Hospitality Exchange
May 26, 2005 10:48 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are going to Montreal for a week and we are on a very limited budget. We are looking at staying with people via hospitality exchange rather than in hotels or hostels. Specifically, I've been looking at . I was wondering if anyone has done this sort of thing and what your experiences were. What questions do I ask when I'm talking with someone I might stay with? What should I look out for? On another note, ideas for cheap fun in Montreal would also be welcome. We are twenty-something lesbians from small town Alberta.
posted by arcticwoman to Travel & Transportation around Montréal, QC (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've done Servas, and it was great. A bit of an application process, though.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:19 PM on May 26, 2005

Best answer: I signed up for Hospitality Club, but didn't end up using it when I traveled around Europe last fall, so I'm afraid I'm not much help there.

Cheap Montreal, though--

So long as the weather's nice, consider your Sunday afternoon scheduled -- one of the most wonderful of all Montreal things are the spring/summer/fall "tam-tams". From about 1pm on, the park at the foot of Mont Royal, at Parc Ave, fills with hundreds of people. Lots of hippies playing drums, dancing, selling handiworks, but many more not-so-hippies, juggling, picnicking, playing frisbee. Up higher on the hill you can watch one of the big quebecois youth subcultures battling each-other with foam swords, role-playing meets Jackass. It's wonderful.

Really cheap and delicious Indian food at Anarkali (rue Parc @ Van Horne), or Pushab (near Namur metro). Cafe Presto, on Stanley south of St-Catherines, is cheap, simple, delish pasta - but it closes early. St-Viateur bagel has the best bagels in the world. Hot, soft, crispy. It's open 24-hours. Rue St-Viateur, east of Parc.

In general, though, Montreal resto grub is very reasonable, so you can probably afford to hit a couple of the "ordinary" astounding eateries, places like Aux Vivres (amazing veggie food), Cafe Santropol (opulent and strange sandwiches), Frite Alors or Mondo Frite (yummy fries!), Schwartz's (smoked meat)... There's also a little-known but remarkable small-batch croissanterie, specializing in filled croissants (jam, chocolate, mango, almond, etc), which is only open on weekends - 9amish till whenever they sell out (between noon and 2, usually). On Duluth just below St-Laurent.

If you're in town on a Monday evening, you might be interested in attending Board Game Night at my friend Neale's. A relaxed, lovely and fun time. (I saw you posted in the 1000 Blank Cards thread.)

It's a wonderful city, and I miss it a lot.
posted by Marquis at 1:39 AM on May 27, 2005

Just returned from a wonderful visit to Montreal--I would encourage you to stay in "Le Plateau"--all the walking, affordable food, browsing, "people watching", cafes you could want---Mont Royal/Parc Ave is in Le Plateau--good luck on accommodations can not help there Enjoy
posted by rmhsinc at 4:48 AM on May 27, 2005

An update on Marquis' comment: Anarkali is, unfortunately, closed, unless the situation has changed in the last three months, as has Le Menu, the croissanterie he mentioned (delicious and affordable suggestions both, however). You might have an easier time finding Pushap than Pushab because Pushap exists; another good Indian place is Bombay Mahal, on Jean Talon about a kilometer west of the Jean Talon Market, another must-see Montreal destination.

I second the Board Game night suggestion. Fast becoming a Montreal institution, generally a cool progressive group of people.

I'd offer you a place to stay were I in Montreal - not back until late August, unfortunately. Cheap words, I know - but ask again next time.
posted by louigi at 6:43 AM on May 27, 2005

*laugh* I'm very amused that of the small handful of replies that this thread has garnered so far, two of us were/are board-game-night attendees!

Oopsies about the Pushap mistake. And I am extremely bummed to hear about the end of Anarkali and Le Menu in the months since my departure. :(
posted by Marquis at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2005

Don't know about the hospitality exchange, but for some good spots to visit, and to be entertained while researching them, check out I just remembered this old thread that discussed the site. Amazing site!
posted by Blue Buddha at 7:33 AM on May 27, 2005

There is a good turnout of women at Le Drugstore (a multi-level bar, 1366 St. Catherine Est) in the Gay Village on Friday for happy hour (otherwise know as cinq à sept). Cheap bear and all the free popcorn and peanuts you can eat. The women tend to congregate on the second and third floors.

Dinner at Bato Thai, which is just a block away (1310 St Cath), is reasonably good and reasonably cheap ($10-14 meals).
posted by Cuke at 7:37 AM on May 27, 2005

Best answer: Tams-tams ain't what it usually is at the moment. They're redoing all the concrete around the George Etienne Cartier statue and two years worth of construction has begun on the Parc/des Pins interchange including the stretch in front of tam-tams. The tams are still going on but are much more subdued with the park all torn up.

For cheap fun, take a walk up the mountain (heh) to Beaver Lake. Or maybe spend the day at La Ronde (2nd stop on th yellow line, Ile Jean Drapeau). Museums in Montreal are often free on Wednesday or Wednesday evening. You can take the orange line metro to Namur a see a movie at the dollar cinema. The hippodrome is also at that metro stop if you want to do some betting on the ponies, and there's also a Le Chateau outlet in that area. Other things? St-Joseph's oratory if you're into really big religious buildings (Snowdon Metro on the orange line). Closer to downtown/plateau/village, you could try to compare the bagels between St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel to decide which is best (my money is on Fairmount). Oh, and try Wilensky's Light Lunch tasty balogna sandwhiches while you're in the area.

BTW, hope you guys didn't schedule to come down during Grand Prix weekend, 'cause it will be mayhem.
posted by furtive at 8:33 PM on May 27, 2005

I've been a member of several hospitality exchange site for quite a few years. I have both hosted and stayed with people. You're probably not too late, but I would have suggested giving your potential hosts more than a week's notice. If you strike out on, there are some other options.

As for questions to ask, I would suggest asking general get-to-know-someone questions and trust your judgement.

I wrote an article a while ago about hospitality exchange sites and here are some general tips I picked up from other hosts and guests:

* Make arrangements in advance, as hosts may need time to prepare for guests.
* Ask questions ahead of time, so you know what to bring and especially how to meet up with your host.
* Do not be a burden about needing food or rides, but if you need something minor, like a towel, ask.
* Clean up after yourself and offer to help with household chores.
* Make your own plans and do not expect your host to play tour guide, but do invite them along when appropriate.
* Consider bringing a gift, especially something not easily found at your destination or something specific to your home area.
* Be respectful of any house rules.
* Be considerate, especially if your host is working during your stay.
* Be tolerant of kids, pets, and cultural differences.
* Don't overstay your welcome. Consider a quote from Benjamin Franklin, who said "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days."
* Become a host. The hospitality exchange network needs hosts in order to thrive.
posted by xulu at 9:57 PM on May 30, 2005

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