Monday, June 07, 2010
Just got back from a week in Montreal. Went there to take a glass working class - and I have to say - I was utterly charmed by the city.
I haven't actually been to Montreal before, sad to say - as I am very intimidated by the language barrier. Despite having taken years of French in school, I remain utterly mono-lingual. Actually - I have taken French, Japanese, and spent a year in a Spanish-speaking country with a private tutor, and still remain stubbornly unable to string together a sentence in any language other than English. Seriously - a year - immersed. I have to conclude that I am second-language challenged.
But - I was absolutely delighted that I met with no prejudice, no ill feeling and was treated with respect and dignity everywhere I went, anyway! I had absolutely no problems with the language barrier - from gas station attendants to fast food cashiers - all spoke perfectly passable English for the purposes of the transaction at hand.
Service at restaurants and the hotel was excellent - waiters and everyone shifting linguist gears as soon as you responded with "Good Morning" to their cheery "Bonjour." (Tip - yeah, even I can say Bonjour, but saying "Good Morning" clues them in right away so that the next sentence isn't a Niagara of uninterpretable sound.)
Montreal - or the area known as Old Montreal - truly has an old-world European feel to it. And I have to admit that while probably every city is at it's prettiest at this time of the year - it really was particularly charming. There are a lot of trees and greenery and flower pots.
Food was unflaggingly excellent - from nice restaurants down to - I swear - my sausage egg Mcmuffin was a cut above normal. And the Montreal Smoked Meat - to die for!
While hotels in the downtown/Old Montreal district are frighteningly expensive - I would suggest ponying up for them anyway - as the roads are so seriously congested that commuting is easily as bad as Toronto - and the roads were laid out by crazy people. The highways are a woven series of elevated roads, overpasses and bridges that resemble a drunken spider's attempt at basketry. Take a small, nimble car and a strong sense of fearlessness if you want to drive more than into the city and out again.
Oh, an a GPS is a must - lots of one-way streets and weird exits and on-ramps that you have to do crazy things to get to. Set it to optimize for shortest route instead of fastest time, unless you have a traffic avoidance option - otherwise, you'll spend a lot of time sitting in traffic.
Big thumbs-up for Montreal! I would definitely go again and plan more time for sightseeing.
Oh, and the city is fairly stylish and dressy too - so pack a few nice things so you don't feel quite so out of place. Or - buy some there!