Hubbie is still sleeping so thought would get started on our trip report. First, thanks to all of those who replied to our many inquiries. Your information was so helpful.
GRAFITTI & PANHANDLERS & OVERALL IMPRESSION
Earlier, there was a poster who cut their week in Montreal extremely short, talking about panhandlers, graffiti etc. I am attending a conference and retired husband is accompanying me. We have both felt safe walking the streets and taking the subway/metro. My take on having been here since Wednesday pm is that yes, there is a lot more graffiti than we see in Washington DC. But, it is not on every wall. Yes, there is some trash on the streets. And, yes there are a few panhandlers (what is with a sign that says $ for beer--do people really give them money for beer?)--we saw them mainly downtown. But, we were not accosted or disturbed by the panhandlers. It has been raining off and on so perhaps that has helped--but the graffiti, panhandlers and trash aren't enough to turn us off of Montreal. The only unpleasant experience was a crazy white haired lady that I sat next to on the subway/metro who was deeply offended by me doing so, and insisted that I move, leaned over and shouted in my ear in French! I moved and my husband sat down next to her to provide a barrier, which she seemed to appreciate more than me sitting next to her. Very weird.
While we were venturing out each day, I was struck by two young women at the conference hotel who had decided to head back to the airport early for duty free shopping on Friday since "everything is closed." With your help, and the help of the hotel conceirge and our advance research, we already had several options of what to do even though it was a holiday.
So, would say that you need a sense of adventure to truly enjoy your visit to Montreal. it is indeed grittier than Paris (though some of the neighborhoods in Paris are also rather gritty). But, step into one of the cafes or lively restaurants, get advice from locals and this board, venture outside the hotel and the immediate environs--and you will have a much better experience here in Montreal. Everyone it seems has strong views of where to eat in Montreal so we are getting additional input from locals we meet. We are enjoying ourselves and hubbie is happy he tagged along.
Montreal is often called the Paris of North America, but, it is not Paris. Not so many museums, many of the buildings just aren't that gorgeous (e.g., ride from airport was unremarkable). But, most everyone speaks English. You can drive or take the train to Montreal. No time difference for those on the East coast so don't have to deal with jet lag. For a weekend away, then Montreal makes a lot more sense than flying to Paris for the time it takes to get here/there. The expensive airfare to get here in the summer was equivalent to flying to Paris in the Spring or Fall, though some airfare sales make it a real bargain. With the US dollar now being .90 of a Canadian dollar, Montreal isn't the bargain it used to be, but, with the help of this board and a little advance work, you can make it more affordable.
SELECTING A HOTEL
We ended up with an air-hotel package through Expedia. First time to get a package for me since our honeymoon, but It was just a little more expensive than paying for just the airfare alone. We flew on Jazz (Air Canada) and didn't have to pay extra for luggage. All of the staff at our hotel, Hotel de la Montagne, are extremely helpful. The room is huge with king size bed, balcony, quiet and nonsmoking. Bathroom is all tiled with separate shower and bathtub and two sinks. The room has a desk, sofa, easy chair, dining table and two chairs. It feels luxurious to spread out. And we get turndown service with delicious chocolates at night. Just a few short blocks from the metro, my conference hotel and the 747 bus stop. Downside for us old fogies is that the pool bar is mainly a bar in pm and evening with outside folks coming in--which moved into the lobby bar when raining. One night, some mischief makers moved pictures on the walls from one floor to another. We had asked for a quiet room in advance so they had situated us far away from the pool bar, but, it is a little disconcerting to think of non-hotel guests roaming the hallways. There is a dress code for the pool bar.
747 & PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
We easily found the international currency exchange on the right hand side as we exited getting our luggage and going through customs. They sell the weekly pass as well as 3 day and 1 day passes there. An ATM machine is located right next to the ICE so easy to get the required cash. For our four days in Montreal we got a 3 day and a 1 day pass each--it was cheaper than getting the weekly pass since we don't already have an OPUS card. It is very nice to already have them with us since we can just hop on and off even for just a couple of stops. Metro is fast, and easy to figure out (just pick up a free map).Edited: 25 June 2011, 13:05