Cosmopolitan Montréal

By Ola El Soueni

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Last February, a business trip took me to one of Canada’s largest and most vibrant cities: Montréal. In spite of my white winter fears since I was traveling during one of the coldest months there, I was still excited to go and explore a new city.

I booked my flight on Lufthansa Airlines, where I transited in Munich before taking a direct flight to Montréal. After arriving late at night and collecting my luggage, I took the airport shuttle to my hotel, which I would highly recommend as it is only 10 Canadian Dollars, making it cheaper than taxis and Uber and it is available every 15 minutes.

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Accommodation

Many of my colleagues recommended Travelodge Montréal; a hotel located downtown, which was very affordable given its proximity to most of the landmarks and activities. For a bed and breakfast basis, the room was neat, clean and well equipped, but not very spacious, and the quality of the continental breakfast was satisfactory.

A large chain supermarket that was open until late was located across the street from the hotel, which was very convenient for me, since I could grab fresh meals when I get back after a long day of work.

Travelodge is just a few steps away from the “Place des Arts” complex and walking distance from the “Des Jardins” shopping mall, as well as Chinatown, Old Montréal, Saint Laurent Boulevard and Saint Catherine Street, which are popular for their boutiques.

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Sightseeing

Montréal is the largest city in the province of Quebec, where their native language is French and its residents are very warm, friendly and eager to help you find your way around.

There are endless activities to do and places to see in cosmopolitan Montréal, but as I unfortunately only had three days to spend there that were mostly spent working, I did not get a chance to visit everything.

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It is a very vibrant and picturesque city, and is almost always covered in snow, creating a very charming atmosphere. What caught my eye the most was the diversity of its different neighborhoods, especially in Old Montréal, which had cobblestoned pavements that reflected the French colonial style. The Bohemian buildings are also architecturally beautiful. The area has ample souvenir shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. When you are there, you have to stroll down the Old Port, which is the perfect place to clear your mind.

Notre Dame Basilica, a very popular historical destination built in 1672, is located right in the center of Old Montréal. The church is decorated in great detail, reflecting the Gothic Revival style made up of blue, gold and stained glass windows.

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It is best to explore the area on foot to make sure you do not miss anything and so you can hop in and out of shops as well as enjoy the open-air space of “Place Jaques Cartier”.
Saint Laurent Boulevard is also a place you should visit, where you can go window-shopping while being surrounded by an upbeat community. It is very close to Chinatown, which is another neighborhood with a lot to do and see. If you are lucky, you can catch a Celine Dion concert or a Cirque de Soleil show.

Shopping

I did a lot of souvenir shopping mainly from the boutique at the hotel’s reception, which had many original ornaments, as well as from souvenir shops in Old Montréal. I spent a couple of hours at “Des Jardins” shopping mall, since it was close to the hotel and it houses an interesting number of shops, including many international brands.

Another popular shopping destination is Rue Saint Catherine; a busy street lined with department stores and every type of shop you can think of.

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Eating Out

Montréal has become a hub for delicious international cuisines with so many restaurants that cater to all tastes. Many of the signature dishes are deeply rooted in history and tradition, and so it is guaranteed that you will try something both mouth watering and unique.

Montréal-style smoked meat is a staple of the city. It is served on rye bread and drizzled with mustard with a side order of pickled cucumbers providing an iconic and tasteful combination. Smoked meat is served at most, if not all, of the restaurants in the city.

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Another signature dish is Poutine, which is basically French fries topped with cheese and covered in brown gravy. Many restaurants serve this with a huge variety of toppings, and I had mine with smoked meat and it was nothing but heavenly and the perfect end to a long and freezing day.

You can’t be in Canada and not have pancakes with maple syrup, as 72% of the world’s maple syrup is produced in the province of Quebec, and it is called Quebec’s liquid gold since it is a culinary staple for many traditional dishes. I was told that the maple season usually runs from the end of February until the end of March, so I was in Montréal at the perfect time.

One of the best desserts that I had there was the “Pouding Chomeur”, which means poor man’s pudding, and is made of flour, butter, milk and eggs smothered in maple syrup and served upside down.

“Couche-Tard”, which literally translates to sleeping late, is a 24-hour convenient store found all over the city that serves fresh hot sandwiches, croissants, cookies, and coffee, in addition to anything that could be found in a grocery store, perfect for a late night bite.

The diverse city of Montréal proved to be a very welcoming travel destination that I am planning to revisit very soon, as it houses many interesting landmarks, amidst a friendly community and a vibrant lifestyle.

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