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Montreal For 91 Days – The E-Book

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After three months spent living in the Canadian metropolis of Montreal, Jürgen and I came away with some unforgettable memories. We’ve now collected our experiences into an e-book, with all of our articles and over 200 full-color photographs.

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble (Soon)
Direct Download
(PDF, MOBI, EPUB)

This e-book is perfect for your Kindle, Nook or any other e-reader. With over 200 full-color pictures and all our articles, indexed alphabetically and by category, this portable edition of our blog is perfect for when you’re out and about in the city. Over the course of three months, we became familiar with almost everything Montreal has to offer. We explored the city’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods, ate loads of poutine, visited the best museums, and even found time for a few day trips, including an extended excursion to nearby Quebec City. We’re sure that our anecdotes, advice and photos can help inspire your own trip to Montreal.

For just a few bucks, you can download your own copy of the book for use on your e-reader or computer, giving you access to our articles wherever you are, without having to connect to the internet. If you’d like, take a look at some sample pages from the PDF.

Don’t forget to check out our other e-books, from our 91 days in Oviedo, Savannah, Buenos Aires, Bolivia, Palermo, Sri Lanka, Busan, Idaho, Istanbul, Iceland, the Yucatán, Tokyo, Macedonia, Valencia and Curaçao!

October 7, 2016 at 11:56 am Comments (2)

Montreal’s Real Underground – The Saint Leonard Caves

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Montreal has a man-made underground city, through which millions of people pass every day. But there’s also a place you can see a more natural underground setting. In the northern neighborhood of Saint Leonard is a set of small caves which long ago opened up in the earth.

St Leonard Caves

Jürgen and I love visiting caves, and over the past few years have explored them in places like Iceland, the Yucatán, Curaçao, Macedonia and Sri Lanka. The Saint Leonard Caves of Montreal don’t exactly measure up to any of these others, but the very fact that they’re found in the middle of a major metropolis makes them noteworthy.

St Leonard Caves

A visit to the caves can be arranged with the Société Québécoise de Spéléologie, who will provide a short introduction to the field of speleology before the tour. This is a French-speaking organization, so if your group is English-only, make sure to mention that when you reserve your tour.

The St. Leonard Caves consist of two rooms. The first is just a few meters underground, and looks almost like a mining tunnel. But this is a natural cave, created during the last ice age. You can see that the walls on either side would fit each other like puzzle pieces, and the rocks overhead must have been dragged into place by retreating glaciers.

The second room is more exciting, because it involves climbing. Here, you scale down a pair of ladders until ten meters beneath the surface of the earth. There’s not a lot of space in this area; it’s no wider than a couple feet, and you can’t progress far in either direction. You can, however, scale back up like Spider-Man, pressing your hands and feet against the narrow walls.

The Saint Leonard Caves are more a curiosity than a legitimate caving experience; there are no stalagmites or stalactites of any real interest — the biggest we saw was about four inches long — and besides some white mold, we didn’t spot anything living. But if you’d like to check out a totally different side of Montreal, it’s an interesting option.

Location on our Map
La Caverne Saint-Léonard – Website

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July 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm Comments (0)

The Town of Mont-Royal

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In 1912, the Canadian Northern Railroad Line bought a swath of undeveloped land to the north of Mont Royal. Architects and urban planners were hired to design a new model community, which would become known as the Town of Mont-Royal. In its hundred-plus years of existence, this suburb has remained a green, affluent, English-speaking oasis in the middle of Montreal.

Town Mont Royal

The Town of Mont-Royal (often abbreviated to TMR) is an independent suburb completely enclosed by Montreal, and feels like an aberration in the city. In 2002, it was briefly merged with Montreal, but the residents staged a revolt to reassert their independence. (Well… it was a referendum, which is the affluent community’s polite version of a revolt.)

Town Mont Royal

Walking around TMR feels both comfortably familiar and totally strange. This is the suburb of every parent’s dreams, where handsome, unpretentious homes line the tree-shaded streets, kids are running around unsupervised, with loads of parks, playgrounds and tennis courts. TMR is determined to keep out the grime and problems of real world, and seems to be doing a good job of it.

After establishing the town, the Canadian Northern Company installed a train line which runs directly underneath the bulk of Mont Royal, connecting TMR to Montreal’s Gare Central (Central Station) in less than ten minutes. The project was an immediate hit, and instantly attracted the rich, English-speaking families who didn’t quite mesh with the rest of Montreal. Today, the makeup of TMR is more diverse — in fact, there are more francophone residents than anglophone in the suburb — but it’s more English in spirit than the rest of the city.

TMR has a very deliberate design. It’s centered on Collins Park, which is also the location of the train station. Two boulevards cross diagonally through this central circle, creating a large “X” which gives shape to the rest of the suburb. Off these boulevards, a number of smaller streets and lanes create roughly concentric circles.

There’s not a lot to see in the Town of Mont-Royal. There are no museums, famous shops, wild architecture or historic landmarks. Most of the suburb’s many streets look exactly the same: lovely, quaint, peaceful, green. But sightseeing isn’t the point of TMR. This is a place where families come to live peacefully… and if their home isn’t drawing in loads of tourists, so much the better.

Location on our Map

List Of Montreal Hotels

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June 24, 2016 at 8:39 pm Comments (2)

St. Henri – A Gentrification in Progress

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We showed up in Saint-Henri with the intention of visiting the Emile Berliner Musée des Ondes, a museum dedicated to the world of audio. But since the museum was closed, we instead spent the day wandering around the neighborhood. Working-class Saint-Henri hasn’t traditionally been the kind of place which draws tourists, but it’s recently come into fashion, and gentrification is well underway.

St Henri Montreal

It’s the gypsy curse of the hipster. You want to live in the coolest neighborhood, but once too many other hipsters live there, it becomes uncool and you’re forced to move on. We witnessed this phenomenon during the five years we lived in Berlin, where the “hip” neighborhood shifted on an almost annual basis. Apparently, it happens in Montreal, too. Mile End had long been this city’s capital of cool, but when we visited, it felt as though its heyday was in the past.

The torch might have been passed to Saint-Henri. Bordering the Lachine Canal on the southwestern side of the city, this is a formerly industrial zone. There’s an abundance of empty warehouses and lofts, which have helped draw artists looking for ample space and low rent. The Musée des Ondes is found in one such building, the former RCA factory, and although the museum was closed, we found the huge property buzzing with busy twenty-somethings.

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Where artists go, others follow, and Saint-Henri was already an attractive choice for living in Montreal. It’s well-connected to the city center by metro, and you can take a bike right along the Lachine Canal to the Old Port. There’s the Atwater Market, the handsome Parc Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier, and a seemingly endless supply of small apartment buildings in the classic Montreal style.

We started our tour of Saint-Henri in the northwest, which is the more industrial (or post-industrial) section of the neighborhood, and then walked back toward the city along quiet residential streets and the bustling Rue de Notre Dame. This is Saint-Henri’s “Main Street,” and offers an intriguing study in contrasts. There are old depanneurs (convenience stores) with faded signs hanging in dirty windows, cutesy cafes specializing in miniature cakes, no-frills eateries serving up cheap and unpretentious meals, heavy metal bars, and upscale restaurants which require reservations and heavy wallets.

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On a recommendation, we returned that same night to check out a popular wine bar called Le Vin Papillon. But we had underestimated how popular this place would be. Reservations aren’t accepted, and the line was out the door. On a Tuesday night! When the waiter told us it’d be “at least an hour,” we gave up and went to a hip-looking taco place across the street. Here, I’m not sure what was more depressing: the minuscule size of the tacos or the monumental size of the bill.

I can just imagine long-time Saint-Henri residents walking past this expensive taco restaurant with its bite-size meals, and shaking their heads before returning to the nearby burger joint they’ve been eating at for decades. There’s a palpable sense of Saint-Henri trying to reconcile its working-class past with its new focus on wealthy young professionals. That’s a tricky balancing act, and I’m not sure it’s ultimately possible… but right now Saint-Henri is a fascinating place to visit. If we were planning to move permanently to Montreal, this neighborhood would be toward the top of our list. You can’t beat gentrification, so you might as well join it.

Location on our Map: Place Saint-Henri

Flights To Montreal

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June 20, 2016 at 10:50 pm Comments (0)

The Plains of Abraham

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More from Our Three-Day Trip to Quebec City:
Intro and History | Fortifications and Citadel | Two Views of Quebec | The Château Frontenac
Old Quebec | The Montmorency Falls | Two Great QC Hotels | Final Images

In 1759, on a field outside the walled city of Quebec, the future of Canada was decided. At the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the forces of England decisively defeated those of France, and Quebec City fell under the British crown. Today, the battlefield has become an urban park, and a venue for summertime concerts.

Plains Of Abraham

For months, the British had been bombarding Quebec City, although the well-fortified city had successfully repelled the onslaught and prevented the entry of the foreign troops. But on the morning of September 13th, 1759, the Brits finally found a way up onto the plateau to the west of the walled town. When the French woke up and saw over four thousand British just outside their gates, they sounded the alarm and rode out into battle. It was swift and fierce, and the leaders of both sides were slain — the British General James Wolfe died almost immediately, and the French Marquis de Montcalm succumbed to his wounds the next morning.

Had he lived to see it, Wolfe would have been pleased with the battle’s outcome; the Brits overwhelmed the unprepared French troops, and took the city. The French army was evacuated, and never returned; the defeat is considered to be the beginning of the end for New France.

The Plains of Abraham were named for one of the city’s original residents, Abraham Martin, a Scottish fisherman who arrived in Quebec in 1620. Today, the area has been converted into a large park. The Museum of Fine Arts is based here, as well as a museum dedicated to the famous battle. You can also check out a statue of Joan of Arc, and visit three large Martello Towers built by the British to protect Quebec from a possible invasion by the Americans. And every year, the Plains of Abraham welcome over a million people for Quebec’s summer music festival.

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After exploring the plains, we continued our journey by walking along the Promenade des Gouverneurs, affixed to the cliffs underneath the Citadel. Built in 1960, this path offers views over the Saint Lawrence River and eventually connects to the Dufferin Terrace, which sits in the shadow of the Château Frontenac. This long walk from the Plains to the Château was the final activity of our three-day trip, and was a nice way to say goodbye to beautiful Quebec City.

Location on our Map

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June 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm Comments (0)

After One Month in Montreal

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As luck would have it, Jürgen and I arrived during what everyone swears is one of the worst Quebec springs in recent memory. For every sunny day, we’ve had six that were rainy and cold. But luckily Montreal has plenty of fun things to do indoors, and we still have a couple months to get outside and experience the city’s famous street life. Here are our first impressions, after one month.

Most Memorable

Mike: So far, I’d have to say the concert we saw from the great Montreal band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I’ve wanted to see them live for years, now, and they were as great as I expected.

Jürgen: Flying my drone for the first time, and seeing how huge and dense Montreal is. And I loved seeing the mountains on the horizon which got me excited for the hiking we plan on doing.
Favorite Food

Mike: We’ve had a lot of great Asian food in Chinatown, but I’d have to say my favorite meal was at Smoked Meat Pete’s. This is a super-popular joint on Île Perrot, which friends took us to. The food is great, the atmosphere is rollicking, and they have live blues every night. Tons of fun.

Jürgen: The Montreal bagels I had at St-Viateur were hard to beat. Now, I just have to somehow combine it with poutine. Do Poutine Bagels exist? If not, they should!
Most Surprising

Mike: The cultural diversity of the city’s various neighborhoods has really surprised me. Little Italy really is full of Italians, great cafes and pizzerias. Chinatown is in fact a place where you’ll find a ton of Chinese people. Gay Village? Very gay! And walking around Mile End on a Sabbath, you might as well be in Israel. There’s been some bleeding into each other, but the extent to which these neighborhoods have stuck to their roots is amazing.

Jürgen: That Montreal’s heart is actually a real mountain in the city center. Mont Royal is so big that you honestly could get lost on it. I hadn’t expected that.
Most Disappointing

Mike: I know Jürgen’s going to say “the weather,” so I’ll say… the weather. There’s been an arctic front hovering over Quebec, and it’s been horrible, every day bringing another disappointing gray sky and temperatures far beneath what we were expecting. We’ve been here a month, and still feel like we don’t understand the city very well, because we’ve not spent a lot of time out in the streets. But we have high hopes for the next two months.

Jürgen: The weather it is. It sounds silly to complain: this is Canada, after all. People have assured us that this is an exception and not normal for this time of the year. Mostly, I’ve been disappointed that I couldn’t take as many pictures as I’d have liked, due to my frozen blue fingers.
Funniest/Weirdest

Mike: Every time somebody greets me with “Bonjour Hi,” I have to stifle a laugh. But I totally understand that it’s the polite way to cover your linguistic bases, and I love it. “Bonjour Hi” is the cutest.

Jürgen: They might do this in America, too, but Montreal’s the first place I’ve seen multiple toddlers attached to a big leash. It’s like dog-walking, but with kids!
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: 6. I think for a big, northeastern city, Montreal is average. I’ve not been outraged by prices, but neither have I been happily surprised.

Jürgen: 7. Food seems more expensive than I expected. But maybe I’m just fooled by the exchange rate. Ten dollars in Canada isn’t the same as ten euros in Germany.
People from Montreal Are…

Mike: … artsy, bilingual and really into backpacks. I’m always wearing a backpack, but usually it feels like a fashion faux-pas. Not so in Montreal… here everybody’s sporting one, whether they’re students, businessmen, joggers or mothers.

Jürgen: A bit aggressive when they’re on wheels (car, bikes) but very friendly when you encounter them on just two legs. I can’t really blame their road rage, though; the construction in this city would drive me crazy, as well.
Montreal in Three Words

Mike: diverse, cultural, cold

Jürgen: French, artsy, delicious
May 12, 2016 at 10:09 pm Comment (1)

The Marché Atwater

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Set inside an imposing art deco building on the waterfront near the Lachine Canal, the Atwater Market is home to a wide variety of butchers, bakers and produce stands. The market was too far away from our apartment in Old Montreal, but this was probably a good thing. If we had shopped there every day, we might have been healthier and happier, but we’d also have gone broke.

Atwater Marche Market

The Marché was constructed in 1933 and named after local politician Edwin Atwater (who’s also been honored with a nearby metro station). It was part of the public works projects which were designed to stimulate growth in Montreal following the devastating 1929 stock market crash.

Since its earliest days, the market’s primary focus has been selling high-quality produce and meats to the citizens of Montreal. A number of delicatessens can be found within its walls, although not as many as you might think. The market building looks enormous from far away, but it’s actually quite narrow, with space for just a couple rows of shops.

Atwater Marche Market

But you’ll find stands selling every type of delicacy you might want. There’s one dedicated entirely to sausages, with dozens of flavors such as “truffle” and “broccoli.” There’s a massive bakery, a shop selling specialty cheeses, a wine store, plenty of butchers, one that focuses on Italian pastas and sauces, and any number of fruit and veggie vendors.

We visited just before lunchtime, and that was a mistake. It was as though my stomach had developed its own eyes and nose. Even if I wasn’t physically looking at them, my stomach seemed hyper-aware of all the most delicious foods. It would grumble to alert me, then drag me over to the ricotta-stuffed shells… the baby-back ribs… the wide-ranging selection of pates and jams. “Stop it, stomach, or it’s tofu again for you!”

As much as I’d have liked to indulge my every desire, the prices at the Atwater Market kept us from splurging. Unless you’re loaded, this isn’t a place for day-to-day groceries. But if you’re looking for a certain sort of cheese that the supermarket doesn’t stock, or preparing dinner for a special occasion, it’s perfect. And even if you’re not planning on buying anything, it’s worth stopping by just to see the architecture and admire the beautiful food.

Location on our Map
Marché Atwater – Website

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April 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm Comments (2)
Montreal For 91 Days - The E-Book After three months spent living in the Canadian metropolis of Montreal, Jrgen and I came away with some unforgettable memories. We've now collected our experiences into an e-book, with all of our articles and over 200 full-color photographs.
For 91 Days