Thursday, April 26, 2007

I've had a request

And knowing me as you do, you know I couldn't resist. My friend Kirsten knows someone who's going to Montreal and would like some advice about where to go. Are you kidding? Of course I'll spout on about Montreal. It's the city where I was born and raised. Unfortunately, I left there at 23 so my view is one of a beer sozzled youngster who actually left there for Ottawa on weekends deeming Montreal "too boring". Um, yeah.

Moving on. I'm going to leave out the bars I'd loved like the Stanley Tavern, Peel Pub and the Metro Brass. They were scary places serving watered down beer and if they are still open, they aren't fit for adults who are in control of all their faculties.

I'm also going to leave out places I've heard of but never been to. When I lived there I'd heard of a lot of places but stayed in my comfort zone of a few of the most fun where my friends also went. So Let's begin... and remember, this information is almost 20 years old:

Shopping (natch): If you take the Metro to Bonaventure, go up to the street. You'll hear angels singing. Just walk in any direction and the shops and stores are to die for. Most notable are Les Cours Mont Royal on Peel (flipping gorgeous building housing high end designer clobber) and Les Faubourg that has a market atmosphere where you can get all kinds of interesting foods. Mmmm homemade bagels... Also neat: Promenade de la Cathedrale... a whole mall built under a church. When they were building it the chuch had to be set up on stilts... quite an engineering marvel.

The Insectarium/Botanical gardens. I've only been there after I had kids and it was so worth the trip back home. I'm freaky scared of bugs but this place was one of the coolest places I've ever seen. It's really worth the money. It's at PieIX Metro I believe. I should mention that the best way to see Montreal is by Metro. Finding parking and Quebec drivers are both notoriously bad. As is the confusing network of one way streets and baffling french directions. If you don't know the city or don't read french, take public transit. It's cheap and cheerful and super easy. Also at PieIX (pronounced pee-nuf), the bane of every Montrealer's existence, La Stade Olympique. Our billion dollar baby. The Olympics were held in 1976 and I think we just paid it off a couple of weeks ago. I'm still humiliated by that one. Take the elevator up to the top. We could use the cash.

Let's see... I wasn't one for restaurants so I can't help you there unless you want Sbarros or Dunn's where drunk kids (used to) hang out. Ummm... you could go to the Casino on Ile Notre Dame. I've never been but my dad loves it. I'm of the seen-one-seen-them-all school of thought when it comes to casinos. Oooh! Also on Ile Notre Dame (Jean Drapeau Metro) is La Ronde, an awesome Six Flags amusement park. Lots of fun there. And Le Festin Du Gouverneur is a blast. It's a period restaurant that teaches you the history of Quebec and Montreal while you eat. It's like a live play going on all around you. The servers are dressed up like wenches, it's in a gorgeous old fort... the food is like you would have gotten back then so it's pretty basic (including no forks just knives and spoons) but you'll laugh, sing and learn a little something too.

Where else? I had my graduation ceremony at L'Oratoire St Joseph. It's a huge church at the top of the mountain. Watch out for the faithful doing penance by going up the stairs on their knees. Of course there's Old Montreal. It's so much like Europe you'd be shocked. There's an IMAX theatre near the old port. Umm... Beaver Lake is gorgeous for a nice escape from the busy city. It's in the middle of a park at the top of Mount Royal (worth the climb btw). I think it was designed by the same guy who did Central Park. There's a nice view from the Lookout and you can get to know your partner better. Hey, everyone's doing it.

There's so much to do and it's so great there. You don't even need a coat if it's crappy out. The Metro and its system of walkways go to all the best places.

Oh, and French shouldn't be a problem. Everyone understands English in Montreal. They just may not speak it to you. People are (or were 20 years ago) always willing to help and are really friendly. You are going to have So. Much. Fun. Enjoy!

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