While I was researching for another assignment, I happened to be browsing through my photographs from Montreal, in Quebec, Canada and I couldn’t help but smile. It is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and fabulous places and despite the cold winters, it is truly one of my favourite destinations.
While Edinburgh is indeed the festival city, Montreal comes in a close second. Just look at this list of year-round fun:
- Montréal en lumière – a new wintertime festival in February
- Festival Mondiale de la bière – a fantastic beer festival in June
- Montreal International Fireworks Competition – enough fireworks are shot in this festival, between June and July, to make even the Americans gasp
- Montreal Jazz Festival – another summer celebration, from June to July
- Just for Laughs – a comedy festival held in July
- World Film Festival – hosting films from over 70 countries, in August-September
That’s just a sampler. There is also great stuff going on for Halloween, Christmas, nevermind the activities that happen every weekend.
Oh, the gastronomic delights of Quebec. Montreal has some of the best maple syrups found in any of the shops in Canada. But the city rests on the laurels of its mother ship, France, to blend North American tastes and French classics. I’ve had some of the best meals here – be sure to try the poutine , french fries and cheese curds topped with gravy. Sure, it’s terribly on unhealthy, but you’re on holiday, right? Another great local speciality is the smoked meat sandwich (go to Schwartz’s).
I’m not a huge shopper to be honest, but I know a good thing when I see it. Strangely enough, you’ll find European brands – not American – here in Montreal. But there are plenty of Canada-only ones too. I love La Maison the department store and the men’s shirts at Terra Nostra are to die for.
While its often chilly up here in the wilds of the North, Montreal has plenty of great outdoor offerings to warm you up. I love the Botanical Gardens, where you could walk around for days enjoying the different arrangements, reflecting ponds, babbling brooks, and various Chinese pagodas. For going further afield, there are cycling options and hiking, as well as skiing over at Mont Tremblant.
I hate to even use the comparison, but Second Cup is the Starbucks of Montreal – however, it is much cooler. So cool it gets its own section in this blog post. See? No seriously, the massive bowls of steaming good stuff are served with a smile, there are always plenty of newspapers and magazines about, and you’re bound to meet fun locals or friendly tourists during every visit. My only question – as most things in Montreal have French names, I never understood why it wasn’t called Deuxieme Tasse?
If You Go…
Montreal is a place that warms the soul, so pay no attention to the weather maps and go when you want to – when a festival that interests you is on, or when you have the most time to explore this part of the world. Don’t worry about speaking French – everyone is bilingual, and keep in mind they speak Quebecois here which is somewhat different than ’standard’ French.
If you have the time, then I suggest you also visit Quebec City, the capital of this province and full of old world charm.
Have you been to Montreal? What’s your view?
Image Credit: nonanet