- Cityscape Mountain-centred metropolis
- City life Bilingual balancing act
Canada’s second city, Montreal, is the North American meeting point of French and English heritage, a culture-rich hubbub, and one of the world’s original winter wonderlands.
There’s no better place to practise your Franglish than the city that coined the phrase ‘bonjourallo’ to accommodate greeting Francophiles and Anglophiles alike. While the official battle is between its twin heritages, visitors quickly realise what a multi-cultural foodie haven this city actually is. Dine on authentic Spanish, Portugese, Italian, French, Greek, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, Chinese… the international menu goes on and on. You’ll thank your lucky stars and booted feet that the city is notably walkable too – there’s got to be some way to shed the pounds gained in all the local microbreweries, cafes, and restaurants. Although some small areas of Montreal sit on the wrong side of the ‘urban regeneration’ fence, look a little closer and you’ll find a city riddled with history, character, and blithe resistance to the often freezing temperatures.
Do go/Don’t go
The Canadian winter’s a punishingly chilly period, but it can be sunny, snowy, crisp, clear and beautiful too. So, do visit, just be prepared for the extreme temperatures. Autumn is short-lived but the changing colours of the maple trees make it worth catching. Summer (June to September) is warm and packed with festivals and the whole city takes advantage of the few months of heat. Spring is possibly the least desirable time to visit as the March-to-May months generally bring mushy snow and damp shoes.
- Planes British Airways and Air Canada have daily direct flights from Heathrow to Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport | about 13 miles south of the city. You can take the Metro (underground rail) to downtown | and there’s a regular scheduled shuttlebus. Direct flights from NYC go from all three major airports (JFK | Newark and La Guardia) to Montreal in a speedy hour and a half or less.
- Trains VIA Rail Canada (https://reservia.viarail.ca) offers swift and simple connections to Quebec City, Ottawa, and Toronto. There is a direct train service to New York, which, on the upside, offers some leafy, lake-y views of the Adirondacks, but even the most passionate landscape painter might have reservations about staring out of windows for eight and a half hours…
- Automobiles There’s an Avis branch at the airport (www.avis.com) but cars are not necessary for navigating Montreal’s compact centre and the old-town’s streets are easily traffic-clogged.
- Taxis Cars can be readily flagged down in the street and cost a pittance compared to cab fares in cities such as London. A cab from the airport to downtown Montreal is roughly CA$30.