Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Montreal = Too Much Fun

Every summer Montreal's St Catherine Street, which is lined with restaurants, gay clubs, bars and bathhouses and a variety of small shops, is closed to car traffic for the season. The restaurants and bars build temporary decks which reach into the middle of the street and evenings bring a wealth of people watching. We were unaware of this tradition and just happened to plan our visit during the last weekend of the street closure. Our hotel was 3 blocks away.

While we did avail ourselves of the excellent food and a certain amount of drunken revelry we discovered there is more to recommend Montreal than just this.

Charming old Montreal makes one feel as if they have been transported to provincial France. The city's financial district, with it's mix of modern highrises and late 19th century office buildings feels like Chicago's loop. The botanical gardens with their rich variety of themed plantings and excellent greenhouse displays is well worth the price of admission. There is also the view of the city from the summit of Mt. Royal.

As memorable and enjoyable as the trip turned out, things did not begin well. Due to a problem with my name my airline ticket was declared invalid. After several phone calls and much back and forth with a very disagreeable desk agent plus $150 in fees to correct the name on the ticket we were allowed to board our early morning flight.

The flight itself was uneventful. Even the sometimes chaotic procedure of getting on and off the plane and stowing and retrieving carry on bags went smoothly due to the small number of people traveling that morning. Upon landing we collected our luggage, purchased transit tickets and boarded the bus for the trip into the city. We got off the bus and after a very brief period of disorientation and confusion, found our way to our hotel.

That is where our next problem began. Due to past issues there was a flag placed on the credit card that had been used to reserve our room. After another fairly lengthy phone call (at roaming rates) this too was resolved. Our room wasn't ready so we stashed our luggage in a locker located in the basement of the hotel and headed out on foot, city map in hand, towards old Montreal, a pleasant 20 minute walk away.

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