Having lived in the metro Detroit area most of my life, Canada is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. As I’ve mentioned before, I use weekend road trips as a sedative for the seemingly insatiable travel urges that come over me when I haven’t been able to travel for a while. At this point, I’ve almost run out of new places within a reasonable driving distance to see on a short trip, so with Montreal I somewhat stretched the limits…
It was about a 10 hour drive overall. My brother, his friend and I set out on a Friday evening and stayed in a suburb of Toronto for the first night. The next day, we got up early and drove the rest of the way to Montreal (with more time you may even be able to tack on a night or so in the Niagara Falls area). The plan was to park the car in a lot near our hostel and take public transportation (or better yet, Uber) everywhere so we didn’t have to worry about parking everywhere we went. Which leads to my first tip for making the most of this city…
This was one of the first times I had used the service and WOW was it convenient. We barely had time to get downstairs and out the door and the driver was arriving. It cost us overall around $35 for the whole weekend and we must have taken around 20 rides here and there.
We visited in January – not the ideal weather for being outside but the price was right and we had Martin Luther King Day (that Monday) off work. My reading has taught me that the parking situation in Montreal in the winter is mild and frenzied in the summer. This I found hard to believe, seeing as immediately upon arrival, we could not find a good lot to park in and the first one we found had a machine to pay that was only in French and that wouldn’t accept enough money to pay for the weekend stay.
So we moved to a different lot that had a person working it. They only take cash. We had just arrived and had none as of yet so after riding in the car for nearly 8 hours and being ready for both dinner and a bathroom break, I ran around the city of Montreal frantically looking for an ATM while the others waited in the car to avoid it getting towed. All of this in 10 degree Fahrenheit or so weather!
Needless to say, the parking in Montreal is atrocious no matter when you go, so Uber was nothing short of a godsend. Even at the bottom of Mont Royal in what seemed a bit out of the way in a big parking lot, I was able to jump on wifi at a little café and grab us an Uber.
All of the travel guides say visiting Mont Royal is a must in the city, so it was on the top of my to-do list while we were there. When walking up to what appears to be a huge expanse of snowy nothingness (because the hill and everything on it was completely covered with ice and snow), I soon realized I had grossly underestimated this little excursion.
People were walking toward and out of the park wearing spiked boots and carrying what appeared to be trekking poles with ice picks on the bottom. Walking up in my Uggs and handbag, I felt just a bit underprepared. Luckily I had made it a point to stop and grab a water bottle at a corner store before the hike otherwise I think we really would have been sorry. The trail was covered in a foot or more of pure, slippery ice (and my shoes having absolutely no traction, I had to be extremely careful). But I figured, having come this far, there was no way I was turning back now so we made the hike up the mountain and probably received many sideways glances from locals while doing it.
At the top, the view was gorgeous and I’m so glad we didn’t forgo it because of the cold weather. The hiking warmed us up and the view was completely worth it. We got some pictures and checked out the visitor’s center in the Chateau at the top. I’d love to go back someday in the summer and spend more time exploring Mont Royal but I’m happy to say I’ve seen it.
Have you heard of these? There is one in Toronto and one in Montreal. It is a restaurant where you dine in pitch black. All of the waitstaff is vision impaired and the restaurant is designed to allow visually able people to experience what it would be like to be blind.
Although we made the mistake of not making a reservation, they were able to get us a table and WOW was it an experience. You begin the night in a regularly lit lobby and you can look over a menu and order. There is the option to order a “surprise” meal where you don’t know what you will be served and can have some fun trying to guess.
The waitress then led us to our table in Macarena-style fashion. We were served roast lamb and sweet potatoes and ended up eating most of it with our fingers. It was interesting to say the least. You end up wholly relying on your waitress and the conversation of those you’re with, as you can’t look at your phone or have any other distractions.
If you’re ever in the area, I’d say it’s a must. The one downfall is that if the waitress forgets about you, you’re sort of stuck. You don’t know how to get out of the room and can’t simply get up and ask for help or leave. I could easily see the anxiety-prone or claustrophobic could start getting a bit panicky in this situation.
Oh how I wish there were one of these in my area. Mario Party, Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Bandicoot, and all the classics all in one place—and to sweeten up the deal there is booze too!
It’s affordable, we paid a cover of about $7 per person and got to stay as long as we wanted. There’s Nintendo 64, Sega, Pacman, etc. The atmosphere is laid back and the staff is extremely friendly. The only thing this place could use would be some bar food or pizza or something.
The bar is located on Rue St. Denis, which actually looked like a really fun area with a lot of unique restaurants and bars. Our hostel was in Old Town which is a beautiful area but I wish I would have known that Old Town pretty much closed down after 8pm. If I go back to Montreal, I’ll make sure to stay in this area instead. We’re not huge partiers but when we’re on vacation we definitely like to have some fun in the evenings.
For other great ideas on what to do while visiting Montreal, check out this post by The Crazy Tourist and get even more excited for exploring this one-of-a-kind city!
These were the highlights of Montreal for me, although I’d love to take the train there one summer and check it out again. What do you think are Montreal’s “must-sees”?
Forever & Always,
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS