Jump to content

Recommended Posts

  • Administrator

Vive Montreal!

It may not be Paris, but city is awash with Old World charm, warmth for Christmas

 

By Mary Milz

Special to The Courier-Journal

 

Some say if you can't afford Paris, try Montreal, the most European city in North America. Not quite. Montreal is no Paris. And thanks to the strong Canadian dollar, it's not the bargain it once was, either.

 

But it's still well worth the trip even on those nippy December days when temperatures hover in the 20s. With its strong French Catholic heritage, Montreal dresses in its Christmas finest and lights up for the holidays, encouraging visitors to join in the revelry.

 

Montreal transported this Midwesterner worlds away without jumping time zones, without confusion over currency and without need of a pocket translator. It's just a two-hour fight from Chicago, Canadian coins pretty much mirror American, and while French is the primary language, everyone we encountered spoke English too.

 

Montreal is Canada's second-largest city. More than 3.6 million people call the greater metropolitan area home. At first glance, Montreal stands out as a modern city with its gleaming skyscrapers, upscale shopping and internationally known restaurants. But bundle up and stroll its vibrant and varied neighborhoods and you find Montreal oozes Old World warmth and charm.

 

Montreal provides the perfect three- to five-day getaway for travelers wanting big-city excitement without big-city hassles. Culturally diverse and rich in history, Montreal offers everything from top-notch museums and centuries-old churches to fabulous food and lively night life.

 

Travelers intent on holiday shopping may feel giddy at the options. Saint Catherine Street, one of the longest streets in North America, is home to scores of trendy boutiques as well as the city's most prominent retailers, including Ogilvy. The landmark department store is famous for its bagpipers, who announce the noon hour each day; and its legendary Christmas windows, which come alive with animated toy animals.

Shoppers wanting edgier, funkier gifts will enjoy browsing Saint Laurent Street. And if it's too frigid outdoors, shoppers can escape to the underground city. Twenty-two miles of subterranean walkways link shopping centers, boutiques, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and the subway.

 

No need for a rental car. The Metro is fast, cheap and easy to navigate. Underground trains make stops every five to 10 minutes, taking passengers to 68 stations across the city. A single fair is $2.75; a three-day pass, $17, is also good for buses. Several police officers assured us it was safe at all hours.

 

 

Montreal also enjoys a reputation for being well-kept. A recent survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting rated it the 10th cleanest city in the world. Beware; this city takes its clean image seriously. As of last spring, anyone caught flinging trash on the ground faced a fine of up to $1,000!

In addition to its cleanliness, Montreal prides itself on diversity, reflected in its assorted ethnic neighborhoods ranging from Chinatown to the Latin Quarter (also great areas for finding fun and unusual gifts). One afternoon, we wandered into the Mile-End neighborhood and stopped in the Fairmount Bagel Bakery where it's nothing but bagels and matzahs. It has been in business since 1919. Employees roll the bagels by hand, boil them and then bake them in wood-burning ovens. Scrumptious! No wonder they turn out more than 1,500 a day.

 

We walked across the street to a small market selling imported cheeses, marinades, olive oil and specialty chocolates, striking up a conversation with owner Luigi DiVito. When we asked what he thought distinguished Montreal from other Canadian cities, such as Toronto, he said, "People are very open, very friendly, very welcoming. There's more life here. We like to live. The food and restaurants are amazing."

 

Our stomachs agreed. Montreal is known for its fine cuisine, and with close to 6,000 restaurants, the choices are daunting. While French-style restaurants and bistros were once the mainstay, diners now find a hearty selection of Middle Eastern, North African, Asian and Latin-American eateries, to name a few. Our hotel's concierge proved especially helpful in narrowing the choices.

 

While we found prices comparable with large metropolitan cities, many Montreal restaurants offer table d'hote or fixed-price meals. You can get a three- or four-course meal for slightly more than the price of an a la carte main course.

 

After a week of experiencing Montreal and its popular attractions, we left enamored and singing a decidedly different tune: Even if you can afford Paris, try Montreal.

 

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071028/FEATURES05/710280350

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...
adblock_message_value
adblock_accept_btn_value