In an effort to take baby steps in traveling to different countries, I figured that it would be well worth my time to see Montreal in lieu of Paris…For the time being. (I’m still planning that failed trip to Japan.) It was an easy way to pretend I was farther away than I really was.
In the end, I could really see myself living there. I felt right at home in our AirBnB, shopping around town for groceries, cooking at home, and going out during the day. I lived the commuter life, although I wonder what rush hour is like. There was a lot of construction going on for the country’s anniversary, so it seemed like what we experienced was not common. Not everything was perfect, but a lot were expected (like traffic). Still, I loved it and some things really made me giddy as fuck while visiting.
Montreal is perfect for new travelers
For one, It’s still in North America, but still officially outside of the US, so it counts. (Our Hawaii trip seemed to be a grey area, depending on who you asked.) It’s also a very simple visa process for those who are US Permanent Residents.
Second, the trip is only a few hours away. If you’re not sure about long flights, but want to visit somewhere both familiar and new, here’s a good start.
Third, their main language is French, but English is widespread. If you are having trouble with the local language, switching over to English is no problem here. This was perfect for me since I’m practicing my French for Paris. If I got tongue-tied, I can switch to English, but I started with French every time. Also, they speak French slower than those in France, I’m told. (I’ll find out for sure when I visit Paris this year.) Yay for beginners!
Being surrounded by French
I never had an interest in French as a language, primarily because I never had an interest in visiting France. It would have been a pointless language for me to learn and I thought it sounded like congested words.
Being in Montreal changed all that for me. I did already start dipping my toes in learning French before arriving at Montreal. I was beginning to have an appreciation for it. Walking around the city and being immersed in the signage, the menus, and the spoken language as people walked by, I realised how much I loved the sound of French.
And also how little I would be able to replicate it. Still… A girl’s gotta try.
OMG, the Poutine
I had a friend from Toronto make me try fries and gravy years ago. I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about it. So simple! Fries. Gravy. Eat. All the unhealthy American joys in life. He told me it was Canadian. “Really?” I thought. I can’t believe I’ve been missing this scenario. It was a simple, delicious snack perfect for binging.
Montreal taught me that cheese curds were a part of this delicacy. WHAT. Bring it on. We went to Schwartz’s Deli since it was recommended to us. I really enjoyed that and figured… It’s so simple… How can you go wrong? Then, I tried the poutine at McDonald’s, because sadism…? and I learned… you CAN go wrong. This whole dish just got kicked up a dozen notches. I swallowed that right up and had to fight myself not to order more.
The Gay Village
This was definitely my favourite spot when walking around Montreal. This entire set of city blocks are just Instagram heaven. The whole area is covered in pink balloons that are streamed across the road for the entirety of the Gay Village. It felt like a celebration just being there.
There were an abundance of painted walls. Art installations. Music. Cafés. The whole place just screamed photo op and I would go back there again. Repeatedly. If I ever move to Montreal, it would at least be my main hangout.
Random pianos and seating areas
Thank you, Montreal, for being so kind and hospitable. I am not an avid traveller (yet), but I’d be curious if I end up in a town with as many pianos for the public to stumble across and just begin playing… On the path to anywhere. (There’s a really nice shady spot by the Musee McCord where we sat and drank coffee while taking the piano in.) I was also so happy to see someone always willing to take a seat and play a song for the rest of us.
I believe Montreal would inevitably lead me to playing the piano.
As for the random seating areas… Maybe it’s because you want us to have a place to listen to the piano in the background. Whatever your reasons, thank you for providing pedestrians with so many seating areas. It made Montreal so much more enjoyable to walk in, knowing rest will be easy to find if I need it.
And yes, I stopped often, for everyone who played the piano. Thank you.
There still is so much more to Montreal that I didn’t get to see. And some things I did get to see and love, but did not get to mention above. I really just had to pick my top highlights.
Squeezing these in (and basically cheating my own list):
Go on the Bateau Mouche dinner cruise. The food was delicious, the music was beautiful, and the night sky while in the boat was gorgeous.
After the cruise, we took a walk and stumbled upon “The Creation of The World” installation at ruelle Saint-Dizier. You’ll see it in the video. I’m not sure how long it will stay up as I’m reading it was for the country’s anniversary, but go play, if you get the chance!
We’ll be taking the same company’s cruise on the Seine River in Paris, too. I’m hoping it will surpass my experience at Montreal.