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Archive for March, 2014

Explore Montreal

Posted on: March 8th, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

399px-TourDeLaBourse_nightMontreal is Canada’s cultural capital, offering plenty of art, history, and cuisine and lots of ways to explore it.  The city is full of both French and English culture, offering a blend of European and North American culture in one spot.

There are lots of things to explore in Montreal throughout the entire year, but winter springs special opportunities to ice skate through its scenic parks, ice fish, or check out a hockey game from the city’s local NHL team, the Canadiens.

March is a great time to visit the Olympic Park as they’ve got tons of activities planned for March Break.  The winter village on the Esplanade Financiere Sun Life will have extended hours and will be free to all!  Enjoy free outdoor ice skating, and tons of shows and fairs.  There will also be movie screenings, chances to get up close and personal with some wild animals, and tours of the new Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.

As the cultural capital of Canada, Montreal offers a plethora of fantastic ethnic food, and fine cuisine.  There are endless places to eat in Montreal, ranging from quaint cafes, upscale European style restaurants, and delicious bakeries.  And no trip to Montreal is complete without trying Quebec province’s specialty – the poutine. 

There are many places to stay in Montreal.  Whether you’re looking for a large hotel in the middle of downtown, or a charming bed and breakfast on a residential street, there is something for you.  Couch surfing is also quiet popular in Montreal.  It’s quiet easy to find a local host to give you the true local experience.

There are countless ways to explore the city.  Staying in a bed and breakfast, youth hostile, or couch surfing will help you get more acquainted with the city and its residents.  The city is full of art, theater, and more.  No matter when you go, you’ll find excellent ways to explore the city.

Places to Stay in Montreal

Posted on: March 6th, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

800px-Montreal_skyline_2011Montreal offers all ranges of hotels, and other sleeping options.  Montreal is the city with the most couch surfing members, so it’s quite easy to find a local host for a few nights.  The city also has several universities, and it’s possible to stay in youth hostels, dorms, and apartments.   Bed and breakfasts and hotels are scattered throughout the city, with higher end hotels concentrated in Old Montreal and Downtown.

Bed and Breakfast Du Village – Located in the heart of the gay village of Montreal, this welcoming bed and breakfast is in a great location.  Accomodations are comfortable and welcoming, while owners Phillippe and Nicolas go out of their way to make you feel at home.  Begin each day with a delicious continental breakfast.

Hotel Le St. James –  A member of Leading Hotels of the World Le St. James is a luxury hotel in the heart of Old Montreal.  Avante garde, European elegance, this historic hotel is a restored Merchants’ Bank building built in 1870.   Each room has its own personal charm.  Accommodations include marble bathrooms, plush bathrobes, a fantastic spa, and amazing service.

Hotel Gault – A beautiful boutique hotel set in an 1871 five story building.  Located in the heart of Old Montreal, Hotel Gault is just a quick walk away from downtown, and many of Montreal’s great attractions.  Despite its grand historical exterior, the inside features minimalist design.  It is the perfect mix of old world luxury and modern comfort.

A La Carte B&B –  A modern bed and breakfast, where owners Petra and Daniel want nothing more than to make your stay relaxing, comfortable, and fun.   Start each day with a French-Canadian breakfast, made just for you! Located on a quiet street, central to boutiques, shopping, cafes, bakeries, as well as near the Olympic Park and other major attractions.  Each room features a private bathroom, and access to the common area, complete with a fireplace and free WiFi.

Acueill Chez Francois – A cozy, comfortable and relaxing B&B that feels like home and really offers the “local” experience.  The location is central to most attractions, and has a beautiful view of the park across the street.  Front facing rooms overlook the park.  Rooms feature private restrooms.  Breakfast are homemade and feature homemade jams, fresh juice, and a delightful presentation.

Hotel Nelligan – A beautiful luxury hotel in Old Montreal, Nelligan offers a taste of European elegance in Canada.   Staff are helpful and take care of everything for you once your reservations are made.  Location is convenient to Old Montreal and Downtown.  Rooms are luxurious and well appointed.  Relax in the lobby next to the grand fireplace while sipping a glass of wine.  It’s the perfect way to heat up after spending the day out in the cold.

Places to Eat in Montreal

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

LaBanquiseAs the cultural capital of Quebec, Montreal is a mishmash of all kinds of cuisines and dining options, ranging from fast food, hole in the wall ethnic restaurants, and fine dining.  It claims to have more  restaurants per capita than any other city in North America and was  recently ranked the second best city for dining in North America, behind San Francisco.  A large Jewish population lends itself to plenty of great Kosher restaurants, which include delicious smoked meat sandwiches, and its French history mean there are plenty of great French cafes and and haute cuisine.

Many restaurants are “apportez votre vin” – bring your own wine – and liquor stores are generally conveniently located to restaurants.  It’s uncommon for these types of restaurants to charge a corkage fee.  Be sure to call your waiter “monsier” or “madam” and never “garçon”

La Banquise – No trip to Montreal is compete without trying poutine at least once, and La Banquise is the ultimate place to try one.  The dish, a specialty invented in Quebec, is made up of French fries swimming on gravy and topped with curds of white cheddar.   There are also plenty of other toppings you can add, like substituting another sauce for gravy or adding beef, bacon, chicken, or any other meats, as well as mushrooms, peppers, olives, or other veggies.   There are plenty of vegetarian options too!

Les Deux Singes De Montravie – Serving gastronomic French cuisine, Les Deux Singes de Montravie provides a memorable dining experience.  Their menu features meals meant to awaken and excite the senses, and is paired perfectly with carefully selected fine wines.  It has a friendly, warm, and relaxed ambiance, with decor featuring work from Montreal artists.  The chef has created beautifully creative dishes, and appetizers include duck ravioli, and a carmelized endive salad with goat cheese, and main dishes include specialties like pork tongue with gnocchi, and Korean BBQ. 

Europea – Winner of the 2013 Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Award, Europa offers a truly fabulous dining experience.  Drawing inspiration from the Italian, Spanish, and Catalan roots of its founders, Europea offers a unique amalgamation of cuisines that evoke emotional responses.  Chef Jerome Ferrar was elected Chef of the Year by the Society of Heads of Quebec and Grand Chef Relais and Chateaux in 2011, and the restaurant continues to receive high accolades from the community.

Pamika Brasserie Thai – This restaurant may be small, but its meals and flavor are anything but.  Though the menu is limited, its authentic are made with plenty of fresh ingredients, and are perfectly seasoned and generously portioned.  It is one of the best places in the city to get delicious, authentic Thai food.  Enjoy a fun experience, with fried rice served in a hallowed out pineapple, or drink coconut milk straight out of the coconut.  It can’t get any fresher than that!

Espace Cafe – Winner of the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in both 2012 and 2013, Espace is a quality espresso bar which serves espresso and espresso based coffees using only the best coffee beans.  They have a full service cafe serving wraps, sandwiches, salads, and housemade pastries.

Le Club Chasse Et Peche – This gem located in Old Montreal will serve up such an amazing experience you’ll be wishing you could come back everyday to sample the whole menu.  Serving French inspired cuisine, menus are created using quality, fresh ingredients, and served with impeccable presentation.  The staff work hard to create the perfect blend of a formal and casual atmosphere, providing attentive service.  Enjoy delicious seafood, unique appetizers, and decadent entrees, such as perfectly prepared lamb, and venison with a vegetable medley.  Move on to dessert and enjoy delicious sweet treats like a maple syrup parfait, which will be the perfect end to this culinary extravaganza. The full bar creates perfectly mixed cocktails, as well as wines by the glass.

Cachitos –  A small bakery in downtown Montreal, Cachitos serves delicious Venezuelan cuisine.  A Cachito is a traditional Venezuelan pastry, typically filled with ham and eaten for breakfast.  However, its the perfect treat at any time of the day. Try a variety of flavors and fillings, or try some of their other traditional Venezuelan pastries, such as goldeados, which are a traditional dessert.

Things to Do in Montreal

Posted on: March 4th, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

800px-McGill_Arts_Building2There are tons of great activities to do in Montreal, but getting around can be tricky if you don’t keep one key thing in mind.   Montreal is known as the only city in the world where the sun rises in the south.  That’s because residents of the city use the river and the mountain as cardinal points.  If you’re downtown, the river is “south” and the mountain is “north.”  This can be confusing for many visitors, especially when you consider that the East End is actually north and the West Island is south.  However, using Montreal’s system of orientation, these locations are named correctly.

The city is very easy to get around in, and walking is the preferred method of travel for many.  Winter shoes are essential if you plan to do this during a winter visit as sidewalks tend to get icy after snowfall.   If you wish to avoid the cold, you can walk down the stairs to Montreal’s underground city.  This large network of pedestrian walkways connects to the metro stations, and some fun shopping.   You’ll also find many footpaths and pedestrian areas throughout the city.
You can find taxis on most busy streets.  Many taxi drivers do not speak fluent English though they are able to understand street addresses in English.  They accept cash only, though many will accept US currency if you don’t happen to have Canadian money on hand.
 Driving is also an option, however many North Americans find it difficult due to different laws, dense traffic, and difficult parkin
Montreal’s metro is also a great way to get around, offering stops in central parts of the city.  You can purchase a ticket for $3.00 which allows unlimited use of both the metro and the buses for 90 minutes.   Announcements and most signs are only in French.  The only transit workers who are guaranteed to speak English are the customer service representatives, though you may find many others who do as well.  The metro system is one of the easiest ways to get around the city.
The city has lots of great things to offer in winter and year round.  A walk through Montreal’s Old City will take you to many museums, shops and beautiful views, especially in the snow.   The Sir George-Etienne National Historic Site will allow you to explore a gorgeously preserved Victorian home and experience what life was like for the wealthiest residents of Montreal in the 19th century.   The Montreal Science Centre is a fabulous place for children and adults to learn about the world around us through a scientific lens, as well as check out a movie in an IMAX theater.  The Pointe-a-Calliere explores Canadian history spanning from the Native Americans to present day. It displays many of the most important archaeological discoveries pertaining to Canada.
Old Port also has an ice fishing village, providing 300,000 feet of ice, heated shelters, and great fishing!  Ice skating is also available, allowing people to skate long the pristine ice while surrounded by the beautiful city.
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your evenings, check out the Casino or head to Bell Center and catch a Canadiens game.
Other fun things to do throughout the day include Amazing Race Montreal, which takes you on a tour of the city’s most important and interesting destinations.  Follow a series of clues that will take you around the city! Join a race, or take a tour with this format.

Montreal

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by Erin Weir No Comments

800px-OlympicStadiumMontreal is the largest city in Quebec, and though Quebec City is the capital, Montreal is the cultural center of the province.  The second largest city in Canada, and the 15th largest in North America, Montreal is one of the liveliest cities in North America, offering endless entertainment and enrichment.

Though Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world (behind Paris), it is very much a bilingual city, and those who don’t speak French will have no trouble getting around.

Montreal was home to many First Nations native peoples.  They built fortified villages and cultivated maize in the area. Their settlements existed at the foot of Mount Royal for several hundred years before the French came to the scene.  In the 15th century, Samuel de Champlain noted that much of the native people had left the area, probably due to an influx in European migration, disease, and tribal wars. Champlain established a fur trading post on the Island of Montreal in 1611. It soon became the center of the fur trade, helping the colony to establish further.  It also served as a base for further French exploration into North America, and a Roman Catholic mission, Kahnweake, was established to help convert native people.

In 1760, France was forced to surrender their North American territories to Great Britain, in the aftermath of the Seven Years War.  Montreal became an incorporated city in 1832, and the Lachine Canal opened not long after, allowing ships to bypass the Lachine Rapids, and creating greater possibilities for trade.  The Victoria Bridge helped to make Montreal a major railway hub, also increasing trade.  By 1860 Montreal had established itself as the cultural and economic hub of Canada, as well as the largest city in British North America.

From 1844 to 1849 it was the capital of the Province of Canada.  However, after a Tory mob protested the passage of a bill by burning down Parliament, the capital was moved to Ottawa.

During the 1920s, Prohibition in the U.S helped Montreal become a mecca for Americans seeking alcohol.  Montreal built up a large industry surrounding alcohol and burlesque because of the large number of people coming over the border to enjoy the city. By the 1950’s, Montreal’s population and grown to over one million people.  The opening of the St Lawrence Seaway allowed ships to bypass Montreal, diminishing its economic dominance.  However, the city continued to grow, and was the home of the World’s Fair, Expo 67, during the 1960s.  It also hosted the Olympics in 1976.

In 2002 Montreal and the 27 surrounding municipalities were merged, helping to create a more unified city of Montreal, spanning the entire island.  The move was not popular, especially in the English speaking suburbs, and several suburbs voted to leave the city.  This has resulted in Montreal being made up of many interesting, unique districts all of which have something special to offer to tourists waiting to explore them.

Montreal has a long, rich history, and is often hailed as Canada’s cultural capital.  It is full of museums, art centers, brilliant theater, and is the center of Canada’s french language television production.  It is also renowned for its beautiful churches, and is home to the second largest copper dome in the world, after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  It offers great places to do some of your favorite winter activities, like ice skating and snow shoeing, and is a short distance from downhill skiing and other great winter activities.

Getting to Montreal is easy.  International flights go into Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport, after which it is easy to find a taxi or take the STM Airport Express bus 747 to downtown Montreal.  Buses run between the airport and downtown 24 hours a day and are significantly cheaper than a taxi ride.

Plattsburgh International Airport and Burlington International Airport are both nearby airports on the U.S side of the border.  This may help American travelers save on airfare but arranging ground travel will be more difficult.  Montreal is roughly a one hour drive from Plattsburgh.

By train, Amtrak’s Adirondack service offers daily rides to Montreal.  Greyhound Lines and Adirondack Trailways offer bus service from New York to Montreal.  Vermont Transit also offers four daily services from Boston.

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