Thursday, July 23, 2009

Montreal Offers European Flair

If you're looking for a piece of European charm closer to home, you might want to try Montreal, Canada your next time around, which has plenty of culinary delights as well as a thriving cafe culture—but without those Euros to trip you up. Actually an island on the St. Lawrence River, the Canadian city has held on rather fiercely to both a way of life and a language since 1642, which is when the first French settlers arrived in the area to explore the new terrain while trapping furs. Your first stop in this old city? Old Montreal is a good bet, because it provides plenty of diversion with Montreal's special happy tour, called “cinq a sept,” while delivering that essential Old World vibe in spades.

How to Get Around
Montreal does have a metro, so it's easy to get around if you happen to be traveling there in the wintertime. For people visiting from southern States or from a warmer country altogether, the winter can be surprising, so bundle up if that trip comes next season. Since plenty of lines are also connected to Montreal's underground shopping city, it's easy to disappear beneath snow, sleet, and rain for an entire day if you wish.

Old Montreal is best traveled by foot, and with a camera at that. Pick up a walking map and get exploring every nook and cranny, or you can easily prepare in advance by visiting the city's website for an easy guide map for a walking tour.

Where to Stay
The Loews Hotel Vogue is a great place for gastronomists and the food curious alike to revel in some hearty Montreal fare. Located in the “Paris of Canada,” this hotel has a hip vibe and a close proximity to bars, brasseries, outdoor eating areas, and places with fine dining experiences that will please people from anywhere in the world. After a night out wining and dining, it won't take much cajoling to sink down into soft sheets and waltz into a oversized bathroom for a hot soak to take off the chill (or cut down on the heat, depending on the time of the year).

If you are seeking the uber-traditional, there's always the Hotel Le St. James, which offers true European grandeur and rooms kitted out with plenty of modern technology. With a distinctive décor and a wonderful ambiance, this is another smart choice to enjoy a little European flair right in nearby Canada.

Seasonal Festivities
Should you be planning your vacation in advance, there's always early summer parties to make Montreal stand out from the crowd. Not only do they host a special fireworks festival complete with musical accompaniment, but the Montreal International Jazz Festival has a free concert complete with notable artists and acts, and free outdoor shows. The Just for Laughs festival is usually scheduled at the end of July, and it runs through July 26th.

Now will you choose winter or summer for your Montreal getaway?

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