Sightseeing in Montreal

In my previous post, I talked about how I planned my visit to Montreal, where I stayed and what I had planned on doing while I was there. Read on to hear what sightseeing I did!

Montreal is a large metropolis, which is something I typically try to avoid when traveling for a short visit. Large cities are very hard to get a good feel for them in a relatively short amount of time. Montreal is no exception. Perhaps it’s the Franco-centric Quebecois influence that almost everything is primarily French, especially the transit & street signs, but it made it difficult for me to be comfortable navigating. Sometimes there would be English. I know enough French to be comfortable reading it, but know just enough to get myself in trouble if I tried having a conversation with it. Unfortunately, I think this affected my sightseeing experience.

I didn’t do nearly as much as I wanted to do in Montreal. Looking back, I think there were several reasons for this. First, I didn’t adjust to the time difference so I slept until almost noon the first day I was there. Oops! Also, I think that not being comfortable navigating hindered me from aimlessly exploring. I usually have a good sense of direction, but when I don’t have my bearings somewhere the “introverted solo traveler” in me inevitably rears it’s head.

When I was looking into what to see in Montreal, I learned that the Formula 1 track is a permanent track and is open to the public. The track is on an island in the St. Lawrence River. I’m a Formula 1 fan, and I really wanted to see the track. Perhaps even do a lap or two on foot or bike and sit on the Wall of Champions. I didn’t realize that the music festival was on the same island and I didn’t want to deal with the crowd there.

Montreal Metro - notice the rubber tires?
Montreal Metro – notice the rubber tires?

On the first full day I was in Montreal, I took a “Transit Adventure” by taking the Metro several stops then walked around the Mile End neighborhood. The Mile End is mostly known for its great art and indie music scene. That wasn’t what I went there for – instead, I went to one of Montreal’s famous bagel shops – Fairmount Bagels. Upon arriving, I noticed that it is cash only and I had no “loonies” on me. Luckily, I remembered I walked past a bank on my way and was able to exchange my money for a much better rate and commission than what was offered at the airport. I almost laughed when the teller said it was a CA$2.50 commission (at today’s exchange rate, that’s about $1.90). I’ll save writing about the food for a later post.

Notre Dame Basilica - Creative Commons License
Notre Dame Basilica – Creative Commons License

After walking the Mile End, I took the Metro back down to Old Montreal. I got to the Notre Dame Basilica just as a wedding was finishing up with wedding bells and the whole nine yards. It was pretty amazing to hear. I took a video and shared it on Snapchat – if you’re not following me on there, you should add me. After the wedding bells finally stopped, I walked down to the waterfront promenade. It was quite humid that day but there was a nice breeze coming off the river which made the walk pleasant. The music from the festival was also loud enough that I was able to hear it from the promenade.

St. Lawrence River from Promenade
St. Lawrence River from Promenade

People of Montreal

I think Montreal has a lot to offer for a city of its size. Perhaps my expectations were off so my experience was not what I wanted it to be. I’ve been to Canada enough times to know that almost everyone is generally friendly. Montreal might be the exception to this. Some of the people I interacted with were not overly friendly, like a Canadian normally is.

The worst was when I was waiting for the bus to return to the airport which I mentioned in my previous post. While sightseeing, I came across others that weren’t nice but not quite as bad as the bus driver.

The consensus amongst people who I talked to about the locals of Montreal was mixed. About half of those I talked to were very surprised and the other half were not surprised at all. I think those who were very surprised either spoke enough French to get by or haven’t had the luck to come across a rude Quebecois.

This is disappointing because it is seriously one of the few places that I’ve been to where I really had a problem with the locals. On the other hand, I am lucky to have encountered very friendly locals in other cities.

Keep your eye open for my next post on the food of Montreal.
Comment below with the cities you’ve been where you’ve had an excellent time sightseeing!

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