My trip to Montreal the summer after my freshman year of university also constituted as my first road trip- and took over 7 hours from my family home outside of Boston. (Well, 7 hours to the border of Canada, where I then opted for a bus to cross the border, as I didn’t want to rely on French road signs- which is a characteristic oft forgotten about Quebec). I also locked my keys inside my car at a rest stop in Vermont, almost missing the aforementioned bus, and the only other person in the parking lot at the time helped me unlock my car with a coat hanger. The kindness (and possible past criminal record?) of strangers will continue to surprise me. Anyway, Rhys had flown over from the UK to visit (his first time to America I must add) and I of course took this opportunity to show him not only America, but its fun-loving-maple-flavoured Canadian neighbour too.
We stayed in the Hi-Montreal hostel, and were not disappointed. I was initially surprised by the size of the city- with its impressive underground system and giant skyscrapers-it is also home to two large rivaling (more in sport than academia) universities: McGill and Concordia. There was definitely a student population, who we would later become acquainted with, and an equivocal artistic/hipster feel of the city, unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced since. Montreal is truly a unique hybrid of American and European culture.
We went on the bar crawl provided by the hostel (Thursdays bar is a must), were met by an extremely international crowd, and stuck around with a particular bunch of French students/workers for the free walking tour the following day. The tour took us to the Jeal-Talon farmers market (the largest in North America) where we feasted on fresh strawberries and maple treats, and around the artistic and historical districts. We then went on to drink and be merry with our newly found French friends, one of whom (Mike, who was very attractive, far right in the image above) spoke no English, so I took the opportunity to teach him one phrase, “How you doing?” to get him through his time in America. Thanks Joey Tribiani. It makes me happy to think he might be at a bar somewhere, saying this right now…
We spent the rest of our time bar and restaurant hopping, eating poutine, and taking in the city. I think Montreal would be a very cool place to live, as it seems to be a truly diverse cultural paradise, but I think visiting in the winter time would prove to be a different experience entirely. Getting back into the USA was quite challenging as well, as it took about an hour to get through customs and one of our bus buddies was left behind at the border. Always be careful. Especially if you’re smuggling back mass amounts of maple flavoured specialties and gifts such as myself…
Borrowed clothes: For this trip I borrowed Stephanie Holohan’s awesome hippy T-shirt that I had , unbeknownst to her, brought back to America with me. (And swiftly returned the shirt after she noticed in my pictures, and asked for it back). One of my favourite borrows to-date.
- If you are planning on driving from somewhere in the US (which I assume many people do, making the pilgrimage across the border for the 18-year-old drinking age…), opt for taking a bus across the border. It’s easier. And most people forget Canada is another country- so car insurance may not cover your international North American travels.
- GO TO THURSDAYS BAR. We went twice.
- If you have a basic knowledge of French, bring it along with you- most locals speak it, in some cases better than English
- Get a weekend (or extended however long you are there for..) pass for the metro. It’s super handy.