-Don’t go on the coldest weekend of the year
Plain and simple. The only reason we absolutely had to go during President’s Day weekend was because we both had a long 3-day weekend, and we really wanted to spend it exploring Montreal. The average temperature was -10 during the day and with wind-chill at night it got to around -37. We couldn’t be outside for more than 15 to 20 minutes, because after we rapidly began to freeze. Even with 2 layers on my legs, 4 layers under my jacket, a hood, a scarf, mittens, and heavy duty North Face winter boots, the weather won every time. This also affected what we were able to accomplish and where we were able to go for lunches/dinners, attractions and sightseeing. After we finished up dinner both nights, we swiftly hurried back to the hotel to thaw out instead of making our way to a Jazz club or bar to enjoy a beer. We didn’t even dare try and go ice-skating at the Old Port, which was extremely disappointing see as that was one of the reasons I wanted to make the trek to Montreal. Overall, I loved Montreal. I just wish it wasn’t so cold so that we were able to do everything on our list and so that I could actually take quality time to appreciate the beauty and history of the architecture, instead of having my face buried in my scarf and my hood covering my eyes.
-Canada Goose Jacket
If you want to look like a local and are obsessed with fitting in to the culture, the best way and most expensive way to do it, is to invest in aCanada Goose Winter Jacket. As we were bitterly freezing our faces off, the people of Montreal were gleefully bustling around the city in these iconic jackets. We immediately noticed the circular logo patch on countless jackets as they passed by us, and we wondered what we were missing. After a Google search, it was discovered that these were THE jacket to own in Canada, guaranteed warmth with an outrageous price tag between $600-1,000. We resented everyone and anyone who walked past us who was wearing one, as we sped-walked back to warmth, wherever it was.
-Solid Green Lights vs. Blinking Green Lights
If you are driving in Montreal, you will notice their traffic patterns and signs are a little different than what you are used to seeing. In order to make a left-hand turn in many parts of Canada and in Montreal, drivers must look for blinking green traffic signals instead of a solid green arrow. The blinking green lights are referred to as “Advanced Greens” signaling that a driver has permission to turn left before any on-coming traffic approaches. Also many of the street signs resemble those seen in Europe, so use your best judgement when identifying stop signs, etc. And lastly, there is no such thing as a right on red. You wouldn’t even be able to make the turn, because of such high foot traffic in the city.
-Streets and Sidewalks
They apparently don’t own shovels in Canada, at all. No sidewalks were cleared from the past snowfalls, they were covered white and packed down from people constantly walking on it. You can hear the crunch, crunch as you walked, pushing the snow farther and farther down towards the pavement. Definitely wear some shoes that have a bit of traction or else you will slide all over trying to walk on smoothed solid snow. (Style is not the goal here.) Same thing with their roads too. We crossed the border into Canada and instantly the wind and snow squalls hit us hard. Riding along in the right lane in our Xterra, worried about the wind and road conditions, as these small Canadian hatchback and sedans wizzed by us like no problem at all. Nothing was plowed and when we finally drove through the city, we were hitting globs of old snow slush and messy wet mix. We wondered how so many little cars in the city and country even made it through the mess. Be prepared for poor walking and driving conditions, especially when it’s super cold.
-USD vs CAD
Going to Canada was great! Why? Because we thought we spent so much more money than we actually did. Discovering the exchange rate was definitely a treat, with the Canadian Dollar equaling .73 cents of an American Dollar. Meaning that I withdrew $60 CAD in cash and it was only $45 USD. So definitely get some cash out at a RBC or HSBC, so that you won’t be charged foreign transactions fees on your credit card.
It is extremely popular to make reservations for dining in Montreal. Doesn’t matter if it is dinner, lunch, or brunch, most places take reservations. We got away with making them exceptionally last minute, by calling or going online a few hours before. For lunches we didn’t know it was essential to make reservations, so both days we just showed up and luckily they had a table waiting for us. I would say if you want to live on the edge, it isn’t totally necessary to reserve, especially for lunches. But for dinners, I prefer to be on the safe side.
-Dinner and Brunch
They love their brunch in Montreal. The city is scattered with charming breakfast places that can get pretty expensive if you are not careful. Most places are not in the Centre Ville or Old Montreal area, but along the outside of the city. If you have car you can easily drive to one of them, the parking is abundant in the city, or you can take the Metro, which we never ended up trying to figure out. For dinner, Montreal eats much later in the evening as compared to the United States. The average busy times in the U.S. are between 5-8pm. Here, dinner doesn’t start becoming busy until 8:30pm, with many choosing to grab drinks before dinner and then even after as well. We decided to do like the locals do, and both nights we ventured out into the cold for a late dinner and drinks.
-Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; DON’T GO.
We were trying to be open-minded and try a new museum. I really love modern art, but I didn’t realize modern art and contemporary art were two different things. The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art was super close to our hotel, which was appealing, but let’s just say it was a huge waste of money. It was so so awful, if you like extremely weird contemporary art definitely give it a shot, but otherwise don’t waste your time. It was small, only one floor in a huge complex, and the art displays were scarce and frankly disturbing at most.