Canadians are among the world’s most prolific travellers. It doesn’t matter what exotic destination one visits, you are bound to run into Canadians there. In the quest for something new and different it is easy to overlook Montreal—only a few hours away by car and less than an hour away by plane from the GTAH. Montreal is a strange mix of a predominately French Canadian culture, sprinkled with vestiges of its history as home to an English mercantile elite who dominated Montreal affairs until the Quiet Revolution. So you see the strange juxtopositioning of Place Jacques Cartier—the lively boulevard of restaurants and boutiques in Old Montreal that could easily be plucked from a neighbourhood in Paris but whose dominant landmark is a memorial column to Lord Horatio Nelson the British sea hero.
Old Montreal was the city’s hub until the Great depression when it became a neglected and largely de-populated part of Montreal. The 1960s breathed new life into Old Montréal, as astute renovators and artists lovingly restored beautiful old homes. Bonsecours Market was rejuvenated. Place Jacques Cartier was given a facelift for Expo 67. Since then, and even more since the late 1970s, major public- and private-sector investment has helped highlight the heritage value of the historic city centre and the Old Port.
Old Montréal is more alive than ever, with more than 2,000 households and upwards of 35,000 people working there in design, business and trade, and municipal and legal institutions. Every year, millions of Montrealers and tourists come to enjoy the charms of the old city’s meandering streets and sunny squares, fascinating museums and alluring shops, excellent restaurants and the “new” Old Port.
Like every large North American city driving is not easy and parking a particular problem. However, the city has an excellent above and below ground transit system and taxis are reasonably –priced. Hotels are also a good bargain compared to rates in similar sized cities.