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1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Chicago, IL
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1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

My husband and I are seasoned travelers coming to Montreal on the 1st week of September. I have a few questions about our trip.

We will be flying from Chicago to Boston (got a killer fare) on Spet 5th, staying in Boston 1-2 nights, renting a car in Boston to drive up to Montreal, staying in Montreal 2-3 nights, then heading back to Boston to fly out on Sept 11th.

We aren't sure exactly what we should hit up on our drive to Montreal (Ottawa? Burlington, VT?, Salem, MA?), how long is really needed to see the city of Montreal, or where we should stay-considering we have a car.

We are more interested in seeing the city than anything else. We really enjoy architecture, history, and anything of an educational or unique nature.

We are on a VERY tight budget, and would like to spend as little as possible on things like hotel (but we will NOT do a hostel) and would prefer to spend our $ on experiences.

I have found a deal for $69/day for a hotel called Hotel Gouverneur Ile Charron located at 2405 de L'ile-charron Rue, Longueuil, QC J4G 1R6, Canada . This seems like an unvelievable deal, and would save us a ton of $$. The reviews seem to be so so on this place, with most people complaining about there being no public trans (we have a car) and no real brekkie included (we'd want to eat in the city anyway!). My question is how far (driving) would this hotel be from the city attractions? Is it really as hard as the reviews say to use public transport from this hotel if that's what we choose to do?

Also- Parking. Looking at the sidebar links, it seems they have conflicting information. Here tripadvisor.com/Travel-g155032-c11777/Montre… it states that parking is easy to find and inexpensive, but here tripadvisor.com/Travel-g155032-s302/Montreal… it states that parking is expensive and hard to find. Which is it?

Any help would be very appreciated. Thanks!

Chicago, IL
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96 posts
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1. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Also- another question. Is it standard policy to have to pay for parking overnight if we choose to stay in a hotel downtown or in the Old Montreal area? I was going to try and Priceline a decent hotel in the heart of it all, but if I'm paying an extra $30ish a night for the hotel location, then another $20/night for parking, it will add up quickly.

Thanks!

Montreal, Canada
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for Montreal
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2. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Phew that's a lot of questions to answer. I might not have the time to address them all so here are a few "quickies".

With your timeframe, i would not stop between Montreal and Boston. There is not that much worth while except for stopping in New Hamphire at one of the liquor store outlets (can be foundalong the highway).

Montreal is actually less expensive then Boston. At the hotel you mention, public transport will be difficult. Youcould park at the longueil metro station and ride that into the city, or take the car into the city. I must warn you that the traffic to cross the bridges in the morning is awful. There is always construction which makes things worse.

Parking in the city is expensive overnight, but not that difficult to find if you are willing to pay. If you want free parking, it is harder, and you must be weary of signage which often states that you will have to move your car at a certain hour. You can find outdoor parking lots for as little as 18$ or pay more for indoors lot. Almost none of them, aside from hotel clientele, will allow in and out privileges.

If you are on a tight budget you could look into Sandman in Longueuil, or look into renting at a b&b or from a person. Know that if you rent froma person, the government agencies will not guarantee the cleanliness or the state of the place, but some website offer a protection against fraud. Look at airbnb.com for some listings. Ideally, find a place with a parking lot, on the island.

Massachusetts
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for Quebec City, Block Island
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3. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

I agree that unless you want to see some great parks drive straight up to Montreal from Boston, about 5 and a half hours. also, make sure your rental car ageny will allow crossing the border. Some do, some don't.

As for where to stay, what is your budget. You can get a place like the Auberge Bonaparte, in Old Montreal, for under $200.00 per night, with breakfast included. Parking up the street, part of the package, would be about an additional $15.00 per day, a bargain in Montreal for hotel parking. The breakfast, as well as their restaurant, is very good and well reviewed here.

JDP

Toronto
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for Algonquin Provincial Park
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4. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

As a regular visitor to Montreal, I find that the city's parking situation does not live up to its fearsome reputation. When I drive to Montreal for a 3 day visit or so, I can usually find a street near downtown where I can park for free for the duration of my stay (there's not much reason to use the car while you're in the city). It's just that most blocks have arbitrary-seeming parking restrictions, like no parking on Thursdays from 10-11 am or something random like that. But if you can read 24 hour time and know days of the week in French, you should be able to drive around and find something.

Also beware of coloured, numbered squares on the parking restrictions sign, which indicate that parking is for residential permit holders.

Montreal
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5. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

As for nothing to see between the two: hmmmm. The New England states are incredibly beautiful physically, and full of cute tiny villages nestled in valleys. So no, no amazing must-see things like Niagara Falls or important historical things or what have you, but you can hop off the freeway basically anywhere and drive a bit to the first village and probably see loveliness, or take one of the smaller roads and see lots of it. Well, not EVERY town is completely gorgeous, but almost all have charm.

For history, Montréal is fantastic -- its old town isn't as pretty as Old Québec is, so it pleases tourists less, but it's actually much more interesting for those who like architecture -- in fact, Montréal is Canada's most interesting city for its huge mix of architecture, from early French buildings with rough-cut stone and tiny windows (shipped over from France and smaller panes mean less waste when they break), early British buildings (cut stone, larger panes), residential and commercial, and some great neoclassical buildings that are similar to England and Scotland. And we have a few very nice modern stuff -- from the 60s with I.M. Pei's Place Ville Marie, Mies' Westmount Square, Shafde's Habitat 67, and Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome on the islands being the big names, but there are lots of quirky things around that are quite nice. We don't have much starchitecture like Toronto is giving itself, but there is still some quite good contemporary stuff if you hunt a bit -- see dmpibooks.com/book/a-guidebook-to-contempora… for a great book which I found at Paragraphe on McGill College but it may be in Chapter's or Indigo, which are the more English bookstores as well; if it's not, let me know and I can meet and lend you mine :)

As well, stop by the tourist info centre in Old Montréal and pick up a self-guided walking tour booklet for something like $5 -- it makes a great souvenir, and gives a good history and covers the important buildings.

And there are some great neighbourhoods to explore -- Saint-Henri west of downtown has a neat mixture of poor residential, industrial past along the canal and Saint-Ambroise with converted old warehouses and spanking new construction, some interesting and some really yawn-inducing. There are also some really cute areas -- the little park between Agnès and Laporte south of Saint-Jacques, for example, or la rue Coursol east of Atwater. And Notre-Dame is a good street to walk (or Bixi) along. I also like the paths between Notre-Dame and Saint-Jacques between Saint-Henri métro station and all the way to downtown -- it takes you though some weird 70s urban renewal stuff, some of it boring but some of it quirky indeed.

Another interesting neighbourhood is in Little Italy, so close to the Jean Talon Market -- east of oh, Clark between Beaubien and Jean-Talon is old industrial and has some very well-done conversions -- it feels a little isolated, but you can see it's turning into something really nice. And of course, the Plateau is great to wander around just about everywhere.

There is a lot more -- I could go on and on :)

For views of the city, make sure to hop over the Islands -- much nicer than views from the mountain, actually. And from the middle of the Jacques Cartier bridge, you have a great vista of downtown with the trees of the island in the front.

If you have time to do some digging and don't mind wading through tons and tons of French text, there are a series of "heritage inventories" that the city did on its different neighbourhoods. The first part of each one is identical and gives all sorts of methodolgy boring stuff, but as you scroll down, you get pictures and at the end maps showing areas of significant interest, which can be hard to figure out but give an idea of what areas are more interesting urband fabric wise anyway. See ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page… and the most interesting would be Le Plateau Mont-Royal, Le Sud-Ouest, Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, and Ville-Marie.

One of my favourite subjects, so ask away, and I'll write more :)

Oh, and I'd skip the Île Charron -- the islands it's on are actually absolutely lovely to explore -- a beautiful park and filled with deer and muskrats and racoons and other wildlife. But the hotel? Read the reviews. And it's not convenient to town at all.

Montreal, Canada
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6. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

1. Parking in Montreal is expensive and a royal pain in the behind. Parking in residential neighbourhoods is possible, but limited and you have to read the signs. Oh... and you have to pay the parking tickets on a rental because otherwise they pay them and send you an extra charge for it.

2. Ile Charron is an island in the St. Lawrence with difficult access to and from the city because it is off of the Lafontaine tunnel. I'm sure everyone will tell you that it's not a great location for a tourist.

3. For a tight budget, look to some of the B&Bs in the village or the plateau. Remember that the rate includes breakfast, so that's an extra savings. Or stay off island but close to a metro station.

Note: I'm an innkeeper, so please take my comments with the appropriate caution.

Surrey, Canada
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for Quebec City, Quebec, Montreal, The Netherlands
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7. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

This hotel has rooms from $100 per night (+ txes), parking and continental breakfast are included. Excellent location. http://www.hotel-chateau-argoat.qc.ca/en/

Massachusetts
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8. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

As another regular visitor to Montreal, I agree with tweedwolfscream that the "fearsome" reputation that trying to find a place to park a car in Montreal is a little overexagerrated. If parking the car in a parking lot or garage you're going to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 or so per day but thats pretty standard for any city. If you're going to be in Boston first I'd worry about the parking there just as much if not more than the parking in Montreal. I live and work in Boston and trust me the parking there is brutal and expensive. We've never tried parking on the street in Montreal, mainly because I don't want to be bothered with having to worry about moving the car between certain times and other restrictions while I am on vacation so paying the $$$ to put the car in a garage is easier, safer, and I don't have to worry about it. And the truth is, there is no need to use a car while you're there. The Metro can get you just about anywhere you want to go and is quite efficient compared to the joke of the broken down subway system we have in Boston known as the "T" or as us locals like to call it, the "MBT-Delay".

Do some research ahead of time on websites like Parkopedia to find the parking options near where you'll be staying and you'll be fine.

Boston, MA
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9. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

We are going to Montreal next week and we booked the Hotel Argoat in the link above for a good price with free parking. There were many B&B's that had parking at $10 or $15 a day in the Plateau area and good room prices so that made up for it. Not as low as $69 though - do a search here by price and you'll see there are a lot of options. If you have a AAA card also check their site, they had some discounted large hotels in downtown, though you had to pay for parking.

Massachusetts
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10. Re: 1st time in Montreal. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Well said canyonexplorer regarding comparing the parking in Boston and Montreal. I totally agree, and yes there is NO comparison between metro systems either. The Edenville Railroad, a kids railroad in southeastern Massachusetts, runs better, faster, and is more reliable than the T.

JDP