The more I travel, the more photos I take of street signs. They become synonymous with the places I visit and are perfect little snapshot souvenirs. Enjoy!
I picked up this collection of short stories in Montreal at Librarie Drawn and Quarterly, a lovely little book store in Mile End.
I came in looking specifically for books about Montreal, stories set in Montreal, and/or books by authors from Montreal. The staff was incredibly helpful. When I told them about my quest, the girl asked, “In French or English?” and then proceeded to pile book after book into my hands. I settled on Sweet Affliction by Anna Leventhal and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler.
Sweet Affliction was a wonderful collection to read while traveling alone in Montreal. I brought it with me everywhere so I could read a story and then reflect on it while enjoying a coffee or a beer. The tales ranged from sweet to sad to darkly comic to unusually uplifting, all with an undertone of sarcastic humor. The characters’ lives are interwoven through the stories as they go about their business in Montreal; as a reader I found it interesting and engaging to keep track of the various relationships.
One of my favorite stories was about Moving Day, something Leventhal portrays as ridiculous, and I didn’t even know existed. Another story of note was one of the shortest in the collection, ‘The Yoga Teachers,’ about a little girl who likes going to dance class even though she doesn’t fit in with the rest of the ballerinas.
“Solo female travel.” It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days, so being the follower I am, I decided to board a plane all by myself.
Everything kind of fell into place for this trip. I had a gift card to use on already cheap tickets to Montreal. I had a “spring break” for work. No friends or family were available to travel on those days. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision for me. The idea popped into my head in the afternoon, and after searching for a good destination, the flights were booked by that evening.
I had a great time in Montreal, despite the cold (although the locals kept talking about how warm it was). I was confused at first because I wasn’t sure if I should speak English or French. The first day I ended up not picking just one language, but instead I spoke in some dumbed-down combination of French and English, in the process sounding incredibly stupid. After that I made a conscious effort to stick with one language for an entire conversation.
Here are some of my favorite things about traveling alone in Montreal:
I think walking is the best way to see a city, and in Montreal, I walked over four miles every day. By myself, I was able to walk at whatever pace I wanted for as long as I wanted. I didn’t have to hear someone else bitch about sore feet or being cold.
Me, me me.
Related to point number one, I only had to focus on what I wanted. If I was hungry, I ate at the first place I saw that looked good. If I was tired, I took the bus back home. If I wanted to stay in and watch the French TV channel showing a program about puppies, I watched the puppies. I enjoyed not having to cater to anyone else’s needs.
I got a lot for my money.
It was a cheap vacation, for a large North American city. My flight was under $200. I rented a room in an apartment on Airbnb for under $100 total, and I spent about $150 on food/souvenirs/ground transportation/attractions/beer. If my husband had tagged along, our costs could have easily doubled.
I’m a museum person, and traveling alone, I was able to take my time in the exhibits. I saw everything in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts over the course of two days. Again, no compromises: I saw only the museums I was interested in.
There was something restorative for me in walking around and observing a new place. No talking, no distractions. Just me, my thoughts, and old snow beneath my feet. I wrote every day and I read two books. Even though I didn’t do anything incredibly exciting on this trip, I ended every day in a good mood, and I began every day ready to see more.
While traveling on my own was a great experience, I think I would’ve enjoyed the city even if I was traveling with someone else. I’d do it again in the right situation, especially if I wanted some me time.
Next week I’m hopping on a plane to Montreal for my first solo travel trip! I’m excited because I’ve heard so many good things about Montreal. I’m looking forward to spending a few days selfishly doing all the things I want to do, and nothing else. Plus, I’ve been working 12-hour days for the past three months, and I need a break!
Montreal has a lot to offer when it comes to museums, history and food. I’ll have roughly four full days to explore the city; here’s my rough plan so far:
- Pointe-à-Callière/Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History to get a glimpse at the foundations of Montreal.
- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a must-see for Canadian works of art and pieces from well-known international artists.
There are a number of other museums in Montreal I’m interested in but these are the two I’m definitely heading to.
A stroll through Old Montreal will be good place to start my visit and take some photos. I might check out City Hall and Notre-Dame Basilica while I’m there.
I’m crossing my fingers for good weather (the latest 10-day forecast only has one day above 40 degrees) but no matter what, I’m hiking up Mont Royal for the views. And, being honest with myself, I’ll probably want the exercise after eating poutine and drinking beer.
I’m staying in the Plateau area, which I understand is a thriving neighborhood with a lot of younger residents. Sounds like a good place for a stroll with frequent stops for coffee and snacks!
The more research I do, the more I read about how great the food is in Montreal. I’ll have to try poutine for sure (I hear La Banquise is a poutine institution) and some bagels (St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel are both close to where I’m staying…I should probably sample both).
As for drinking, I plan on trying as much craft beer as I can. I’ve read good things about Dieu du Ciel, a brewpub with house beer.
Jean-Talon market is also on my to-do list. If the weather’s nice (again, crossing my fingers!) maybe I can have a picnic lunch, if not, maybe I can stock up on things for dinner at my host’s apartment.
I’m trying to find some Montreal-based books/authors to read before I leave, but my local public library is sadly lacking in that regard. The plan now is to stock up on local books while I’m there – it looks like Montreal has several independent book stores to check out!
Thanks for reading! Any suggestions on things to do in Montreal?