1. French Was More Widely Spoken Than I Anticipated
Being from a country where so much emphasis is placed on speaking the English language, I found it interesting that there was a city in North America where French was actually the official language of that city.
I have been to France and another francophone country in Africa but I never expected French would be so widely spoken in a North American city. Speaking French is taken so seriously in Montreal that I gathered from locals that there is the equivalent of a “language police” that enforces businesses conducting all commerce in French.
The good news is that if you are a visitor to the city, the locals are quite accommodating and will switch to English if they find that French is not your mother tongue. It does help if you memorize some dialogue opening words in French. I found phrases like “Comment allez vouz?”, “Mon nom est Dante” and then closing with “Parlez vous anglais” quite helpful.
2. Montreal’s Staple Dish Is Poutine
There are not too many staple dishes down south of the Canadian border that I can think of. Okay, we have Gumbo in Louisiana and the Hamburger is widely eaten in the United States but neither is a dish that any American can thump their chest and claim as their own.
However Montreal locals claim this heavenly mix of fries, cheese, and gravy with an extra serving of whatever kind of sauce you like as their own. I went to one of the best restaurants for poutine in Montreal to give it a try and it did not disappoint.
3. Montreal Has A Young And Hip Population
Montreal is a city I wish I had discovered earlier, we would have had some good times. The city is young and bustling with vibrance as a result of the numerous universities within it’s borders.
Montreal is home to a number of universities with the most renowned being McGill University. I paid a visit to it’s campus grounds and it was a sight to behold. A lot of the universities building’s were definitely built with the intention of conveying power and prestige.
Montreal’s university population also allows for a city that is quite diverse and international as a result of foreign students taking advantage of the numerous study abroad programs offered by Montreal’s universities.
4. Montreal’s Nightlife Might Just Be Unrivaled On The North American Continent.
Okay maybe I just had too much fun in the city and it’s clouding my judgment (no disrespect New York) but while I was in Montreal, there was a party literarily every night of the week and I hear it is even better in the summer.
From the amazing bar at the W Hotel to the bars on Crescent Street, Old Port, Mont Royal, Saint Laurent, Saint Catherine’s and Downtown, a traveler to the city will find there is something for everyone.
Drinks were also surprisingly affordable with special happy hour and early to arrive specials at the bars and nightclubs. All these just make Montreal a must visit city for anyone who loves nightlife.
5. Montreal Has A Laissez Faire Attitude.
Other than the “French language police” which I had no reason to encounter, Montreal seemed to have a live and let live attitude. Whereas south of Canada’s border in the good ol “US of A”, there is usually a heavy police presence whenever crowds gather to socialize, there seemed to be little to light police presence on the nightlife strips.
Austin, Texas for instance has horse back police herding people back to their cars the minute it hits 2am and in L.A. or New York the police force is pretty much everywhere watching out for any misbehaving partygoers.
Montreal seemed to have a calm vibe to it and if you were not being extraordinarily rude or obnoxious it seemed to take a lot more for you to run afoul of the law than if it were back in the states.
6. The Queen Of England Graces The 20 Canadian Dollar Bill.
If you are familiar with American history, we take great pride in the fact that we stuck it to the red coats (The British) and then went on to build the most awesome democracy the world has ever seen. F**k Yeah!!! (some would disagree cough! cough!).
However the Canadians seemed to embrace their European heritage and the fact that Canada is part of the English common wealth of nations. I found this rather interesting because back home most Americans seem to revel in the fact that their country was founded as a result of patriots who were sick and tired of the far reaching tentacles of the British Monarchy and did everything in their power to distance themselves from British Rule.
7. Montreal’s Marquee Team Are The Canadiens.
Los Angeles loves it’s Lakers, Barcelona has die-hard soccer fans rooting for FC Barcelona, and in Montreal it’s their hockey team the Canadiens that has the locals in a frenzy.
The Canadiens are members of the Atlantic division in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League. At the time of this writing, “The Canadiens” have won 15 games and lost four. Hopefully they get to hoist the Stanley cup like they did nine times since 1965 with the last time being in 1993.
8. Montreal Has An Old Town
In most European cities I have traveled to, there is usually a part of town that is steeped in antiquity. This part of town is usually preserved as a reminder of the historic origins of that town.
While we have some of these old towns’ in the United States, in places like Virginia or cities that made up the initial thirteen colonies, the major cities like Los Angeles and New York city do not have an old town of any sort.
It made Montreal stand apart even more from other cities I had the fortune to visit in North America. It would have been kind amazing if there was a part of New York or Massachusetts where one could be transported back to a time before time.
9. Anyone Traveling To Montreal Does Not Need To Rent A Car
Montreal is similar to New York and many Asian and European cities in that a visitor to the city does not need to rent a vehicle. In Los Angeles, for instance, while we have a transportation system, it is pretty sub par for a city of it’s size and influence.
Everyone basically has to own their own vehicle which leads to a lot of gridlock in the city. I remember my Dad once referring to Los Angeles as the “city on wheels”. Montreal has a pretty efficient metro system that gets passengers to any part of the city they need to get to. I also found the railway map easy to read as it was printed in both French and English.
10. Montreal Is A Great City For Culturephiles.
If you love culture, architecture, a diverse pallete, and art, Montreal should be at the top of your list for “must visit cities”. The amazing blend of cultures from every corner of the globe with French culture being the bedrock on which other cultures thrive is an amazing sight to behold and experience.
At this point I think there is little more one can say to sell this city. Go grab a plane ticket and have fun in the closest thing you can get to a Parisian holiday in North America.