For spring break my son and I drove the 600 miles to Montreal, Quebec for several days late March. Not too cold, not yet hot and not too many tourists. Shoulder season, the best time to travel. We rented an apartment in the Old Town about two blocks from the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Montreal is an island in the Saint Lawrence River in Canada's French speaking province of Quebec.
Random thoughts about Montreal:
The city is generally clean
Everyone speaks at least French AND English. Everyone!
Church bells sound in the Old Town at both 1200 hrs and 1800 hrs from the Notre Dame Basilica
Everyone I encountered in Old Montreal and the rest of the city were both friendly and courtious.
What can I say about Montreal, its both a an old world city and a modern metropolitan city with one of the best public transportation systems I've ever ridden on. What impressed me about the Montreal Metro is just how easy and clean it is. Not a garbage can in sight, yet not one piece of garbage on the platform floors. For a city of over 3 million people this seems incredible, yet there it was, clean and shining. For a three day unlimited transportation pass which included the city buses and metro it set me back $14 USD; otherwise it would run around $3 USD per ride.
Under the city is over 18 miles of tunnels connecting businesses, hotels, resturants Metro and train stations. I've never seen anything like it. The winters in Montreal are apparently brutal and the RESO (underground tunnel network) seems just the ticket to move around without getting cold and wet.
Montreal is a very diverse city with many ethnic pockets where individual cultures and languages are spoken. Just a block from Old Montreal is Chinatown with its shops and markets and bakeries, as well as a public space to just sit and watch and listen.
A 15 minute Metro ride from downtown will find you in the Little Italy neighborhood of Montreal and a short walk to the Jean-Talon Market, open daily with shops selling anything from fresh fruit, crepes, maple syrup products and lots of other local products. This is not set up to market specifically to tourists, but a real neighborhood market where locals can buy fresh produce daily.
The 1976 Olypic Summer Games were held in Montreal. The stadium is still used for sporting events as well as housing an Olypic swimming pool open to the public. The complex is a short ride from the downtown area via Metro and the view from the Olympic Tower is worth the money to ride to the top via a funiculaire at its base.
A indoor corridor leading from the Metro station into the Olympic stadium (above). The view of Montreal from the Olympic Tower (below).
Apparently, the stairways on these typical Montreal apartments can be found nowhere else. I think they take the place of indoor stairways or common areas inside the building.
Notre-Dame Bonsecours is the oldest church in Montreal, dating to the mid-17th century. If you have time and money for only one church visit, this one provides an incredible view of the Old Port from an unobstructed outdoor balcony where you can take pictures of the copper angels overlooking the city.
A few scenes from a stroll along the Saint Lawrence River promanade.
Gare Centrale (main train station) above with a destination board and a typical Metro station below (Champ de Mars Station).
A few street scenes in Old Montreal.