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A trip to Montreal in September

badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
edited April 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
The lady and I are likely heading to Montreal in September (her for a conference, me because I need a vacation sooner or later). We'll be staying near the near the city center. I have a few questions and wanted some advice for things to check out.

First, I remember several years ago there was a significant rift between French-Canadians and Canadians, and my GF remembers traveling to the area when she was younger and having French-Canadians often deliberately not speak English to her and her family. Should we work on French or was that a indication of the time period and less of a problem today?

Second, I'm looking for solo things to do during the day that don't involve me sitting in a pub. These would be little things I could do while she was at the Conference, not bigger things we would do together in the days around the Conference.

Third, I see there is a metro and some public transportation. In general, how good is transit in Montreal and how accessible are things from the old city center?

Finally, I want some suggestions of can't miss things there that we can do together (at night, a few days before or after the Conference). She suggested the biodome and a few other things, but I'd like to get some ideas from folks that live there/have traveled there.

Thanks in advance!

badpoet on

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  • FiggyFiggy Registered User regular
    badpoet wrote:
    First, I remember several years ago there was a significant rift between French-Canadians and Canadians, and my GF remembers traveling to the area when she was younger and having French-Canadians often deliberately not speak English to her and her family. Should we work on French or was that a indication of the time period and less of a problem today?

    It depends on the person. There has always been a gulf between the two groups in Canada. I won't go into specifics why, because it's largely historical and political, but it exists. But you'll have no trouble getting around and getting things done speaking English. Most people living in Montreal can speak English. This goes doubly for those working in the service sector, because they get a lot of non-French speaking tourists.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    If you're downtown or in NDG (basically the English quarter of Montreal) then you will have absolutely no problems if you speak only English. But it's nice to have some French as well, just for the sake of politeness.

    The Metro is pretty good. It'll get you most places you'd want to get in the city's core. The way the tickets work might take some getting used to, but they're convenient all the same since you barely ever have to interact with a person. The subway maps in the metro are easy to understand and getting around is no problem if you've ever used public transit before. As long as you can walk to any Metro station then you can easily get to any other via the subway, and there are buses on every major street that will get you to the stations.

    There are some museums and whatever and always bands playing, if you're in to that. Montreal has been a vibrant music scene for a long time, and you'll find plenty of good English bands. There's a free local culture magazines in English, but I forget it's name. If you pick one of those up it should give you some ideas of what's going on in the city. There are usually some festivals or whatever happening, especially in the summer. (Quick googling shows that at least POP Montreal and the annual comic-con are going on in September).

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  • ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
    badpoet wrote:
    The lady and I are likely heading to Montreal in September (her for a conference, me because I need a vacation sooner or later). We'll be staying near the near the city center. I have a few questions and wanted some advice for things to check out.

    First, I remember several years ago there was a significant rift between French-Canadians and Canadians, and my GF remembers traveling to the area when she was younger and having French-Canadians often deliberately not speak English to her and her family. Should we work on French or was that a indication of the time period and less of a problem today?

    Second, I'm looking for solo things to do during the day that don't involve me sitting in a pub. These would be little things I could do while she was at the Conference, not bigger things we would do together in the days around the Conference.

    Third, I see there is a metro and some public transportation. In general, how good is transit in Montreal and how accessible are things from the old city center?

    Finally, I want some suggestions of can't miss things there that we can do together (at night, a few days before or after the Conference). She suggested the biodome and a few other things, but I'd like to get some ideas from folks that live there/have traveled there.

    Thanks in advance!

    I've spent the last two summers in the Montreal area...

    1.) The Francophone/Anglophone rift in Montreal really isn't that bad. I have never had an issue using English there. People will likely greet you in French, but switch over to English if you respond as such.
    2.) Wandering St. Catherine's is always a decent time killer. There are loads of stores there to waste time in. Depending on where the conference is, there is also a pretty nice casino near Longueuil.
    3.) Coming from Edmonton, which has an adequate public transportation system: Montreal's metro system is awesome. You can get around all the major areas of the city with very little effort and at minimal cost. If you are actually staying near old Montreal, then there are several metro access points in the area which make getting around very easy. However, I suggest looking online to find out where those are in relation to your hotel.
    On top of this, the hotel's maitre d' can prove to be incredibly helpful, they usually have very good knowledge of the city.
    4.) Definitely shop on St. Catherine's, it is pretty awesome and has some unique stores. Eat at Dunn's, Chalet BBQ (in NDG, best BBQ chicken ever, and cheap), or (if you want cheap food and beer) Station des sports.
    Other than that, visiting Mont Royal Park is a pretty nice way to spend an afternoon.

    I wish I could be more helpful, but each time I was there was with the military, so when we were out on town we were pretty focused on drinking and eating. As far as a place to stay, if you haven't already decided: Embassy Suites is really nice, plus they include a free breakfast in their rates.

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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    The art galleries are pretty neat, and probably good for a solo day trip.

    Skip the metro dome (might be called something different). That thing on the island. It is not fun.

    Also the biosphere is pretty neat.

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  • shutzshutz Registered User regular
    I LIVE in Montréal. Feel free to ask me some questions (here or via PM) and I'll do what I can to help.

    The Metro is awesome. The French-English thing shouldn't affect you much, but if you're faced with a francophone person, making a small (even token) effort to use a little French can go a long way.

    For food, you should plan at least one trip to Schwartz's (for Montréal's best deli smoked meat sandwiches). Comahawk recommended Dunn's, which is, to me, Montréal's second-best smoked-meat (so it's still REALLY good.) Thing is, Schwartz's is often hard to get into at regular meal times, because it's so popular, whereas Dunn's rarely has that problem (it's larger, and just not quite so popular, though it still does really well.) I actually eat Dunn's more often then Schwartz's, but the latter has that little extra edge to it that makes it Montréal's best.

    What do you want to do? Want to see some live music in an intimate setting? Some underground stand-up comedy? Visit museums? (Some museums are free on certain days of the week, so it's worth looking into that and scheduling your sight-seeing accordingly.) Depending on what you most want to see, I may be able to make specific suggestions.

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  • badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
    Thanks for all the great tips. I'll try to at least get the basics of french down before we go, might be something nice for the GF and I to learn together.

    Well, my GF loves plants, gardens, science museums that kind of thing. I enjoy music in smaller venues (mostly alternative, jazz, rock, blues, some folk), stand-up comedy.

    We both love art, but not modern art as much.

    Also, any suggestions for fine dining, not so much steakhouses, but seafood, fusion, etc.?

  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Montreal has more great steak places than you can shake a stick at.

    EDIT: Though now my reading comprehension is kicking in! Can't think of any good fusion places offhand, Montreal's specialty seems to be "turf" meat such as pork and beef.

    schuss on
  • I needed a gnome to post.I needed a gnome to post. gank so hard motherfuckers wanna find meRegistered User regular
    schwartz's is what i miss most about montreal to be quite honest

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  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    Haven't tried it but personally I'd try the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant there. Also, go to a poutinery.

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    schwartz's is what i miss most about montreal to be quite honest

    Mmm.. so good.

    Like others said, the language thing won't be an issue if you learn the basic greetings/oi/non/ etc. I went through several purchases without speaking any English at all.

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  • Mom2KatMom2Kat Registered User regular
    the things that stick out to me from my Grade 12 trip 15 years ago were, The Insectarium, the Botanical gardens, The Biodome ( all part of Olympic park or within walking distance.) All very worthwile to see.

  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Insectarium is fun stuff. See some giant spiders then buy candy made out of bugs.

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  • SkeithSkeith I've been a little bit naughty.Registered User regular
    Wezoin wrote: »
    Haven't tried it but personally I'd try the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant there. Also, go to a poutinery.

    Yeah, this stuff is delicious.

    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
  • EsseeEssee The pinkest of hair. Victoria, BCRegistered User regular
    Skeith wrote: »
    Wezoin wrote: »
    Haven't tried it but personally I'd try the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant there. Also, go to a poutinery.

    Yeah, this stuff is delicious.

    Thirded! Even if you don't get a chance to go anywhere JUST for poutine, you really have to try poutine while you're in Canada. It will change how you look at fries.

  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    And those steamed hot dogs.

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  • ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
    shutz wrote: »
    I LIVE in Montréal. Feel free to ask me some questions (here or via PM) and I'll do what I can to help.

    The Metro is awesome. The French-English thing shouldn't affect you much, but if you're faced with a francophone person, making a small (even token) effort to use a little French can go a long way.

    For food, you should plan at least one trip to Schwartz's (for Montréal's best deli smoked meat sandwiches). Comahawk recommended Dunn's, which is, to me, Montréal's second-best smoked-meat (so it's still REALLY good.) Thing is, Schwartz's is often hard to get into at regular meal times, because it's so popular, whereas Dunn's rarely has that problem (it's larger, and just not quite so popular, though it still does really well.) I actually eat Dunn's more often then Schwartz's, but the latter has that little extra edge to it that makes it Montréal's best.

    What do you want to do? Want to see some live music in an intimate setting? Some underground stand-up comedy? Visit museums? (Some museums are free on certain days of the week, so it's worth looking into that and scheduling your sight-seeing accordingly.) Depending on what you most want to see, I may be able to make specific suggestions.

    I was going to recommend Schwartz, but for some reason the name completely escaped me. So yeah, it is a great place!

    Also, if you want terrible food that will likely kill you: La Belle Province. They have amazing poutine.

    For French, just know basic greetings: Bonjour, Bon Matin, etc. And if you run into someone who doesn't get that you do not really speak French, just say "en Anglais?" They will get the point. But, as shutz mentioned, trying to speak a little French to accomodate them will go a long way; Montrealers seem to appreciate that you at least gave it a shot. I'm from Alberta, my French sounds like Brad Pitt's Italian in Inglorious Basterds, yet they still were happy to speak slowly and help out.

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  • MarsloMarslo Registered User regular
    edited May 2012
    Lived and loved in Montreal since i was 4 years old, learned french in school and i picked up my English "from the streets". Generally speaking most people who immigrated to this fair city, will speak both languages. Its not uncommon for me to start a sentence in one language and finish it in the other. If you mostly stay in the down-town/plateau/mile-end area, you'l rarely find someone who has a propleme with you not speaking a word of french.

    But basically how the french/english divides work is we have this street called st-laurent (or "the main"), in the middle of the island that runs south to north. On the east side of that street is mostly where the french population is located and on the west side is where most of the english population is located. Except for the st-henri/lachine/little burgendy/verdun district (basically the south-west side of the island), that's a whole different ball parc.

    As for things to do, there's about a fagillion things. My personal recomendations;

    For food; check out La Banquise for The best poutine, Au pied du cochon for very fancy rustique québécois cuisine (you will need reservations) and Burger de ville for some amazing burgers.

    For Music; if you like Jazz there's Upstairs. But for alternative, if your comming between the 19th and 23th of september, you'l be in the midist of montreal largest alternative festival called pop montreal. But if not, i listen to this great podcast to find out who's playing around town called midnight poutine, the website also has a great blog about the stuff in and around Montreal. Its as well an amazing podcast to listen too for discovering new bands, even if your not in the vicinity of Montreal.

    For locations; The old port/old montreal is a great place to have a walk about, there's nothing quite like it anywhere else in Canada (except maybe Quebec city). The Montreal musée des sciences is located there as well. But if you love plants, you must go check out the Montréal Botanical Garden. Also check out St-Laurent, St-Denis (preferably north of Des pins) and rue Mont-Royal, they both have a great collection of various stores/restaurants/pubs/venus.

    For art, Le Musée des beaux-arts is where you'l find your taste. But my personal favorite is the MACM (but thats contemporary) and Canadian Centre for Architecture.


    If you guys want more we have this weekly free news paper that you can find about everywhere called The Mirror. They recently did a reader polls about the best of montreal of various category's. I Highly sugest you check it out, you can find some great ideas in there.

    So ya! Feel free to ask me about anything else or if you guys want i work in a little bike store near St-Laurent and Des Pins on sundays, don't hesitate to drop by.


    O and if you want to nerd out a bit there's this lounge/cafee called foonzo. ( i build the arcade cabinets there ;). )

    Marslo on
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