Bonjour Montreal

Last week I traveled north of the border for a work-related function. I spent about 48 hours in Montreal - 18 of which I was working, 16 of which I slept, and the few remaining hours I spent seeing a small slice of a big city.

(from slack12 on Flickr)

I sat down to write this post over the weekend, but decided that, for as little time as I was able spend in Montreal, I couldn't fit all of my thoughts neatly into a single post. So I split everything into three posts, which will appear this week.

Montreal has never been a city I've had on my radar. For that matter, I've never really given any of the Canadian cities the attention that they probably deserve. With so many places in the U.S. still left for me to visit, plus the many historic urban places in Europe where I've never been; it's easy to forget that there's so much going on in our neighbor to the north.

Now, I can say that Canada's three big cities are all places I definitely will add to my travel list, though preferably, I'd like to go during the summer, if possible. As far as Montreal goes, you'll find my initial observations below.

Relax, Don't Stress
Big cities are often synonymous with high stress. It's true in New York and it's true in DC. In these cities there are always people who are stressed-out and constantly in a hurry to get somewhere and do something. I didn't feel that vibe in Montreal. Even though it's a big city, people seem more relaxed. They're interested in enjoying themselves and their city. I can't say it's true for everyone, but the locals I asked about it tended to agree.

Taxes and Benefits
Something that stood out when I went to pay for my first meal in Montreal was just how much the taxes added to my check. It's really no surprise that taxes are high in Quebec, since they're used to pay for some great services. For visitors, though, this can feel frustrating. We still pay high taxes, but don't really get to take advantage of many of the services (aside from public transportation and other broad public programs). In theory, high taxes would discourage foreigners from visiting; but there's also so much more at play - the currency exchange rate, the price of goods and services themselves, and the overall desirability to see a place. Maybe high taxes don't matter so much after all?

The World's Cuisine
I wasn't surprised that Montreal has restaurants and cuisine from nearly every part of the world. What surprised me was just how common they actually are. For example, the food court in the Underground City where I ate lunch both days, isn't like the suburban mall food court I grew up with. It has everything from Japanese to Vietnamese to Italian to French to Lebanese. Of course, it also has a Burger King, which I suppose covers the American contribution to the food court.


    On January 17, 2011 Mel said...

    In Toronto, I recognized a HUGE vegetarian & vegan food scene. Did you notice the same in Montreal?


    Mel, I can't say that it stood out to me; but I wasn't really looking for it, either. I typically don't pay attention to vegetarian or vegan options because they don't drive my eating choices.