestrian zone, which are great spots to grab a cool drink, rest your feet, and rub elbows with locals.  Public transport is efficient and reliable, however, some would argue that you're better off on foot.  I suggest a blend of both options just to get a feel for city living.  If you're so inclined, you can also rent a bike.  Montreal is a great place for runners with plenty of paths across the city and near the water.

My Spots
Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal; map)
Upon recommendation from a friend, we visited the Notre Dame Basillica and headed towards Places Jacques Cartier for a cool drink and people watching.  We also saved one evening for a special meal at L'Auberge Saint- Gabriel, an inn well-known for its wonderful cuisine.  The service was excellent, and all of the additional touches from the attentive staff were greatly appreciated.  Even though we had no room for dessert, our waitress indulged our sweet tooths with brownies wrapped to go.

View from Mount Royal

Gay Village
A long walk down St. Catherine Street (Rue de Saint Catherine) led us directly into the Gay Village.  A pedestrian zone during the summer, this street is full of shops, cafes, bars, and nightclubs.  We enjoyed a relaxing lunch and cocktails while enjoying all of the street traffic.  

Mount Royal (Mont Royal; map)
The best view of the city can be seen from the top of Mount Royal.  A simple climb (about 20 to 30 minutes depending on your physical ability), will take you to the top where a panoramic view of the city can be found.  It's a great spot to bring your own lunch and take a break.

Chinese Quarter Paifang

Chinese Quarter (Quartier Chinois)
Every major city has a Chinatown, and Montreal's offers access to pan-Asian cuisine including Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese.  Paifang's mark two major entrances on Rue St. Laurent.  A newer and smaller Chinatown is also located new Concordia Univeristy. 

Plateau (Le Plateau-Mont-Royal; map)
As authentic as you can get, the Plateau is a neighborhood that many Montreal residents call home.  Practice your French and stroll like no one is watching.  We used the opportunity to visit a boulangerie to purchase bread, wine, cheese, and charcuterie. 
Picnik Electronik

Live Music
Montreal is well-known for its many music festivals throughout the year.  Our trip allowed us to partake in the Picnik Electronik - a day long electronic music festival held every Sunday May through September.  We took the Metro from the Plateau to the Island of Notre Dame (Ile Notre Dame) and headed to the festival.  Held directly underneath an Alexander Calder sculpture, festival goers danced to the DJ's never-ending stream of music.  Feel free to bring a bottle of wine (one per person) along with food.  This event was the highlight.

Future Trips
As my first and only time in Montreal, I can say with certainty that I will return again soon to explore more neighborhoods, shop, dance my butt off, and revive my French.

**Thanks to Lisa, Toni-Ann, and Eric for a great trip!  Special thanks to Carolyn for making the recommendation for Places Jacques Cartier and L'Auberge!


  1. Great info! I hope to visit Montreal sometime soon. Thanks!

    1. I hope you can go sometime too! It's awesome :)