Oh Montreal
July 14, 2006 11:56 PM   Subscribe

I live in New Zealand. In general I have no desire whatsoever to visit North America, except... for some reason I have a hankering to see Montreal. Why should I? (I blame Mordecai Richler.)
posted by TiredStarling to Travel & Transportation around Montréal, QC (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you asking why should you visit North America, or why should you visit Montreal?
I (who visited the US after growing up for 23 years in Australia) can give you a lot of reasons why a trip to the US can be VERY rewarding, but I know nothing at all about Montreal.
posted by bunglin jones at 12:18 AM on July 15, 2006

Montreal is not one of the world's beauty spots, but it's one of North America's older cities (est. 1642), it's in a good location on a big island in a big river, it's got a French-speaking majority, a large English-speaking minority and many other languages coexisting in relative harmony; it's got fantastic food, all kinds of cultural goings-on, lively night life, good public transit and safe streets. Here's the Wikitravel entry.

What do you think you would find here?
posted by zadcat at 12:19 AM on July 15, 2006

Wow. Reading up on Mordecai he strikes me as a singular and striking person. Thanks for the exposure!
posted by sourwookie at 12:21 AM on July 15, 2006

Response by poster: OK... just to rerail the thread...

Tell me about Montreal. Tell me things that aren't in the Lonely Planet guidebook. Tell me why it sounds so alluring when Richler writes about it.

frogan - yes, I meant North America, the entire continent.
posted by TiredStarling at 12:40 AM on July 15, 2006

Richler was mostly writing about mid 20th century Montreal. You might be looking for an atmosphere that's no longer current.
posted by zadcat at 1:10 AM on July 15, 2006

Mmmm, well, not having read anything by Richler I'm not much help. I can tell you why I love this town. It inherits the best of it's French founders, it's English conqueror and it's imigrant population. A place where you can't go more than a single block without stumbling upon a hidden gastronomic gem. A place where you can leave a bar at 3 am, hit an all night resto for some poutine and stumble home after getting off on the night bus. A place where Mount Royal is your ever present companion and compass. A place where a building that dates from the city's founding stands easily next to a glass tower and where the Mountain rules them all (Zoning code says no buildings taller than the mountain). A place where a Car is a burden more than a boon (Bus & Metro system is huge). A place where the women are beautiful and the weather gets hot enough that you can enjoy it. A place that has so many festivals that it's hard to keep up. It's quite the town.

If you'd like specifics go ahead and email me.
posted by cm at 1:25 AM on July 15, 2006

Response by poster: zadcat: You may be right.

cm: That's it! More!
posted by TiredStarling at 1:42 AM on July 15, 2006

From what I can make out, the question is asking.. why does Montreal seem so appealing? And.. I must admit I have the same feeling. I'm not particularly interested in Canada as a whole but would love to go to Montreal, and I'm not entirely sure why myself.

I think it might be the fact that it's French speaking, and experiencing a non-European French culture would be particularly interesting. The impression of North America given by the media in other Western (culture, not location) countries is that it's English speaking, religious, etc, etc. The glimpses of non-English-speaking culture are less common and so make those places seem more interesting (New Orleans, Mexico, and Montréal all great examples), whereas we've all seen the Waltons and Happy Days, so assume we know what "America" is like (even though this is far from the truth).
posted by wackybrit at 1:47 AM on July 15, 2006

Well, if you do visit, you've got to go wander around Mile End and eastern Outremont, get some bagels at St-Viateur or Fairmount, have a bite to eat at Schwartz's and maybe at Wilensky's Light Lunch, and you'll be as close as you can get to Richler's world. Baron Byng High School on St-Urbain, where he (and Duddy Kravitz) went to school is now the headquarters of a charitable organization, but at least the building's still there.

Around St-Viateur you'll see Hasidim in their shtreimels, but the more secular Jewish world that Richler describes east of Mount Royal is gone. The last kosher butcher left the Main some years ago, Pecker Brothers and Warshaw's closed up shop, Simcha and his wife died and their shop closed – hardly anyone goes to the Bagg Street Shul any more. Have a read of this site for a bit more of a taste of the Main and the general area.
posted by zadcat at 3:03 AM on July 15, 2006

Maybe you want to walk for a day around buildings that are twice as old as any in New Zealand. Or maybe you want to try out your stumbling French, with the ability to retreat back to English whenever your vocabulary/grammar fails you. Or maybe you want to see the view from Parc du Mont-Royal for yourself. Or maybe you just want to try that “poutine” thing.

(I’ve been from NZ to Montréal thrice, but I haven’t had time for much touristy stuff yet.)
posted by mpt at 3:25 AM on July 15, 2006

Montreal is my second-favorite city in North America, and I've lived in New York, California and Texas. Go with no regrets.
posted by CRM114 at 6:43 AM on July 15, 2006

I have been to the four corners of Canada and the USA. Montreal, San Francisco and Vancouver are easily my top three. There is so much history and architecture to see in these places. Above all, the people are amazing. In my opinion, you need to get off your little Island and visit North America. There is so much to see and do through out the entire continent.
posted by birdlips at 8:13 AM on July 15, 2006

Montreal is my favorite city in North America hands down... but I insist that as fun as it is to visit, and walk around, and eat, and dance and look what makes Montreal the best city is what its like to live there. When the weather is nice and hot, people understand that there is no sense in working late and life's true joys are in sharing time, food and drink with friends. This is not the sort of place where the first question asked in small talk at a gathering is "so... what do you do?".

In Montreal, what you do is live.
posted by bumpkin at 9:20 AM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I remember seeing lots and lots of strip clubs, which was suprising.
posted by matimer at 10:04 AM on July 15, 2006

French founders, it's English conqueror and it's imigrant population.

The first human settlement was Iroquois; the French were conquerors, not founders.
posted by docgonzo at 10:24 AM on July 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

(I'm from New Zealand too). Think of it this way: if Toronto was New York's petulant younger brother, Montreal would be the slutty sister. It's where the good times roll.

There's lots to see in North America. You should at least a little of the west (San Francisco, Vancouver) and the east (New York, Montreal). Move your ass, you damn lazy kiwi ;)
posted by BorgLove at 10:45 AM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I love Montreal, it feels like Europe with North America mixed in, cool architecture, great food, people who put the effort into being classy and real without being plastic, people speaking French, good music and arts scene, and if you're lucky you meet some friendly French-Canadians, who can be some of the coolest people around. Nowhere else is quite like Montreal, in my experience, everyone should go to Montreal at least once.
posted by biscotti at 1:31 PM on July 15, 2006

Lots of strip clubs: Montreal has been "naughty" at least since it was a party town for Americans during Prohibition (1920-1933) and then during World War II when American servicemen were (in legend, anyway) usually seen drunk because they didn't realize Canadian beer was (then) so much stronger than its U.S. counterpart. The 1950s saw an era of burlesque shows and all-but-open gambling clubs. Since then there have been fitful attempts to clean up this or that aspect of life in Montreal but none of it ever takes for long.
posted by zadcat at 3:13 PM on July 15, 2006

In Montreal, what you do is live. I think bumpkin nailed it.

I lived in Quebec for 7+ years, and Montreal more than 5 years. An amazing place. Since then I've lived in Toronto, Seattle, Tampa (FL), Dallas, and now L.A. Nothing compares to Montreal.
posted by yqxnflld at 7:51 PM on July 15, 2006

I'm from Perth Australia, and have been to Montreal about 4 times (1998, 1999, 2002 and in a few weeks time, 2006)..

It's a fun and vibrant city, lots of great atmosphere and architecture, and reasonably cheap compared to "nearby" Toronto.

I'd suggest flying to Vancouver, spending some time there to get over jetlag, then going on to Montreal.
posted by theducks at 8:34 PM on July 15, 2006

I recommend visiting turnhere.com and seeing for yourself! :)
posted by livinginmonrovia at 12:36 AM on July 16, 2006

Being a Torontonian, I'm supposed to dislike Montreal, or at least loathe its hockey team. I don't; it's great.

Old Montreal is fantastic, if packed with tourists in the summer. Westmount is good for a drive, the mansions get grander as you ascend the mountain.

If you're looking for a Richlerian experience, you must do a pub crawl on Crescent Street where Richler would often always booze with his buddies

Montreal through Richler's eyes.
posted by raider at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2006

The OP should also go to the NFB site and watch The Street by Caroline Leaf.
posted by zadcat at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2006

Did anyone mention the food? Oh, the food!
posted by IndigoJones at 11:47 AM on July 16, 2006

Zadcat has it bang on right here. I live a few blocks from Wilensky's and whenever I call in sick I make the effort to go there and get a sandwich. I'd just add that it is closed on weekends.
posted by furtive at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2006

TiredStarling, if you can read French and are still looking at this thread, this piece about the geography of Richler's world might interest you.
posted by zadcat at 2:05 PM on July 24, 2006

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