June 15 – 20, 2019
To start off our second day in Montréal, we had breakfast at Tim Horton’s – obviously! This is a very popular chain, comparable to Dunkin’ Donuts in the northeastern United States. They used to have some locations in mid and southern Maine but just about all of them have closed. I don’t know what it’s comparable to in other parts of the US, but basically, it’s a fast food coffee/breakfast food type shop. Nothing that exciting and to write home about, but they are notorious for their “iced capps” (iced cappacino) which are delish. When I lived in northern Maine (which is close to the Canadian border so they have Tim’s there still), my coworkers and I had a weekly (or, uh… biweekly sometimes) iced capp date to decompress. Anyway, long story short, Tim’s is a must-do if you go to Canada.
Even though we drove to Montréal, we primarily used public transportation to avoid a few things: parking issues, traffic, and driving in a congested area that we’re not familiar with and signs not in our language. We drove over to Tim’s because it was right down the street, but then we went back to our Air BNB, parked, and walked about five minutes down to the Du College orange line subway station to take the 30-minute train ride downtown to get started on our adventures for the day!
If you are traveling in a city with public transportation, I highly highly highly (did I say highly?) suggest downloading the Citymapper app. You can also utilize it as a website, but I’m not familiar with using that feature. I’m know there are some apps/websites that are similar, but this one has helped me for years without fail. Not every single city is on there, but just about everywhere I’ve been to has had it, including out of country locations. You enter where you want to go, and it guides you step-by-step on how to get there. If you are utilizing public transportation, it tells you what station or bus stop to go to, where and when to transfer, how many stops, etc. It literally has saved me. I wouldn’t have survived living in Boston without it. (Okay, Citymapper, I hope you’re listening; I want some funding for promoting you).
We started downtown at the Tourist Information Centre of Montréal. This is in the Old Montréal area. I typically like to start my trips with a bus tour to get an overview of the city, some history, and my bearings on my location. While these tend to be pretty touristy and don’t show you everything, it’s a good start. We overlapped our bus tour with the Montréal Passport, which gives you access to quite a few major attractions in Montréal. Again, these are pretty touristy, so it’s important to explore other things as well. This is something I’m constantly learning – how to get “off the path” so to speak and see more of the city and a better sense of life and culture. You tend to mostly see the “hub” of things and major sites but not the neighborhoods and things like that. But, I certainly enjoy a lot of the common touristy things to start off.
We bought bus tour tickets for the Gray Line 48-hour hop-on hop-off tour. So this is deceiving. It’s not actually 48 hours. It’s two days. So if you buy it on a Monday afternoon, you’re only covered for the rest of Monday and then Tuesday. This was fine because we only planned on taking a few rides. We started by doing a full loop of the bus tour (rather than hopping off, hopping on) and hearing some interesting history from the guide. This was in English, although most things in Montréal are offered in English and French or just French. With this being a common tourist bus tour, it made sense they offered it primarily in English, but I believe they also had bilingual tours. The bus tour was about $44 USD for each person, coming to a total of about $85 USD (or approximately $112 CAD). Before we hopped on the bus, we took in a few beautiful sites around the Tourist Information Centre.
I can’t find a map online that has a visual depiction of the route that the bus takes, but it stops at the following locations:
- Dorchester Square
- Old Montreal
- Place Jacques Cartier
- Old Port
- Square Victoria
- Place Ville Marie
- Latin Quarter
- Quartier des Spectacles
- Fine Arts Museum
- McCord Museum
- McGill University
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory
- Mount-Royal Park
While we were at the Tourist Information Centre, we also bought the Montréal Passport, which gives you access to a few dozen attractions/sites. Unlike the bus tour, this is actually for a full 48 or 72 hours from the time that you first use it. We got the 72 hour pass figuring this would cover most of the sites we would see over the first few days. It was fairly pricey, about $98 a person (for a total of $195 USD) or approximately $255 CAD. While it is a bit pricey, it covers quite a lot: