I have joined up with a bunch of my Canadian Blogger colleagues to bring you a Canucks Content Carnival. Every month we will be tackling different topics so you get to know us and our blogs better. The inaugural post will be about our hometowns.
I love my home town... I lived there for over 22 years and there is not a day that goes by that I don`t think about the life I had in Montreal.
My family came from Colombia in the summer of `69 and move to suburban Montreal. We lived on the West Island (the term for a series of municipalities that are situated in the western part of the island).
Did you know that Montreal was an island? Some people don’t know that Montreal is an island but the suburbs extend off the island to the South Shore, the North Shore, Longueuil, Laval, Vaudreuil-Dorion, L'Île-Perrot and L'Île Bizard. All of these areas have very distinct charms. They are francophone, Anglophone, a mix of both. Some areas have predominant ‘communities’ (Portuguese, Italian, Asian, Jewish or Latin).
This mix of cultures makes Montreal one of the most interesting cities in Canada. I think that if you want to experience a truly amazing experience you need to do the following when you are in Montreal:
- Visit Old Montreal – Montreal was founded in 1642 and is one of the oldest cities in North America (Quebec City is over 400 years old). So a must do is going to old Montreal and walk the cobble streets. Have a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe and look at the beautiful art that you can buy from local artists. Make sure to visit the Old Port.
If you want to see where Celine Dion got married. Make sure you stop by Notre Dame Cathedral. It is one of the most beautiful baroque churches that you will ever see in your lifetime. It is decked out in royal blue and gold and is the jewel in the crown of French Canadian cathedrals.
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- Go Shopping – if you know anything about Montrealers it is that they take two things very seriously: food and fashion. When you walk down St. Catherine's Street you will find some of the best shopping in the country. My personal favourite is Simon’s. A Quebec retailer that, unfortunately, only has one location outside of La Belle Province. There is nothing like Simon’s. It has some wonderful fashion, young, hip and cutting edge yet other offerings are classic and stylish. I never miss an opportunity to visit this department store when I am in town. You can read my full review of Simon’s here.
Ride the Metro - If you take the train to Montreal you can connect via the Metro (subway). Practical and very safe, even in the evening. You can get a one day, three day, weekly or monthly passes to use. This gives you plenty of flexibility and will you options for some perfect tourist adventures.
Have lunch at Swartz’s There is nothing like Schwartz's Deli on St. Laurent Street. You may have to wait to be seated but it is worth the wait. I once made my husband wait for 1 hour to eat there. It was his first visit, we had our, then, young children in tow and it was a hot summer’s day. Once we got in we had the traditional smoke meat sandwich (medium... not fat, not lean, medium is what you need to order), a pickle and a cherry coke. That’s right, its all pretty straight forward but you will never taste a better smoke meat sandwich in Montreal. If you want to go all out, you need to get their Schwartz’s Poutine – picture this: fries, cheese curds, smoke meat, all covered in gravy. It does not get any better then that!
photo credit: Schwartz`s Website
- Eat at a Bring Your Own Wine Restaurant – Montreal has a very unique bylaw. It permits you to bring your own bottle of wine to specially licensed establishments. If you are looking for a choice, make sure to hit Prince Arthur Street off of St. Laurent. When I was attending McGill University, we would often go out for dinner as a group and bring our own wine. The evenings were always fun and filled with great food, cheap wine and abundant laughs. You may also not know that you can also buy beer and wine at the corner “dep” short for dépaneur (French for variety store). Although this may be more common in the United States, most provinces in Canada regulate liquor sales strictly and only distribute it through government run stores. If you Google Bring Your Own Wine Montreal you`ll get to the RestoMontreal website that has 429 restaurants listed. As you can see it is a very popular choice.
- Sit by the Water and Have a Glass of Sangria – I recently went to my high school reunion in the spring and I loved it. I was on the West Island and I caught up with all sorts of people that I had not seen in years. There was a a break between the meeting sessions and the evening events. So I convinced a few girlfriends to drive to Ste. Anne de Bellevue to sit by the water. As Montreal is an island it has Lac St. Louis to the south and Lake of Two Mountains to the north. Where those two meet is at the tip of St. Anne de Bellevue. We walked around the old town and then found a quaint restaurant right on the water. We watched the boats go by, the people stroll in front of us and the river flow by. You don`t need to be on the West Island to do this but you can definitely fine a place to just sit and watch the world go by.
Do it. Take it all in.
Do not let the frigid weather dissuade you from going shopping. Montreal has one of the most extensive underground shopping experiences. All connected through underground passageways and stores, you can go from one section to another – all underground. This means that you can stay inside but still be able to visit different stores.
Photo Credit: Maison Ogilvy Website
If you are looking for a more traditional store, you can visit the quintessential Ogilvy’s. Also located on St. Catherine’s Street. When I was growing up, this store catered to the wealthy Anglophone market. This iconic department store has everything from high end designers to one of a kind baubles. One of the fun things that happens at Ogilvy’s is the bagpiper that plays between 12-1pm in the store. When I was a child, they use to close the store with the bagpiper walking in front of the store and playing. It only happened on Saturdays but I am not sure that still happens today.