I can’t speak French. Parlo un po’ d’italiano and entiendo un poco de español, but my French is limited to parlez-vous anglais? and inappropriate lines from Moulin Rouge. The only French part of the world I’ve spent much time in is Paris, and in all honesty, most people speak English anyway so it’s no big drama being monolingual. I knew that I shouldn’t expect that same level of comfort in Montreal, so I was prepared to flounder. Before arriving, all I had been told was that it was freezing and that the drivers were very aggressive. That combined with my lack of French made me a little apprehensive about visiting Montreal.
So I was pretty surprised to discover that I loved Montreal. It was super snowy when we arrived so the car skidded around a bit, but we didn’t notice drivers being any worse than the rest of Canada (fun fact: Canadian drivers, especially those in Vancouver, are the worst drivers I’ve ever come across – I’ve had Canadians confirm this with me so I promise I’m not being unfairly judgemental). Our Airbnb was really lovely: we stayed with a vegan couple who gave us awesome restaurant suggestions and they also had two adorable cats. There we brought in the New Year, joining the NYE party our hosts threw. Despite being the only non-French speakers and the only monolingual people in the room, we had a really great time. Everyone spoke at least a bit of English and the language barrier was less of an issue the drunker people got.
We spent most of our time in Montreal eating and wandering the streets, though we did stop in the Underground City and I finally bought myself a hardier winter jacket on sale – they really weren’t kidding about Montreal being cold (one day it took us about 20 minutes to dig Cindy out of the snow). The city itself has such a cool vibe. It reminded me a little bit of Vancouver’s Commercial-Broadway area mixed with Gastown, mixed with a bit of Wellington’s Cuba St and Newtown, mixed with the picturesque parts of Paris. Old Montreal especially feels like you’re actually in Europe, and is one of the prettiest places I’ve been.
As well as being beautiful, Montreal is home to some of the best restaurants I’ve tried in Canada – amazing breakfasts at L’Oeufrier, a huge portion of Indian food for only $8 at Chand Palace, authentic poutine at La Banquise, and the best Montreal bagels from Fairmount. I still haven’t found any coffee shops to rival Wellington, but our Airbnb had an espresso machine that made a pretty wicked long black. Luckily, Lox loved Montreal just as much as I did, so we’re planning to visit again in early February – hopefully then we’ll find some good coffee shops! I never expected to fall in love with Montreal, but now, along with Vancouver and Banff, it’s one of my favourite cities in Canada.