Montreal in the Snow
Canada in the winter - by default you think of snow. Montréal is no exception. In fact, Christmas 2012 turned out to be the largest snowstorm in Montréal since 1971. With a total accumulation of 45 cm, this was a true Canadian winter experience. While walking around Old Montréal, there were times when we could barely see 5m ahead of us. At the time I really wished that we had a skidoo, as I could see tracks in the snow from the locals using theirs to get around the city. I wonder where they store these machines on the island?
Montréal is my hometown and I always enjoy sharing my city with someone who hasn’t been before. Where did we go? All the nooks and crannies that tourists don’t often see. Since my guest had never been to Quebec or experienced its unique French Canadian culture, we set out to explore my city, armed with only a rough idea of what should be done during our stay.
We chose to travel to Montréal by train, rather than making the 6 hour drive from Toronto. Besides avoiding snowy road conditions at this time of year, the best part of traveling by train is that the route takes you through areas where no asphalt or dirt roads can. Sit back and watch the pristine countryside while relaxing with a wonderful glass, or two, of local red wine. As a bonus, the train is rarely delayed, is free from the security craziness you endure at airports and once you arrive you are already downtown and right on the subway line.
Getting around Montréal
The Montréal subway is fast and comfortable. The STM uses an RFID card system and offers some nice packages for travelers. Disposable cards are dispensed from bilingual kiosks which accept all major credit cards. The options available for you to purchase include:
- single rides ($3),
- evening pass ($4) good from 6pm to 5am - perfect for getting home after a wild night partying in downtown Montréal,
- 1 day unlimited pass ($9) which lasts for 24h from the time it is purchased - it is a very good deal,
- Unlimited weekend ($12) from Friday 6 pm to Monday 5 am, and
- Three day unlimited pass ($19) good for 3 consecutive calendar days.
Note: If you have arrived via plane, instead of the train like we did, the unlimited transit use also applies to the 747 Express Bus, which is the shuttle service running between downtown and Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.
The central train station is located in the underground, in the heart of downtown Montréal. It connects to the underground pedestrian network called RESO (click here for a printable RESO map) which comes in very handy if the weather is not very clement. Since the station is a major commuter hub, it is full of nice shops.
What and where to eat in Montreal
Most of our stay was centered around eating since we were there over the holidays. During our stay we were very well fed. For the most of the week, we enjoyed traditional French Canadian meals cooked by my mother, with her tourtierre being the favorite dish by far. (Thanks to my mother for keeping that tradition alive.)
When in Montréal you really should sample some local cheese. Why cheddar in the rest of Canada is yellow or marbled while in Quebec it is white has always been a mystery to me! Most importantly, never leave Montréal without sampling an 8 inch thick smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's Deli and grabbing a bagel from Fairmount Bagel. Trust me, when I say that neither are the same anywhere else.
With our stomachs full of poutine, smoked meats and craft beer, and our luggage filled with gifts, we headed back to Toronto, munching on a bag of fresh warm cheese curds (my favourite), which squeaks in your mouth just like it is supposed to.