Going to see the C's.
February 11, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Me, my boyfriend and a friend of ours are heading to Montreal at the end of this month. I've seen a number of other questions along these lines (and bookmarked them!) but still looking for a bit more info. Also, one stupid question. Aren't you curious?

As avid SJ Sharks fans, we've started a mini-tradition of seeing a Sharks away game once a year. We're working our way through the original six to start, and this year it's off to the frozen north to watch Los Tiburones vs. Les Habitants.

A few simple questions:

Where to stay? We're only in town for the weekend so someplace with easy access to the Bell Centre is a must, although I'm told there's a great subway system. We're not going on the cheap, but $1000-a-night suites are probably out of the question. :) There's tons of hotels obviously, but I was hoping someone knew of a great find amongst the dozens of choices.

What to do? The other threads have some great advice for summer-y things and good restaurant ideas (I'm embarrassingly excited to try poutine someplace where it's not just a novelty... Or maybe it is still just a novelty in Quebec, I dunno!). But we're going in late February when things are cold, cold, cold, especially to our thin California blood. We don't mind braving it (read on) as long as it's for something fun.

Stupid question, and I told myself I wouldn't ask this, but... I have this secret dream, humble though it may be, of someday playing pond hockey - even if just for a few minutes, and even if just with a couple other guys. I grew up in Seattle (not exactly a hotbed of hockey excitement) and while San Jose has plenty of enthusiastic hockey fans, frozen lakes aren't exactly a common occurrence around here.

I don't even know what the specific question is rather than, man, it'd be really fun to whack a puck around a frozen lake for an hour. Obviously IN the city or anywhere in close proximity isn't an option, but... Hey, if any of my northern brethren have an idea of how I could make my dream come true I'd love to hear it.

posted by wolftrouble to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

I was in Montreal for a month last year, and restaurant Patati Patata quickly became my favorite place: http://www.montrealfood.com/restos/patati.htm. It's an easygoing, small, local hangout, poutine is amazing, the people are wonderful.

And also of great renown in Montreal is Schwartz's Delicatessen, if someone in your troupe really wants to try amazing Montreal smoked meat sandwiches (warning: line is often long!).
posted by crawfo at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2009

There are a ton of boutique hotels in Montreal. You might want to check into the W Hotel, which is between Old Montreal and St. Catherines (good central location). You sound like you would enjoy the St. Catherines area the most. There are more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. Try Brutopia for an excellent variety of custom beers. If you want something more quaint, and more French, try Dieu du Ciel (my favorite bar). Also, for gourmet food at reasonable prices (where you can bring your own wine), try L'Academie.

You might be able to skate (and stick-handle) on the pond in Parc-Lafontaine when you are there. I believe you can rent skates there, though you might want to bring your own sticks and puck. The park is also close to the best Poutine restaurant in the city, La Banquise.

Hope that helps! Bring warm clothes and have a great time.
posted by dobie at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2009

Pond hockey is going to be difficult as the number of ponds in an urban setting is understandably low. That said, most public parks will have seasonal hockey rinks set up and you can normally find a bunch of guys (or girls for that matter) putzing about with a puck. Note though that most of these parks will be outside the downtown core.

Does a man-made pond (i.e. Beaver Lake - Lac des castors in French) count? The City certainly has skating there. Plus a great sledding hill!

You missed out the Fête d'hiver (winter festival) on Ile Ste-Hélene by a few weeks unfortunately. That's always a lot of fun. The City shuts down the Olympic Bassin (where the rowing competitions for the 1976 Summer Games were held) and turns it into a giant outdoor skating rink. Because of its construction as a rowing venue, the water is incredibly still and makes for great natural ice.
posted by elkerette at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2009

Well, they set up rinks in a couple of the parks IN the city, so you can definitely play shinny (what Canadians call pick-up hockey) if you are so inclined. I think they call it shinny cause you just wear your skates and shin pads, no high shots or slapshots, and just for fun. I used to go and play once a week or so with my friends while I was at McGill. Skill not required. However, this isn't on a pond. It's a normal sized rink with boards and such. The one I played at was in Parc Jeanne Mance. For ACTUAL pond hockey, I'm not too sure.

As for hotels, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is currently going for $146 a night, and that's a nice hotel and very close to the Bell Centre.

Also, while you can get poutine at McDonald's and Burger King, my favorite poutine is from a place called La Belle Provence or LaFleur (both quebec hot dog chains). You can also check out La Banquise, which is supposed to have the "best poutine in Montreal". However, it's going to be quite a distance from downtown, and while the poutine is delicious, the sheer choice involved may be a bit overwhelming. Oh, and poutine is best eaten late at night, after a night of drinking. :-)

And as for places to see, there is plenty:
-Walk through St Catherine's for tourist shopping, strip clubs, underground mall
-Peel St or Crescent for tourist pubs and clubs
-McGill University Campus is quite nice, even in the winter, and is basically in downtown
-St. Laurent for a little more local flair with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs and crosses Prince Arthur which is a cobblestone walking street that is quite nice (There is also a Belle Pro right near the corner of St. Laurent and Prince Arthur)
-St. Denis for some great restaurants, lots more French speaking, and shops as well
-Old Montreal for more cobblestone streets, touristy kitschy stuff, and the port
posted by Grither at 10:17 AM on February 11, 2009

Yikes, looks like I was beaten to the punch on most of my stuff! However, it is worth posting again to second Schwartz's and L'Academie. Schwartz's is the best smoked meat you'll ever have, and if you go, I would recommend getting a medium and fries, with a black cherry soda. (medium being medium fat....fat is too gross, light or whatever tends to be a bit dry. Medium is juuuust right) L'Academie is my fiancee's favorite restaurant in Montreal, and it's very reasonably priced, and has great Italian/French food. And there is an SAQ (quebec liquor store) right next door where you can pick up your bottle of wine or two to go with dinner.

Both place might have a line, and neither take reservations I think. So arrive early and/or at slightly odd times. Good luck, and enjoy Montreal, it's one of my favorite cities in the world!
posted by Grither at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2009

Manoir Ambrose is a cute little two-star hotel on Rue Stanley, about a 10-minute walk from the Bell Centre. It's definitely not a luxury spa, but it's comfortable, well-placed, well-priced, and loads of personality. I've stayed there multiple times and would definitely go back.

Things I like to do (as a confirmed Montreal tourist and non-resident) include:

- Visiting as many brew pubs as possible. They're fantastic. Start with Brutopia and Dieu du ciel and work your way down from there.
- Walking up the mountain. This may seem like something you can easily do back home, but back home you can't walk down the other side and warm up in an Outremont café.
- Old Montreal is gorgeous to walk around in, but don't buy anything, especially food (overpriced and tourist-trappy).

You'd have to ask an actual resident for pond recommendations. Good luck!
posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2009

Obviously IN the city or anywhere in close proximity isn't an option

Well, you may be able to get a close approximation at Beaver Lake on Mount Royal. Schedule and skate/locker rates (hockey stuff doesn't seem to be for rent, so you'd have to BYO) are here.
posted by CKmtl at 10:27 AM on February 11, 2009

Try Park LaFontaine for your pond hockey. You can skate there for sure, but I'm not sure if they let games break out.
posted by jon_kill at 10:29 AM on February 11, 2009

I stayed at this great boutique hotel in April, Hotel Gault. It's walkable to the Bell Center, but not entirely close.
posted by advicepig at 11:18 AM on February 11, 2009

I've stayed at all of the major Hotels in Montreal. I recommend the Hotel de la Montagne, the Vogue and the R-C but the latter will cost you. There's a W there but the regular rooms are tiny.

I have never been to a hockey game in Montreal. I have only stayed in Montreal for the Canadian GP's (which has been removed from the F1 schedule). You're in the middle of everything at any of the afore-mentioned hotels and it's a ten minutes by cab from the arena. Or you could walk it.

For a cheap stay, try the Delta on Blvd. JFK. The Queen Elizabeth is huge but slightly removed from the center of everything-- but it's worth a look. Down the road a bit there is a very serviceable Hilton.

I've stayed at all of these hotels. The Vogue and la Montagne are a cut above the rest.
posted by Zambrano at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2009

Yes, the bar at Hotel de la Montagne is not to be believed. Get the pickle and cheese plate during happy hour.
posted by jon_kill at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2009

Best answer: If you're not picky and want a cheap 4-star hotel, try Priceline. I got the Sheraton Center (or Le Centre Sheraton, to be precise) for $65 USD a night in November. It's not the greatest 4-star hotel, but it seems to be the most common one to bite for Priceline, and it's two blocks away from the Bell Center (although any downtown hotel will be walking distance).

And seconding Patati Patata, especially for breakfast, which is cheap and outstanding.
posted by Gortuk at 12:13 PM on February 11, 2009

For breakfast either Cora's or Eggsquis are amazing. If you like hotdogs, Montreal has steamies from either LaFleur's (don't get the poutine here, it's terrible) or La Belle Province (the bf loves this place but my family loves LaFleur's) are both excellent. The fries from LaFleur's are amazing, seriously though, do not eat their poutine. Whenever I go to visit my family there, we always make sure to stop for steamies. Schwartz's is the best smoked meat anywhere, get a pickle too if you go. You'll want Extra-Lean meat, the "lean" is a little fatty. Seriously tasty food. The Montreal Pool Room, if it's still open, used to be a townie spot for steamies and beer (just remembered about it). The Winston Churchill off St. Cathrine's on Cresent used to be my dad's favourite pub when he went to McGill, I've been there and it was pretty neat. As neat as pubs go anyways. There's about 150 pubs on Cresent if the W-C doesn't float your baot. If you're up for strippers, you're in the right city. They're not really my thing but I've heard Super Sex is one of best of shows. There's no shortage of clubs on St. Catherine's either. That street is funny that way, pub, pub, restaurant, strippers, pub, all the way down. It's a cool street, don't let the strippers scare you. And my Uncle (who lives there) swears by the Bar B Barn for bbq chicken/ribs. All I remember is that it's downtown on Guy St. and the food is really good (or at least it used to be).

In the day time, Old Montreal is worth seeing. There's some nice architecture and beautiful old churches, if that's your thing. There's the BioDome as well, I went as a kid and loved it. I know my family still goes whenever anyone new is in town. If you're catholic you must go to the Oratory on the Mont Royal. Many people claim to have been cured from various ailments by a visit there. I'm not sure if this still happens but we used to go clothes shopping down in the manufacturing district. A lot of clothes used to be made in Montreal and you could get really great stuff for dirt cheap by shopping in the factory stores.

I can't recommend a hotel as we always stay with family whenever I've visited. Happy tripping! You're heading to one of the most amazing cities with some of the best food. Eat lots and be merry :)
posted by LunaticFringe at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2009

For this kind of trip I would definitely recommend one of the boutique hotels in Old Montreal. Someone already mentioned Hotel Gault, but I would also suggest either the Hotel Place D'Armes or Hotel St-Sulpice. They're all pretty much in the same 'hood - Old Montreal. Another hotel you might want to consider is Hotel Opus, on Sherbrooke at St-Laurent. At the Opus you're much closer in terms of walking distance to one of the main hubs of action which is directly up the street on St-Laurent. All of them are a quick cab ride to the Bell Center, or even a walk if it's not too chilly out.

All due respect to the others above, I would strongly recommend NOT going to Académie - it's always super-packed and it's a bit of a factory compared to any of the hundred other restaurants with a similar menu but on a smaller scale.

For poutine the choices mentioned above are great - Banquise and Patati Patata are both great, and Banquise is open 24/7 as well, which is a nice touch (poutine is a perfect post-drinking pre-bedtime snack).

I think (but I'm not sure) that there's a skating rink in the Old Port, which is in walking distance from any of the first three hotels I mentioned. But my first recommendation would be to grab a cab (cabs are cheap and plentiful in Montreal - get one from the hotel or just flag one down on the street) and go up to Beaver Lake.

On the food side of things, you could always mix your fine dining with your poutine and go to the famous Pied de Cochon, where the chef does a high-end poutine with foie gras. For other food choices I would consult Chowhound's Montreal thread. It'll take you a bit of wading, and some of the contributors are kind of über-foodies, but generally the recommendations there are good. Some of the "name" reviewers in town contribute regularly there.

One last thing - Hotel de la Montagne and Hotel Vogue are both within walking distance from the Bell Center, and both are quite nice though different than true boutique hotels. You can't really go too far wrong with either - they're just a little less "definitively Montreal" than the others.
posted by mikel at 2:25 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

one thing I would add for food is to get bagels, which are rather quite different from bagels you can get in the States (or anywhere else in Canada). Both St. Viatur and Fairmount are the notable bagel shops, and both are open 24 hours a day, so it's a nice option when you're out late and feeling peckish.

My girlfriend and I visit every year, but we tend to stay at Le Petit Prince, which is a swish little b&b within walking distance of the Bell Centre; and a b&b might not be the most ideal option if you're a trio.
posted by bl1nk at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2009

The High Lights Festival will be on, and on the night of the 28th it's the Nuit Blanche during which all kinds of cultural establishments, including the major museums, are open all night, free! It's great fun - you can go rent skates at the Old Port rink, although it's not a hockey rink, and there's a huge list of other activities, many of them free, and free buses to shuttle people around to the main locations - that website will give you an idea.

Oh yes, and the main shopping street is called Sainte-Catherine. Without an 'S' at the end. Thank you.
posted by zadcat at 3:57 PM on February 11, 2009

Seconding Hotel Gault, and suggesting you head to Au Pied de Cochon for the foie gras poutine.
posted by roofus at 6:15 PM on February 11, 2009

Whoever recommended Parc Lafontaine for a little hockey is probably right as far as it getting closest to your dream, however they might not let you play hockey there.

If you're still on the west coast next November, I can keep you posted on when the ponds in Banff freeze over, this year there was a a two week window between when the ice was solid and the first snow covered them.
posted by furtive at 9:39 PM on February 11, 2009

The hockey thing is tricky because folks who go out to play pickup hockey or just pass a puck around for fun are using small neighbourhood park rinks and bringing their own skates and sticks. There are places where you can rent skates and skate around, but they're not going to allow you to play any form of hockey - sticks and pucks will probably not be allowed. You can see how recreational skating, where people tend to move in a circle around the rink, doesn't really work alongside people practising stickhandling and puck passing, no matter how casually.
posted by zadcat at 4:55 AM on February 12, 2009

extending what zadcat says, that's the big advantage of skating on a real pond, in that they tend to be larger than most rinks, so everyone can get along until a dog decides it's a good idea to chase the puck.
posted by furtive at 10:34 PM on February 15, 2009

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