29 Chapters
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Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub


Exploring MontrÉal

Montréal is a feast of choices, able to satisfy the desires of active and culturally curious visitors. Hike up the city’s mountain, Mont Royal, in the middle of the city; cycle for miles beside 19th-century warehouses and locks on the Lachine Canal; take in artworks and ephemera at more than 30 museums and as many historic buildings; attend a Canadiens hockey game; party until dawn on rue Crescent, The Main, or in Vieux-Montréal; or soak up the history of 400 years of conquest and immigration. It’s all here for the taking.

Getting from hotels to attractions is easy. Montréal has an efficient Métro system, a popular bike-share program, a logical street grid, and wide boulevards that all aid in the largely uncomplicated movement of people from place to place.

If you’re planning to check out several museums, consider buying the Montréal Museums Pass (see “Money Savers” on p. 108). Tip: Some museums have good restaurants or cafes. Remember, too, that most museums—though not all—are closed on Mondays.

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Planning Your Trip to Montréal & Québec City

The province of Québec is immense: It’s physically the largest province in the second-largest country in the world (after Russia); covers an area more than three times the size of France; and stretches from the northern borders of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire up almost to the Arctic Circle.

That said, most of the region’s population lives in the stretch just immediately north of the U.S. border. The greater Montréal metropolitan area is home to nearly half of the province’s population. Québec City lies just 263km (163 miles) northeast of Montréal, commanding a stunning location on the rim of a promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River, which is at its narrowest here. Most of the province’s developed resort and scenic areas lie within a 3-hour drive of either city. For the specifics on getting to both Montréal and Québec City, see chapters 4 and 11, respectively.

Montréal & Québec City

American Automobile Association (AAA)Members of AAA are covered by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) while traveling in Canada. Bring your membership card and proof of insurance. The 24-hour hotline for emergency assistance is  800/222-4357. The AAA card also provides discounts at a wide variety of hotels and restaurants in the province of Québec. Visit www.caaquebec.com for more information.

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Settling into Montréal

Montréal is the most eclectic of Canada’s cities: Impressively bilingual in French and English, the island metropolis hosts international events such as the summer jazz fest (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal), delights culinary crowds with innovative French-Canadian cuisine, and exudes a sophisticated Euro-heritage in revitalized historic neighborhoods. Montréal’s global population is a diverse microplanet of French, Scottish, Chinese, Haitian, Arabic, Eastern European, Italian, Portuguese, Filipino, and Greek immigrants. All this is wrapped up in a vibrant arts and culture scene and energized by an exuberant university community.

It’s easy to take in the city like a local. Hop on a public BIXI bike to pedal from neighborhood to neighborhood. Maybe you’ll wind your way up Mont Royal, the central landmark that gives Montréal its name, and then fly downhill to the Old Port for a visit along the canal. Cafes invite leisurely people watching, and restaurants in the postcard-pretty neighborhood of Vieux-Montréal offer authentic old-world ambience and stylish European flair. Evenings in Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End, and Little Burgundy have a younger exuberance and a greater ratio of locals to visitors.

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Where to Eat in Québec City

With a little research, it’s possible to eat extraordinarily well in Québec City. It used to be that this gloriously scenic town had no temples de cuisine comparable to those of Montréal. That’s all changed. Québec City now has restaurants equal in every way to the most honored establishments of any North American city, with surprising numbers of creative, ambitious young chefs and restaurateurs bidding to achieve similar status.

best Eating Bets

Best Restaurants for a Special Evening: Le Saint-Amour may be the most romantic restaurant in the city. Initiale is hushed and elegant. Both stellar establishments woo you at the door. See p. 201 and p. 203 respectively.

Best Bistro: In a city that specializes in the informal bistro tradition, Le Clocher Penché Bistrot offers a cozy atmosphere and a reason to explore the trendy St-Roch neighborhood. See p. 209.

Best Bargains: A main course at Aux Anciens Canadiens can set you back C$64 or more (yikes), but every day until 5:45pm this purveyor of classic Québécois fare offers three-course meals with wine or beer for less than C$26. The ritzy Laurie Raphaël also has a lunchtime deal of three courses for about C$29. See p. 197 and p. 203 respectively.

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L’Orchestre Symphonique tickets are specially priced for people 34 and under, 25 and under, and 17 and under.

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Best Circus

★★★ Cirque du Soleil and Montréal Complètement Cirque festival, in July (p 117 and p 157)

Best Opportunity to Hear French Chanson

Les FrancoFolies de Montréal festival, held in June (p 156)

Best Old-Time Jazz & Dinner Club

Maison du Jazz, 2060 rue Aylmer (p 114)

Best Refined Evening Entertainment

★★ L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts, 1600 rue St-Urban (p 120)

Best English-Speaking Theater

★ Centaur Theatre, 453 rue St-Francois-Xavier (p 122)

Best Comedy Spot

The Comedy Nest, 2313 Ste-Catherine ouest (p 120)

Best Drag Club

★ Cabaret Mado, 1115 rue Ste-Catherine est (p 113)

Best Music Festival

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, held in June and July (p 156)

Best Venue for Sports & Big-Name Concerts

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