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American Bar Association touristic tips for their members : the usual stuff.


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Lawyer’s Survival Guide to Montreal

By Larry Markowitz

 

Montreal is the most European of North America’s cities, blessed with a joie de vivre that makes a visit worth your while at any time of the year.

 

Although the majority of Montrealers are French-speaking, English-speaking visitors will have no problem getting by, especially if those visitors begin their conversations with a courteous “bonjour.”

 

Entertainment

 

Montrealers enjoy life. Lunches are longer, foods are tastier, and the seasons are filled with festivals of all sorts. In the summer, Montreal is renowned for its international jazz festival, featuring hundreds of free outdoor shows, as well as its comedy festival, known as the “Cannes of comedy.” Many a Hollywood sitcom star has been discovered by the talent scouts who frequent the Just for Laughs comedy fest. Even during its cold and snowy winters, Montreal holds festivals such as February’s Montreal High Lights Festival, which features performances, gastronomy, and activities for the whole family.

 

Of course, one cannot ignore Montrealers’ passion for their Montreal Canadiens hockey club, which sells out the 21,000-seat Bell Centre for nearly every home game. Hockey is like a religion for the people of this city. Many local drivers fly a Canadiens’ flag from their automobile, as they encourage the “Habs” to win their twenty-fifth Stanley Cup.

 

During the summer, the hometown 2009 Grey Cup-champion Alouettes of the Canadian Football League play their home games in the open-air Percival Molson Stadium located on the slopes of Mount Royal, the mountain in the center of this island city, from which Montreal takes its name.

 

Visitors who are less interested in sports can visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal museum of contemporary art (Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal) or the leading-edge Canadian Centre for Architecture. Alternatively, visitors may simply go for a stroll atop Mount Royal, along tree-lined pathways designed in the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted, who is best known for designing New York’s Central Park. The pathways of the Old Port along the Saint Lawrence River and the narrow cobblestone streets of adjacent Old Montreal are also pleasant places for a walk, especially when the weather is warm.

 

Visitors from the United Sates should remember to bring their passports, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency now requires a passport to be presented by all those entering (or re entering) the United States. A taxi ride to downtown Montreal from Trudeau Airport costs C$38 (approximately US$36 at the current exchange rate of C$1 = US$0.96) and usually takes less than 30 minutes.

 

Once you’ve arrived in the city center, you’ll discover that Montreal is a very walkable place, with its “underground city” that links numerous office towers, shopping malls, and hotels and provides shelter from inclement weather. Because of its four major universities, three of which are located in the downtown area, and the fact that many residents both live and work downtown, the central core retains an active vibe at all hours of the day and night. The city also features a safe and visually appealing subway (metro) system. For those in a rush, taxis are plentiful, readily available, and quite affordable.

 

Montreal is one of the oldest cities in the “new world.” Old Montreal, the area adjacent to the Old Port, has the largest concentration of 17th, 18th and 19th century architecture in North America. Those buildings are well-maintained and in them, one can find quaint boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants.

 

Accommodations

 

In addition to the boutique hotels, downtown Montreal also has all the usual chain hotels that meet the needs of business travelers and are located in proximity to the office towers that house Montreal’s law firms and corporate head offices.

 

For a trendy boutique hotel in Old Montreal with exposed brick walls in your room, try the Hotel Nelligan (http://www.hotelnelligan.com). If you wish to be pampered in the same chateau-like surroundings as Madonna and the Rolling Stones, try the ultra sumptuous Hotel Le St-James (http://www.hotellestjames.com). For a major downtown business hotel, try the Queen Elizabeth. As an added bonus, 1960’s pop-culture history buffs will be interested to learn that room 1742 of the “Queen E.” was the site of 1969’s famous “Bed-in for Peace” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, during which they recorded their timeless song “Give Peace a Chance” (http://www.fairmont.com/EN_FA/Property/QEH/). Farther uptown and closer to the shopping of Sherbrooke Street (Montreal’s “Fifth Avenue”), and not far from Sainte-Catherine Street, Canada’s busiest shopping thoroughfare, is the luxurious Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile (http://www.sofitelmontreal.com).

 

Dining

 

For cuisine, Montreal’s multiethnic population, combined with its residents’ propensity for going out to dinner, has resulted in a multitude of high-quality restaurants, featuring every imaginable type of food. In fact, Montreal lays claim to having the most restaurants per capita of any North American city.

 

At the basic end of the food spectrum, some local dishes that you might want to sample include poutine, a surprisingly tasty artery-blocking concoction of French fries and melted cheese curds doused in thick brown gravy. You should also sample a smoked meat sandwich with a side-order of kosher dill pickle at Schwartz’s on “The Main” (aka Saint-Laurent Boulevard, which is the traditional dividing line between the more anglophone western half of the city and the more francophone eastern half). Montreal smoked meat is a uniquely spiced and tender smoked brisket that is hand-sliced and served on rye bread with mustard.

 

After sampling a smoked meat sandwich, stop by either Saint Viateur Bagel or Fairmount Bagel for a uniquely Montreal tender hand-rolled bagel, cooked to perfection in a traditional wood-burning oven. There’s no rush to buy your bagels, as both of these institutions remain open 24/7. For more sophisticated cuisine, the absolute top of the top include Toqué! and Club Chasse et Pêche.

 

A top-rated genuine French bistro experience may be had, without the need to fly to Paris, by dining at L'Express, located on Saint Denis Street, a broad avenue lined with numerous eateries.

 

It has been said that Montrealers work to live, rather than the other way around. Hopefully, your travels will give you the opportunity to experience some of the joie de vivre of this “Paris on the Saint Lawrence” sometime soon!

 

Larry Markowitz ([email protected]) is a partner in the Montreal office of McMillan LLP. His practice focuses on securities law and competition/antitrust law.

 

http://www.abanet.org/intlaw/pubs/Montreal/montrealLSG10.html

 

Drôle de hasard : je ne connaissais pas le restaurant Club Chasse & Pêche jusqu'à ce que j'y reconduisse huit de mes clients pour la première fois il y a deux jours !!

Edited by yarabundi
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