The Language Thing...
Unless you are a long-time resident, the politics of language should be avoided at all costs. Don't even ask - trust me.
Montreal is a cosmopolitan city, her strength lies in her diversity, ethnic cultures, restaurants, ideas, etc; but Quebec' provincial language laws make it all but impossible to post outdoor signs in languages other than French. However in certain areas of Montreal - particularly in the downtown area (where most travellers and tourists go), you will certainly see signs and advertisements in English, and bilingual services are widely available.
You will find the locals are likely to converse in either French or English, and just as comfortable switching back and forth between the two languages. In fact, walk along the Main (St. Laurent Blvd) and you'll hear at least 35 languages spoken. To be sure, you will occasionally run into a surly metro ticket-booth worker who may resent being spoken to in English (I've had this happen to me several times), but on the whole Montrealers are justifiably proud of their bilingualism.
Europeans will have no problem fraternizing, Americans might want to perhaps familiarize themselves with a few basic French words and phrases just to acquaint themselves with the local lingo.
Luc-Normand Tellier, author of the book "VIVE MONTREAL LIBRE!" suggests that the greatest asset of the city is its bilingualism. And why not? He couldn't be more right!! Montreal has so much to offer!And I like listening to bilingual radio - especially André Vigeant's show: "Escale Jazz" on CBC montreal radio!
So, as they say here Bienvenue au Montréal! relax, have fun, and enjoy l'esprit de Montreal!!
Mont-Royal Chalet and View of Downtown
When going to the Mont-Royal, it is always pleasant to walk all the way to the Chalet and admire the view of downtown Montreal. Even if I was born and raised here, I still go to look at the view. Downtown, of course, but also the St-Lawrence River and the Monteregian Hills, which the Mount-Royal is also part of. Born 125 million years ago, so, relativelly young, but still, from when Europe and America were still joined.
Take a walk on the Mont-Royal....
Take a walk on the Mont-Royal. This mountain, that gave the name to the city, is in the middle of the city. It's a funny feeling to start walking in this park because you don't feel in the middle of a large city. Nice place for nature lovers. The park also offers great view of the city.
On Sunday afternoons, if you are feeling a bit hippy, go to the bottom of the mountain, next to the statue and just sit back in the grass or dance to the sounds of the Tam-Tams. People gather around this statue with their percussions and just jam with all the others. Some of the people that are there are an organized group, but others just go there with their instruments.
Bring a picnic and enjoy. There used to be a lot of pot smoking and dealing there, but the police did a big clean-up and there is far less now.
Although I've never been there at night, I would not recommend it. The bushes seem to move a whole lot in some parts of the mountain...
Tip well or suffer the consequences
Listen, the French are into the concept of 'ennui', ok? Don't bring on the wrath of an existentially pissed-off and economically frustrated waitress or waiter because you've left a small tip. Tip 15-20% in restaurants, in bars it's a loonie ($1 CDN) per drink.
Ogilvy's Christmas window
Every year since 1947, the Ogilvy department store sets up a Christmas window in its display. Called the Enchanted Village, it features many mechanical stuffed animals made by the world-renowned Steiff Company of Germany.
The Enchanted Village can usually be seen from mid-November to early January, so if you're in Montreal at that time of the year, why not check it out, especially if you have kids travelling with you!
Ogilvy is located at 1307 Ste-Catherine Street West, at the corner of De la Montagne Street. The nearest metro stations are Guy-Concordia and Peel.