I had always wanted to visit Montreal – but that’s not really saying much because I essentially want to visit everywhere. Well, everywhere worth visiting that is.
But Montreal was always fairly high on my list because (a) it’s not that far from NYC, (b) they speak French there and (c) it just seemed like a cool city. My husband was not particularly interested in going to Montreal because he felt (a) it’s a long drive and he does all the driving (b) he does not speak French and (c) he thinks Canada is too cold.
When I found out that my husband had to be in Indiana for something one weekend this past fall that did not involve me, I instantly thought: I’ll have a weekend with the girls. I love spending time with my friends, but I tend to do all of my traveling with my husband.
So when I realized that my husband was going to be away, it seemed like the ideal time to go somewhere affordable with some friends.
Convincing three of my friends from journalism school to take a weekend trip to Montreal was pretty easy. Three out of the four of us spoke French, three out of the four us had never been there and all four of us love to travel.
We decided that the cheapest way to get there would be by driving and we would leave on a Thursday night and drive to the half-way point, Saratoga Springs, NY. We would get up early the next morning and drive the three-plus hours to Montreal. On Sunday, we would drive the whole way back in one shot.
I took the hotel search upon myself because I love planning trips. We wanted to stay in the cheapest places possible, but we still wanted them to be nice enough. Saratoga Springs is a college town and, in the summer, a resort town thanks to its famous racetrack. So, the lodging choices were surprisingly expensive.
We settled on the Springs Motel for $75 per room. Although I was a bit worried, it turned out to be a nice motel that gave us adjoining rooms.
Montreal has plenty of bed-and-breakfasts and quaint inns that are affordable, but they are geared toward couples. It also has hostels, but we didn’t want that either. We needed two rooms with two beds, so it seemed that a boring old chain was the way to go. After reading Tripadvisor.com reviews endlessly and eliminating all the ones that complained about bedbugs (http://www.travelogged.com/travelogged/2009/01/did-someone-say-bed-bugs.html), we decided that the Hilton Doubletree was the way to go as it was centrally located and the price was right: $120 per room per night plus tax (and Montreal tax is high). The rooms were extremely nice for the price but the hotel didn’t have good service – even simple requests took multiple phone calls. But it’s still a place I’d recommend you’re on a budget.
We set out on our roadtrip full of excitement. We had visions of enjoying the bar scene in Saratoga, but we were exhausted when we arrived late that night. The next morning, we checked out the main drag and ate a delicious breakfast at local favorite Beverly’s (http://beverlysbest.net/data/).
Then we were on our way and had a breathtakingly beautiful drive through the Adirondacks. It was only the first weekend in October, but the leaves turn early up there and they were in their prime.
As we approached the US-Canadian border, the signs were already bilingual. Even in the towns just over the border, the province of Quebec is staunchly French. If they weren’t so proud of their heritage and so determined to keep that way, this French oasis surely would have been Anglicized. This makes Montreal a very special place – I had been worried it wouldn’t be different enough, but it was. French-speakers and English-speakers attend different schools, but most people seem to know both languages.
While we had looked forward to practicing our French, we weren’t given too much of an opportunity. So even if you don’t know a word of French, you’ll be fine.
Tomorrow I’ll take you on a tour of our highlights in Montreal!