BONJOUR AGAIN, MONTREAL.
We recently spent five days in the City of Saints; it’s been over 20 years since we last visited, so this was always going to be a jam-packed visit with a learning curve. How do you get up the mountain? Where are the best bars? How do you speak French again?
OUR MOTTO: to explore and understand a city you need to walk through it. And we did, until our legs stiffened and our feet bled. Totally worth it.
Before our trip, we prepared a list of things to do, and we did all of them, and more:
- Old Montréal
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal
- Rue St-Denis
- Canal de Lachine
- Marché Jean-Talon
- Montréal Old Port
- Parc du Mont-Royal
- Tame Impala: a chilled out Aussie with three albums’ worth of great beats – and a confetti cannon.
- The Cure: the classic new wave band that sounded its best playing the hits, which included Pictures of You, In Between Days, Just Like Heaven, Close to Me, and Boys Don’t Cry.
The city buzzed with activity: people pressed their faces against sports bar windows to see the soccer scores, Lamborghinis zipped down the streets, and crowds milled about neighborhood festivals. It seems as though every street corner has its own festival; it’s no wonder that the other nickname for Montreal is “the City of Festivals.”
Our visit to Montréal coincided with a couple of big events, one international and a couple local: UEFA Euro Cup 2016 in France, and the F1 Grand Prix and FrancoFiles music festival in Montreal – an annual French-language music and performance festival held downtown.
We love music, but have virtually no knowledge of French artists short of Men Without Hats and The Box, so the festival was a delightful new discovery. An extra bonus is Montreal’s music stores, where we found a pile of CDs we’d been looking for (yes, we still collect CDs, which is the way you buy your music when you want to own it forever AND have the greatest percentage of the sale go back to the artist – but that’s another blog post).
One way you can tell you’re having a great trip is that everything is better in person than it was in your imagination. It’s hard to pick a best moment – whether it was walking up Parc du Mont-Royal to see the breathtaking view, a three-hour visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, a mind-blowing dinner at Toque! Restaurant, the people and culture, or just the surprise of what Montreal has to offer in terms of design, arts and media. (Then again, maybe it was the Big Ben Porter brewed up by local brewers Brasseurs du Monde.)
If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Montreal, you may want to stay at the Hotel Novotel Montreal Centre, which is the perfect walking distance to Bell Centre (15 minutes), Rue Saint-Catherine (five minutes), and Vieux- Montréal (half an hour). And it’s zero minutes from itself, which you’ll appreciate when it’s time to soak your feet in bathtub full of cold water.
We’re going back again (and again and again), and you’ll probably want to do the same. When you do, make a list – there’s a lot to do in “La Métropole du Québec.”
Until we meet again, au revoir.