Montreal Solo Trip Report

May 25th, 2002, 07:00 AM
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Montreal Solo Trip Report

Montreal is a great city for the solo traveler. This was the first time I vacationed by myself, so I wanted to start small and go to a safe city fairly close to home (NYC). Montreal exceeded all my expectations.

Since I was nervous about going it alone, I planned my trip in advance, a bit rigidly. A lot of pre-planning isn't really necessary in Montreal, but it did help me get excited about my trip.

I originally planned to stay at the Saint Sulpice, a new hotel in Vieux Montreal, but ended up staying at the Hilton Bonaventure downtown. I got a great deal at priceline for only $50/night. The Hilton is very nice, but a bit impersonal as it is primarily for business travelers.

Staying in downtown forced me to explore more on my own using the metro and the bus system. I think if I had stayed in Vieux Montreal, I wouldn't have gotten around as much.

Getting around the city with public transportation is a breeze. On my last full day there I felt like a metro pro. In fact, I must have looked like a city dweller, because I was asked directions 4 times!

On my first day in Montreal I took a 3hr bus tour with Coach Canada. The tour helped me familiarize myself with the city, and by the next day, I was ready to explore on my own.

The best aspect of Montreal IMHO are the beautiful churches. From the large and impressive St. Joseph's Oratory and the Notre Dame Basilica, to the small St. Georges and Bonsecours Chapel, each house of worship is quite beautiful and ornate.

Unfortunately, I did not get to sample a lot of great cuisine. I'm a junk food junkee though, so I was able to get by on some standard fast food fare. I did get to go to the famous Eggspectations breakfaast restaurant, which has I think about 3 outlets in the city. They serve very good waffles.

I also went to Swartz's deli, which is talked up in a lot of Montreal guidebooks. I found it to be run-of-the mill. Being from NY, I've had much better deli food. If you go to Swartz's, be prepared for a long lines for a seat and a VERY dingy interior.

I also went to Kilo, a dessert cafe. I had the raspberry cheesecake, which was very good.

On my last day in Montreal, I went to see the Cirque du Soleil Varekai show. If you will be in Montreal in the next few weeks, I would strongly urge you to go to this show- it's fabulous!!

A word of advice regarding Montreal taxes. Travelers are supposed to get a rebate on all the taxes they pay on gift items and short-term accomodations. For the souvenirs, each receipt has to be for at least $50, before taxes and you have to spend at least $200 in total.

May 25th, 2002, 07:18 AM
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Great report,Dee. Glad you enjoyed Montreal!

A couple of clarifications for other soon to be visitors:

about taxes: as of last Novmber, much to my dismay, The Quebec portion of taxes paid is NOT refundable--the GST (national tax) still is. That means you only get back about half of the taxes paid on purchases of over $50 (7% vs 14%)

I think you were very lucky to get Varekai tickets--since the run in MOntreal is so limited --only till June and then travelling to Quebec--often only VIP tickets ($150) are available.

As far as Schwartz's, well "Chacon a son gout" (to each, his own taste)--it is on my list of places to go each time I'm in Montreal, whereas I don't care for the places like Carnegie Deli in NY. But, you're absolutely correct in reminding people that it's not for everyone--you must often wait, and always share a cramped table (and dingy is really a kind description!
May 25th, 2002, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for the report Dee.
I am off to Montreal, solo, at the end of June for five days to attend the Jazz festival. Where does a mid-thirties male meet people to have a drink with? Are people quite open to strangers in Montreal?
May 25th, 2002, 01:30 PM
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Harry, if you're a smoker you will love jazz festival. Last year we went there and because it was outside it seems that everyone around was a chain-smoker. It is very visible durig the festival that so many Cnadians smoke. Too bad because we like Montreal but smoking get to us.
May 25th, 2002, 01:40 PM
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I'm responding to the comment that so many Canadians smoke! My feeling is that so many French Canadians smoke. I go to Montreal fairly often on business and I'm always shocked by the number of business co-workers that smoke there, whereas I don't find that to be the case in Toronto. Now I'm not saying that all French Canadians smoke, nor am I saying that there aren't smokers in the rest of the Canada - I don't want to start any fights! But there definitely are more stringent laws about smoking in public places in Toronto.
May 25th, 2002, 02:01 PM
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Thank you for the intelligent, positive suggestion pertaining to my inquest. Boy, I'm not a smoker so I guess I will stay home because, well, most people in Canada seem to smoke (except me perhaps). You obviously can't recommend anything in the way of spots for a solo traveller to meet other people so I wonder why you even replied. I also implied "have a drink with somebody" which means it is obvious I like the odd beer and even scotch, if that's alright with you. Also, Montreal has always had a reputation for having a more lassaiz-faire attitude to human vices compared to most aother cities in North America, which I find very appealing, and is a reason why I've chosen Montreal as my summer vacation destination.
Does anybody want to meet up for a drink and some jazz for the first weekend of jazz Festival? You can even have a cigarette in my presence.
Au revoir!
May 25th, 2002, 04:30 PM
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Susan I agree with you completely. This is my observation as well. French Canadians smoke a lot as comparing to those Canadians in Toronto or Nanaimo, BC where we visit often. Jazz Festival is a great event in Montreal. Too bad there are no separate areas assigned to smokers and nonsmokers. It least this was a case last year.
May 25th, 2002, 07:02 PM
Daniel Williams
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Thanks for your great trip report on Montreal. I lived in Montreal for 5 years and was there a few weeks ago. It's my favorite North American city (of the ones I've been to) and I love to see other people appreciate it too.

I must say I'm not a huge fan of Schwartz's either, which frankly I think is good for my cholesterol level...although some people swear by their smoked meat. To each their own. I'm glad you enjoyed Eggspectation and Kilo, although I DO recommend hitting some non-chain brunch/dessert places next time, where the homemade food is prepared often with loving/original touch. Le Vaudeville and Le Petit Alep are two brunch places I think are exceptional.

Harry, people can be open to chatting with strangers in Montreal. The nightlife options in the city really are quite extensive and diverse, so not knowing you, it's hard to say what will appeal to you most. If you speak English only and are heterosexual, you might want to try Crescent Street. If Irish pubs appeal, try Hurley's, Brutopia or McKibbins (I think that one's on Bishop). You might want to check out Winnie's as well. Biddle's is good for jazz, although there'll be tons of that at the festival. Have a blast! DAN
May 26th, 2002, 07:00 AM
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Hi everyone,

Thanks for the replies.
Thanks for the tax clarification.

I do wish I got out to more good places to eat. Maybe next time, but I'll probably want to see Quebec City before returning to Montreal.

I didn't do any hanging out at pubs and or clubs so I can't give you any advice on which ones to go to.

People in Montreal are like any other people in large cities. Some of the people I talked to were a bit aloof, but not rude. On your own, you really have to make an effort to be friendly and extroverted to have good social encounters.

During my stay, most of the people I had small talk with happened to be other travelers.

Have fun at the Jazz festival!
May 27th, 2002, 05:13 PM
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Just a response to the smoking thing.

I live in Montreal and have travelled all over Canada and can say without a doubt that smoking is much more prevalent in terms of French culture, which would explain the high level of smoking and exceptance in the Province of Quebec. Most Montreal bars/restaurants/clubs allow smoking in their establishments as opposed to much of English Canada where smoking is highly restricted.

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