Montreal is a lovely city. I enjoy traveling to and exploring cities, but at the end of the day my introvert nature needs a little peace. Old Montreal at night offers that tranquility while still being exciting for the extroverts who thrive on activity and the bustle of the city. Montreal has experiences to please every personality. People who have been to Montreal love to compare it to Paris or New York City. I promise, it is neither. Montreal is a city that belongs to itself. If you are a modern city dweller you will appreciate Downtown. My history friends and foodies will enjoy Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) and creatives and nature lovers will be happy with Mount Royal.
I was in the city for a little over a day so I did not see everywhere, but we did arrive with a small list of “must-sees” and kept the rest of the trip relaxed and spontaneous.
To travel lovely in Montreal you must be prepared. Cramming in too much activity everyday will keep you from enjoying the moment and you will miss out on opportunities for adventure to unfold organically. Running around to get to point a to b to c to d is exhausting. Make a top three list of places or experiences for the weekend and let the rest happen naturally.
Tea on the train. Le sigh. If you are close enough to drive, you will get there faster than by train. If you’re further away, plane travel is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a relaxed and scenic journey (perhaps even a romantic trip), traveling the rails is the only way to go. It was a cloudy weekend and the leaves are just beginning to change, but we saw the loveliest of sites on our way.New York apple farmers are busy harvesting this time of year.Don’t forget your passport!The mot important piece of wisdom I can impart on you from our trip is to book your lodging several weeks in advance. Accommodation in the city books quick and is extremely expensive. We did not know for sure if we could make the trip when we did so we waited too long to book a hotel. The cheapest room we could find was $230 a night. Many hotels were around the $400 range and some even went up a few hundred more than that! If I may so bold to suggest, go with Airbnb.com. It is simply amazing. You’ll get a better deal, or at least a much better room or place for the price. Hostels are also located around the city. A dorm is only $20 a night and private rooms are an extra $10. They also fill up fast.
Another must is to travel light. I know its tempting to bring everything you think you might need, but I promise you’ll need less than you think. I picked up this petite duffle bag from Target right before we boarded the train because it zipped and was small enough to carry around. I was looking for a slightly smaller bag, but having a little extra room isn’t a bad thing, as long as I don’t fill it up to the zipper. In a city you’ll want a bag that zips to keep your luggage safe from sly pickpockets.
Traveling light is convenient, saves your back and shoulders from strain, and makes navigating the sidewalk and metro a breeze. This is what I packed:
- One pair of grey pants
- One pair of flat brown boots
- My unmentionables (enough for the whole weekend) and socks
- One undershirt
- Three shirts
- A scarf
- My wrap
- A light jacket
- My notebook and a pen
- My wallet and a mini purse for light travel around the city
- The essentials: toothbrush, tooth paste, brush, a hair tie, and bobby pins
- Makeup: spf 30 face lotion, organic powder, organic mascara, organic blush, mineral wear brown eye shadow, and organic lip stick
- A book for the train
- My Lonely Planet Montreal guide book
- My compact mirror-less Fujifilm x100 T camera with extra batteries and memory cards (More on this later!)
It sounds like a lot, but most of it I wore and the rest folded down really small when well organized. Everything, including my jacket, fit in this bag. I used to be the girl with the bulging suitcase, but I said see ya’ wouldn’t want to be ya’ to that years ago when I came home from London with a huge duffle I could not carry from London Heathrow to JFK Airport. Never again! These days I am carry on only. When I fly anywhere, no matter how long I plan on being gone, I only pack a carry on and a small bag that I can lift and carry around with minimal effort. In cities and the metro rolling bags are a nuisance so if I know I will be walking a lot I bring a bag I can carry around instead of one on wheels. I prefer the minimalist approach.
Those ugly, but oh-so-comfy fuzzy socks you get for the holidays are the perfect buffer to protect your feet and keep you cozy.The fastest way to get around the city is the metro. Do yourself a favor and pick up a pass. Unlimited weekend passes are only $13 each. Crepes for breakfast at Tutti Fruitti. Yum! Do your research before you go and pick a select few must-sees based on your interests. I highly recommend the Musee Des Beaux-Arts Montreal (Museum of Fine Arts). It is a free museum that consists of four buildings connected by underground tunnels. This is where we saw Napoleon’s hat! Down the street is a sweet little chocolatier called “Divine” that serves delicious bon bons and ice cream. Mini nutellas!I wish I could get around by bike like this in the US. Flowers can be found decorating the entire city. Vieux-Montreal is my absolute favorite part of the city. The beautiful old buildings are simply lovely. Artists and performers line the streets. This is the place for foodies, shopping, family adventures, and exploration.
We tried Poutine (french fries covered in gravy and topped with cheese curds) at Montreal Poutine, a true hidden gem in Old Montreal with a gorgeous courtyard and bar. The peach juice there was also incredible! We came back here for apps and dessert after dark. Our table was the one to the left:The Old Port has an amazing looking ropes course and zip line. Bring sneakers! In the summer you may also rent paddle boats. To the left of the port, overlooking the water, there is a manmade beach with blue umbrellas and you may also see the amusement park. Sights from the Vieux-Port:This is the old market building. Here you will find public restrooms. You can’t miss the tall dome on top:Montreal is an incredibly clean city with plants everywhere. Notre Dame Basilica is located just down the road from the center of Old Montreal. With its two towers on the front facade, it does somewhat resemble Notre Dame de Paris, but that is as far as the similarities go. Notre Dame Basilica is much smaller and less ornate on the outside, but the artful walls inside make this an absolute must-see. Unfortunately there was a service occurring while we were there so we did not get to go inside this time around, but based on the photos I have seen I know that I must go back to see it in person. We saw several newlyweds while in Vieux-Montreal. I have to book a wedding there. If anyone is looking, I’m in! Vieux-Port has the best view of the city because the lights reflect on the water. Dessert and wine on the rooftop terrace of La Cage, overlooking the streets of Old Montreal. A romantic and calm way to celebrate our eight year dating anniversary. The dome car on the train home! It is open for only a short time during the months of October and November for viewing the leaves. It was quiet at first, but the car was full by the end of the trip. Perfectly peaceful for writing in my blogging journal. A day in the city was just a lick of the icing on the cupcake. I will definitely be planning another trip for another taste of the city as there is so much more to see. (And so much French to learn!)
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