Last week my good friends and I took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec for a quick summertime getaway. We chose Montreal because we’d heard that it’s a great place to experience in the summertime. That it is!
Montreal is actually built on an island that was apparently formed from a volcano. At the center of the city is a rather large hill called Mount Royal that offers a great view of the sprawling city below.
Once we arrived in Montreal, my friends and I hiked up the hill after dropping off our gear at our hotel. The hike itself was fun and challenging, and definitely worth it for the view! There were people all over it, jogging and cycling up and down the roads and trails. For us, the hike took about 45 minutes to an hour. I wasn’t exactly timing it because I was blinded by sweat and exertion.
Montreal is very pedestrian friendly, but due to its rather immense sprawl the people have taken to cycling to meet their commuting needs. There are bikes all over the place. I was actually really impressed by the city’s cycling accommodations. Bike lanes get their own curb-isolated partition of the road.
Le Plateau, which is the more hip part of the city, is covered with restaurants, shops, and lovely townhouses with wrought iron staircases. The city is covered with so much green. There are parks all over the place and lots of old trees, which really complements the beautiful row houses.
After about half a day I really started to notice the street art. Graffiti is unashamedly present on every street, and its beautiful. It’s a lovely contrast with the European vibe that you get from the architecture. The murals that cover entire building sides are so impressive, and its obvious that the city allows their local artists to thrive and expand in their element here.
My friends and I spent a chunk of time downtown in the financial district. Montreal’s economy is obviously healthy and strong, as there was no shortage of looming skyscrapers to block your sunlight. The streets are all well manicured and kept tidy, and the indoor public spaces like the Underground City are meticulous and gorgeously lit.
The thing that impressed me the most about Montreal is how friendly and patient the people are. Even if you’re a tourist or outsider, you’ll be treated with tremendous politeness and grace in every store and eatery. Every sign in the city is in French and the first thing you’ll hear when you walk into any establishment is a greeting in French. Of course once they realize you don’t speak French, the English comes at you naturally. My mom said it best, that she’d never been to a city where the people were so fluently bilingual.
I made an effort to smile at everybody, try and dispel the American stigma that I’ve been aware of since I was younger and living overseas. I did notice that the smile-backs are a little guarded, but there is absolutely no lack of friendly reciprocation. I don’t think the Montrealites were appreciative of my raucous disposition after a few drinks (our poor Uber driver), but they’ll survive.
I got to spend some time by the water. Not exactly the best views, but flooded with tourists and their DSLRs. I felt like I did a tremendous amount of walking to experience what every other big city with a waterfront has to offer. At least I found a bangin’ pizza spot that appreciated my propensity for tipping.
If you go, don’t forget to try a bagel. I scoffed, but man…respect to the Montreal bagel.
Also shouts to my buddies’ Hyun and Eric for not throwing their hands up in front of their faces every time I took a picture of them.