05 Apr Montreal, How I Love Thee
Perhaps because I grew up on the West Coast, I had never really caught on to how amazing Montreal would be. Beautiful parks, artsy vibe, international flair, historic architecture, bike-friendliness, Cirque du Soleil- the list of great qualities goes on for miles.
Somehow, throughout my entire life, no one thought to tell me, “Hey, you would love Montreal.” I mean, I was a french major, for crying out loud. This place has my name all over it. (Well, except for the long, freezing winters.)
Anyway, we happened to end up in Montreal one summer because- believe it or not- it was one of the few, cheap, direct flights out of Jamaica (our Peace Corps post)! After more than a year without leaving the island, we decided that our one big off-island vacation required a change of scenery. Montreal turned out to be just what we needed and more.
Our Accommodations in Montreal
My parents flew out to meet us for the first few days of our trip and they arranged for us to stay at Hotel de l’Institut the first night. The location was unbeatable. Deprived of many luxuries after a year of Peace Corps, we were absolutely giddy over the beautiful modern decor, fantastic city views, amazingly comfortable bed, and generous selection at the breakfast buffet.
The remainder of the week, we stayed in an airy apartment in the trendy Plateau neighborhood, which we found through AirBnB (tip: use our link to get up to $40 off your first Airbnb rental). It was a great choice for us, and the full kitchen allowed us to cook some of our own meals (although we also made sure to take full advantage of the variety of great restaurants in the area).
Getting Around Montreal: Walk and Bike!
Summer in Montreal is absolutely beautiful. We went jogging nearly every morning to explore the abundance of city parks and admire the quaint neighborhoods. Parks like Mont Royal and La Fontaine made us seriously consider moving to Montreal.
During the day, we relied primarily on walking and the Bixi bike-share system, which we cannot recommend enough. The fact that the city has bike highways all over the place- sometimes even separated by a median from vehicular traffic- plus Bixi bike locations every couple of blocks, made getting around super easy. (We thought Portland, Oregon was bike friendly, but Montreal put our hometown to shame!) Whenever we got too tired of biking or walking, we just hopped on the Metro instead.
Side note: My parents were right along with us as we biked all over the city. I feel so blessed that they are still willing and able to be active!
Things to See, Do, and Eat (for Cheap)
Among the many places we toured by bike or on foot, were: Old Town and the Old Port, Jean-Drapeau Park, Mont Royal Park, the Olympic Stadium and park, the Latin Quarter, Jean-Talon and Atwater markets, and the Lachine canals.
After paying about $5 a day for the Bixi bike and a few bucks for the occasional metro ride, all of our entertainment and explorations were free. We even saw several free, outdoor shows at the Just For Laughs festival (Montreal hosts a whole slew of festivals in the summer) and free fireworks displays at the Port, thanks to the summer-long International Fireworks Competition.
Mont Royal overlook
For finding great restaurants, our go-to tool is Yelp, which is also catching on in Canada. This brought us to some amazing eateries, like: Le Vin Papillon (french small plates), Rotisserie Romado (carry-out, finger-lickin’ rotisserie chicken), Restaurant l’Avenue (full brunch), Boulangerie Premiere Moisson (pastries and deli, multiple locations), Satay Brothers (SE-Asian, booth at the Atwater Market).
Montreal in July truly captivated our hearts. Perhaps we’ll spend a summer or two there in the future…
Have you ever been to Montreal? What were some of your favorite places to see or things to do? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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