Monday, 15 September 2014

Exploring Montreal by Foot

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Montreal for my girlfriend and Real Girl Travels contributor Sarah’s aunt’s wedding. We decided rather than staying for just one night we would make it a trip and explore what Montreal had to offer, by foot.

Panoramic shot of Montreal from the Observatory Deck in Mount Royal Park.
I’m currently situated in Toronto, so getting to Montreal is a bit of commute. That trip was made easy thanks to the fine folks at Acura Canada who have continued to power Real Man Travels' summer adventures. They lent us a 2015 Acura RLX Elite and I have to tell all of you, it was hard to give the keys back after we returned. The car was beautiful and had a ton of luxuries in it like air vented seats that made the long haul drive very comfortable. We also didn’t break the bank as the car only took half a tank of gas to get to Montreal; that’s 543km on a half tank! But enough of the car that got me there, let’s get focused on exploring Montreal!

The 2015 RLX Elite (my new love)
Once in Montreal we set up shop in the heart of the downtown core at Le St Martin Particulier hotel. This hotel was stunning and definitely far nicer than anywhere I would normally stay. It was conveniently located near all the things we wanted to do. Situated at the corner of Maisonneuve and Metcalfe, you could literally walk 30 minutes (maximum) in any direction and be just about anywhere you’d want to be. So, we did just that.

Our room at Le St Martin for the weekend
First up, we decided to see what the Centre Eaton was like compared to the Eaton Center in Toronto, and the surrounding area on St. Catherine. I knew beforehand I wasn’t going to escape shopping with Sarah no matter how hard I tried, so I just embraced and made the best of it (like all real men should do for their girls). While the layout was different, the store offerings were very familiar so it felt like we were back in Toronto for just a moment. Outside on the street it felt like a booming metropolis with all the people, shops and like any great city’s downtown core, traffic, traffic, traffic! One thing I noticed was there is a lot of Les 3 Brasseurs locations in Montreal, which is not bad as they have a few tasty beers that can make for a great pit stop while shopping. Another great stop in the area for eats was a place called Reubens. I embarrassingly demolished a traditional smoked meat sandwich like a starving dog while Sarah ate her Reuben like a normal functioning human in society. The plus side of my gorging though was that it gave me more time to drink beer!

Mmmmm smoked meat.
Later that night we decided to take in some nightlife where everyone and their grandma had recommended to us before we had left, Crescent Street. Crescent was just a quick 5-10 minute walk from our hotel and the shear amount of patios, terraces and outdoor spaces along this street put a lot of cities I’ve visited to shame. Visiting Montreal on a long weekend and just days before McGill students started classes meant we would be lucky to find any seats on a patio. But we persevered and walked from Rue Sherbrooke down to Boulevard Rene-Levesque and then back up until we saw a spot. We ended up on the corner of Maisonneuve and Crescent at a hole-in-the-wall looking bar called London Pub. The beaten up, dingy decor and cheap beer made me feel right in my element as I love a good dive bar. Time flew by as a couple of Sarah’s cousins joined us and eventually we ended up on the third story in another bar called Stogies where we all puffed on cigars and continued to drink the night away.

That's some good eating right there! A hot dog and bacon poutine from Peel Pub
The next day saw us slightly hungover, but no worries, we had the perfect cure! The folks over at Local Montreal tours had given us two spots on their walking brew pub tour. That’s right, more beer! You can read more about that tour later as I decided it was such a great experience that it needed its own article.

After the brew pub tour it was wedding time! The wedding was out in Kahnawake, Quebec at a private golf and country club. I could bore you with all the wedding details but instead I will give you a quick breakdown:
  • First wedding I’ve ever been to where I was allowed to have a beer during the ceremony! Anyone getting married take note, this is a game changer!
  • My girlfriend’s family is crazy, in a good way. Some of the nicest and fun people I've met in a long time.
  • Food, food, food.  Dance, dance, dance (in my case, watch them all dance).
  • Open bars ALWAYS make for good times
With the wedding wrapping up we had to get back to our hotel and I now know that if you are not in the core of Montreal, good luck getting back. Our adventure to get back to the hotel began at 2:30 a.m. We hitched a ride on the shuttle bus to a nearby motel where some folks were staying and we rudely woke up the attendant to call us a cab. He was our hero and 30 minutes later a cab showed up and took us the long way back. At 4:30am and $80 later we were back at the hotel. I know we got ripped off, but at this point, I didn’t care and was just glad that we were back and able to go to bed.

Notre-Dame Basilica close to Old Montreal.
Remember when I said earlier that open bars always make for a good time? While true the night of, it doesn’t apply so much to the next day. Hung-over and feeling awful Sarah and I laid in bed for most of the afternoon, only getting up once for some food. We headed just south of our hotel on Peel and hit up a sports collegiate type bar called the Peel Pub. Greasy and carb loaded food always cures hangovers right? Well we tested that theory by both ordering a huge bowl of poutine. Mine came with hot dogs and bacon and Sarah’s came with smoked meat. Feeling slightly better we headed back to the hotel to sleep some more. After another nap we hit up the hotels pool which was amazing! It was small, and would probably be uncomfortable if more than 4 people were up there, but the pool was heated and set high so it felt like a hot tub you could swim in. This made me feel great and ready to explore some more of Montreal.

Nice fountain across the street from the main square in Old Montreal.
With the sun going down we grabbed a cup of coffee and headed south to walk the cobblestone roads of Old Montreal. After a 30 minute walk we had reached the out skirts of Old Montreal and decided to walk up and down every street. This area was amazing as it has a great European feel to it with the tight cobblestone roadways, old buildings and horse carriage rides but I must point out that I disliked that there were night clubs in the middle of it all. Maybe I’m just getting old but in an area with so much history and beauty I don’t think it should be jeopardized by drunken hooligans. During our night walk there was some local buskers and musicians and performers that gave the area a welcoming vibe. I could say more about this area but you really need to get down there and experience it for yourself.

Old Montreal at night.
We wrapped up the night early as we knew we’d be heading to Mount Royal the next morning and wanted to save some energy for the hiking we’d be doing. Mount Royal Park was a nice day away from the city. If I had to, I would say this park is the equivalent of visiting Central Park in New York City (granted at a much smaller scale) in the sense that you are so close yet feel so far from the city. Here we hiked, and I recommend you do the same, not only for the observatory deck that delivers stunning views of Montreal, but also for the little peaks and views between trees all along the trails. This was a stop I was glad we made as it summed up our weekend in one glorious view.

I wish we had more time to explore the city but like all trips you do what you can in your given time frame and keep the things you missed in your head for when you return. When I return, I will be sure to do and see more.

Trail in Mount Royal Park.

One of the many hidden viewpoints of the city and surround areas along the trails. 

A big thank you goes out to the Montreal Tourism board for assisting us with accommodations, the brew pub tour and helping me decide some must visit spots. Another thank you goes to Local Montreal for letting us tag along the Brew Pub Tour, a definite must do for any beer enthusiast. Finally thank you to Acura Canada for supplying the RLX that got us there and back (and making me fall in love with a car just out of my budget!)

If you have been to or live in Montreal, tell me what I missed in the comments below and hopefully when I go there again I can find the time to do those things. And if you haven’t been or are planning to go, be sure to let me know what you plan to do, I’d love to hear!


1 comment:

  1. Lawrence River. From the Basilica, start strolling east to keep investigating the cobblestone lanes of Old Montreal. Make a point to stop by the Palais de equity