Best ways to acclimatize yourself to a new city (Montreal)
August 13, 2014 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I have 3 weeks of free time before school starts and want to make the most of it.

I just moved to Montreal on the weekend and I live with my brother, who works during the day. I have the blessing of a lot of free time on my hands! It feels so weird because I've been working full time until just last week. Now I have no daily responsibilities.. which I realize is not exactly a problem.

I am looking for the best ways to start feeling like I belong here in a new place (in general) and also specific things I should do as a n00b in Montreal. My friends in the city are out of town for the next few weeks so I guess I also have the blessing of exploring the city all alone!

One thing that makes it a bit more complicated is that I won't have internet access until 2 weeks from now... and I don't know where anything is.

For people who have moved a lot, what are the best ways to get to know a new city when you're all alone?

What are the best ways to make the most of all this free time ( which, once I start school, I will have none of).

Does anyone have links to websites where I can learn about what's happening in the city?

I'm asking for help because I'm having trouble thinking straight what with all the adjustments my mind is making because of the move. I'm not sad or depressed, just bewildered... and it's really hard to make a decision...but I don't want to waste this precious free time!

Bonus question... are there any organizations/projects in Montreal currently looking for short-term volunteers?

I'm 26, female, lefty, into music (folk, jazz), yoga, the outdoors, fitness, film, and community projects.
posted by winterportage to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have only general suggestions:

Do you have a transit pass? Get on the frequent buses because those will go where the people are, and, because they're frequent, you can hop off when you see a spot you want to explore on foot, and hop back on spontaneously. The bonus is that other riders are a cross-section of society, forced to interact with each other.

Read the alt-weekly and go places there? Usually free, and aligns with your demographic. Read it in a coffee shop where you have wifi / baristas to ask for directions.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:22 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Montreal geography - pro-tip for not getting lost: If you're walking uphill, you're probably heading toward Mont Royal. If you're walking downhill, you're probably heading toward the river. Montreal is pretty compact and walkable.

Tourist places to visit: Old Montreal, Biodome, Botanical Gardens, Science Centre, La Ronde amusement park

If you like the outdoors, spend as much time as possible in the cities many parks (the Olympic Park is nice) and on Mont Royal before winter comes. Winter is really cold in that city. Fitness - bike or run on Mont Royal, it is quite the workout.

St. Catherine Street for shopping, St. Laurent and St. Denis for bars and clubs.

Here's a Montreal event site: Looks like Pride is finishing this weekend, if you like going out there are bound to many parties.
posted by rebooter at 2:48 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm 26, female, lefty, into music (folk, jazz), yoga, the outdoors, fitness, film, and community projects.

Are you ever in the right place at the right time of life! I haven't been there in a while so can't think of / don't know specifics, but all the things you love are where you are - check out the list of student organizations / activities at your university for starting points, maybe?

English listings

Agree, just walk around (per above recs) and take things in. 2nd cafes - lots of those will have posters / ads for events, too, and staff tend to be friendly and open ime - if it's not too busy, don't feel weird about asking for recommendations for things to do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:17 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: Get a bike or a bixi. Bike around: Along the canal, Atwater market, Jean-Talon Market. Get to know different neighbourhoods by bike - Downtown, Chinatown, Plateau, Outremont, Mile-End, Mile-Ex, Park-Ex, NDG, CDN... Bike from South to North (like, from the port to Park-Ex) and from East to West (from Hochelaga to NDG). Find places to eat along the way. Check the grocery stores, each 'hood has their character/immigrant influence. Bike/walk to the top of the mountain, check out the cemetery.

Go to the the Bibliotèque Nationale/your local library for books about Montreal. You can use the internet there too. Read a book on the history of the city re: an issue that interests you, or read a novel and go visit places mentioned in it – 8 novels set in Montreal. Same with movies.

If I had a bunch of free time now I'd go to the World Film Festival, Cinéma Sous L'Étoiles, Piknic Electronik, Cinema Politica, spend time in coffeeshops and parks, check out the alt-radical-pride week Pervers-Cité, and have beer at terraces.

Yeah, the alt-weekly is a great idea, I like Cult Montreal to-do list, comes out every Thursday.

Some associations/clubs/organizations/centers in your school might be active right now. For instance, Qpirg Concordia is not closed for the summer. Community radios where you can volunteer if that's your thing: Radio Centre-Ville and CKUT (great McGill radio).

Free yoga classes in this link.

Memail me if you have specific questions.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 3:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely get a Bixi and ride around on the many segregated lanes in Montreal. Check out the network on Google Maps. Cycling is slow enough to really see a lot of things, but faster than walking so you can cover more ground, and easier - especially with a bike share program as big as Montreal's - to just ditch the bike at a station and turn back into a pedestrian when you want to. Biking also has a wonderful way of clearing one's head and getting lots of fresh air, while taking in everything that's going on around you in a way you can't from the bus or metro. I also recommend biking along the Lachine Canal; it's very nice and full of life.

Sit in coffee shops or other establishments and read the paper to get a sense of what's going on. Exclaim! is a music-focussed magazine has good listings for shows and such. Voir is a French bi-weekly culture newspaper that goes across the spectrum (music, film, art, theatre, food, etc).
posted by urbanlenny at 7:10 PM on August 13, 2014

Spend a few hours wandering around Jean-Talon Market.

Check out resonance cafe for jazz (and yummy hot chocolate).

Read a book in a park: Parc Lafontaine, Parc Sir-Wilfred-Laurier, Westmount Park, Mont-Royal... for bonus points, get your book from the Bibliotheque Nationale.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:08 PM on August 13, 2014

i can show you a round a bit if you would like. you can call at 514 632 3272.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:43 PM on August 13, 2014

I know this sounds totally dorky, but consider playing Ingress a little if you have a smartphone. It's a great way to give yourself a goal for exploring a new neighborhood. Additionally, a lot of the "portals" are historical monuments or local places of interest.
posted by maryr at 11:40 AM on August 14, 2014

find your neighbourhood grocery stores and pharmacies and bakeries and whatever other sort of shops there are around you. which is to say to make sure that you know how to get your hands on all the day to day things you'll need. I find that kind of familiarity is absolutely necessary for settling into a place.

and while you are doing that keep your eye open for a nice café or two. this city is chock full of them and they are one of my favourite things about living here. as a student you'll be in a perfect position to make the most of them.

do this in your neighbourhood and also around the campus of whichever university it is you're going to. Concordia has all manner of interesting little restaurants and cafés around it, McGill not so much. which, if you're going to McGill, makes it all the more important to know where to find the few places there are to grab a bite to eat around there. (I say this as an incoming McGill student who has been warned by friends who went there.)
posted by spindle at 3:02 PM on August 14, 2014

Maps are useful. The STM transit maps are pretty good. I don't know if you can get them on paper anymore, but you can ask at a Metro station. You can also get a street map (usually sold at gas stations, bookstores or newsstands).

Montreal is mostly laid out on an orthogonal grid that's inclined to left relative to the true cardinal directions (so an east street actually runs a bit to the north, and the "North" is a bit to the west). In Montreal proper (so not in Westmount, which is its own city again after having been amalgamated), street numbers go up from the south (at the St. Lawrence) to the north (towards the Rivière des Prairies) on north-south streets. On East-West streets, numbering starts from Saint-Laurent boulevard and goes up from there. Streets that cross Saint-Laurent (the "Main") are divided into East and West sections.

It helps to look at a map and figure out what the big streets are.

Two possible sources of frustration in navigating the city:

If you drive, one-way streets can get pretty confusing, especially east of Saint-Laurent. Make sure you check a map before venturing on Papineau.

Whether or not you drive, there are some major obstacle that can take a long time to go around, mainly the Mount Royal (the Park, the cemetaries) and the train tracks, which you can only cross at certain streets. From Côte-des-Neige to the east, the tracks run roughly along Jean-Talon, Van Horne, Rosemont, making a turn towards the river at d'Iberville. You can cross them (north-south) at Côte-des-Neige, Wilderton, Rockland, Parc, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Denis, Cristophe-Colomb and Papineau.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:42 PM on August 14, 2014

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