What a great city Montreal is – quelle ville! If you buy your bus ticket in advance like I did from Toronto to Montreal for $89 with the tax, you can pay very little for your travel. There are other cheap ways to travel, but please see my Free Ride article for more information on your options.
The subway system is one of the best ways to get around once you’re in the city. I bought six bus tickets for approx. $11, one costs $1.87 CDN. That’s less than Toronto and you can still get the very same world-class feel as T.O. in Montreal.
If you’re lucky enough to have a good friend there like I do, then you can always crash on her coach and show your thanks in the most inexpensive ways you can think of. Such as, I paid for some of her necessary shopping as we walked and scooted around the city to run her errands. I bought her gummy bears and paid for a green tea drink from a health food store at Berri-Uquam Metro – which is one of the central stations close to where the bus is. Shopping with Anna was fun and educational (I learned a lot about good things to buy at health food stores like fresh almonds). This was lots of fun because it reminded what life is like for busy Montrealers and daily living with juggling work and home life.
We mainly shopped around the Mile End, Outremont and Plateau neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods are French areas, but many people do speak English. Outremont is a rich area and for free you can walk around and see how the other half lives. I don’t think I’ve seen so many Saabs parked in one place in my life.
Anna is a great cook and made fantastic egg noodle pasta (a traditional Italian dish) with parmesan cheese. The trip was so exciting that I didn’t feel like I needed coffee and the sun shines so bright in Montreal that I chose to go with decaffeinated coffee instead. Anna also introduced me to something known as chicory, which is a coffee alternative. I know from experience that West Indians have something like this known as Milo that is also a coffee alternative. I bought the chicory from a health food store on St.Laurent which is also known as the Main (it kind of divides the more English part of Montreal to the west and the more French part of Montreal to the east). The chicory costs only $4.79 for quite a decent size jar and I can get a lot of coffee-tasting flavour out of it. Compare this to spending about that much on a specialty drink at Starbucks.
My main purpose going to Montreal was to help to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Concordia University communications program where I did my graduate studies. It was terrific bumping into old friends and finding out what they’re up to. I even bumped into a notable grad Scott Laurie who is an anchor for CTV in Canada who I didn’t know was a Concordia grad. It helped me reaffirm my feeling that I did go to a good school. Plus, Columbia University is too expensive anyway ;-).
Montreal is a wonderful city when it comes to higher learning. The city has four universities, two English-speaking (Concordia and McGill) and two French-speaking (Université du Montreal and Université du Quebec à Montreal). Just experiencing the campus environment is a big part of taking in life for many people in Montreal.
What wasn’t expensive were the 10K gold earrings I bought at a jewelry store in the Plateau called Bijouterie Zenith. I got a great deal on them – they were practically a steal at $60 CDN without the tax. They’re from Portugal and they’re beautiful as the people from there.
I can’t rave about the nightlife in Montreal, but I do know what it’s like from past experience. There is a lot to do, but often it comes at a price. Clubs come and go, but if you’re into movies – a must-be-there place is Ex-Centris close to St.Laurent and St.Catherine. This movie theatre shows some terrific stuff and has a video imagining to look at when you go to the booth to buy your tickets.
I had some good old-fashioned entertainment on the television with rabbit ears (because the reception in Montreal without cable is good) and watched a modern show like Niptuck on CTV. It’s a show about the lives of plastic surgeons and it was my first time watching it. I found it quite interesting.
The ride back home wasn’t too bad at all. I even got two seats for one because there wasn’t a lot of body traffic on the bus for most of the ride. Montreal in September is a great time to go and you will enjoy it. My trip was short but sweet – and if you’re looking for a power vacation – Montreal is the place to go. Don’t forget a Metro map while you’re there.