Saturday, January 1, 2011

Montreal? Fail.

This is my honest opinion and observations so I hope I don't offend Montreal-lovers and patriotic Quebecois but Montreal sucks. I will list my reasons why. 

1. Above all else is the blatant rudeness of the locals. If the generalization that Canadians are polite is true, it does not extend to the overall local population of Montreal. I was shocked at the level of insolence from the locals. It is impossible to ask for directions--even in French. They think they are more intelligent and superior than English-speaking people. I asked locals from mailmen to friendly-looking couples where a main street is like Rue de St Viateur or Mont Royal Est and was sent in the complete wrong direction or just given a shake of the head or a cruel stare. I was screamed at a Metro station attendant while asking him if I could use my ticket on the Metro bus to visit "the best poutine" place in Montreal which I didn't even mind except my friends had pointed out how unusual it is for him to stand up and scream at me like that. 
    I was in a restaurant called 'Basilic' in Chinatown on rue De Gauchetiere and had the 3 women next to us go "Oh, are those lesbians?" and stare at us while we ate our General Tao chicken and pad Thai. After we ate, the waitress demanded we leave a 10% tip as we walked over to the debit machines. Later at the clubs, the bartender didn't return our change--deciding to tip herself which I found very rude--why would I leave a $13 tip for a Smirnoff cooler? In the end, she gave me back $10 by flinging the bill at me with a scathing glare. By then, I began to expect the rudeness so I wasn't mad when a local barista got bitchy at a cafe while I ordered espresso. 
     A lot of people lament on the rudeness of Montreal locals and believe it is because the locals think Montreal is the #1 city in Canada. I have no clue but with such boorishness--who is going to return?

    2. I had brought my nicer clothes--wool coats, high heels, nice blouses for the trip because people warned Montreal locals were refined and sophisticated. My own Montreal native friends are very trendy and fashionable so I believed it. However, I didn't find Montreal locals to be very sophisticated. The women dressed somewhat better than the men were an alarmingly large number of them had huge scruffy beards and wild tangled hair (not the homeless ones, either) but then a tourist from Ohio pointed out to me that 30% of the city lives in poverty. I didn't see any of the women pushing Bugaboo and Quinny strollers, or the men in nice coats. It was all North Face, yoga pants and other such obscurity. I thought Mont-Royal had an upper-class demographic but other than some old women in fur coats, I didn't see anything akin to Yorkville or Yaletown. 
      And strangely, I didn't see any large\nice homes or nice cars like Benzes, Lexus, Cadillac, Lincoln etc. I found this very strange. Perhaps there is no class distinction?

     3. I read in numerous articles that Montreal is the second largest multi-cultural city in Canada but failed to see a lot of visible minorities. I seen a lot of Asians, which is fine. I didn't see a lot of South Asian or Blacks which surprised me since websites said blacks were the largest minority. I perhaps saw ten or twelve black people in a 3 day span. I just wondered where they all were? I didn't see any at all in Le Plateau, Vieux Montreal or in Chinatown. I found this to be a negative aspect as I expected to see more diversity. 
    4. The 'best' spots were mediocre. I had a lot of poutine which was recommended and the spots were so packed we all had to wait outside while one person went inside to order. The poutine is supposed to have fresh cheese curds and can come with a large variety of toppings--but even with all that--it's pretty gross. I had a lot of trouble finding the #1 restaurants like Le Pied de Cochon and had to settle for less which was disappointing. And the Schwartz Deli forgot to put mustard on my smoked meat sandwiches!

Empty ghost town streets for miles in downtown!
    5. I spent a whole day finding Cafe ArtJava and found it on the last day after being sent down rue St Hubert and the other way down Mont Royal in the wrong direction. I was infatuated with the cafe but after ordering a cappuccino I received a latte with foam on top instead of 3\4 foam and a quarter milk with espresso. It was a heavy milk latte and only came in the 8-ounce size, and she also charged my friends for 12ounce lattes when they asked for 12-ounce cappuccinos without letting them know she was making them lattes. She was friendly but this was a big FAIL for me. However, it was nice and the cafe itself is charming and beautiful. If this is the best in the city, I'm a little skeptical about their standards. 
6. The crumbling city was a huge turn-off and disappointment and the dilapidated Metro (public transportation) was shocking. Even in the so-called good neighbourhoods, it looked like slums with graffiti everywhere, closed shops and dead streets! Even main roads like rue St Antoine was a ghost town! It was pretty bad, even from an urbanite's perspective.

Metro train  at Berri- UQAM Station, Montreal
Graffiti is the norm for most of the city--bright, garish graffiti on copious amounts of  building and bathroom and exterior walls. (Patati Patata on rue St Laurent)

    7. The parking makes no sense whatsoever and nobody can be helpful enough to assist you. How do you pay for parking and what is PG?

    8. Huge piles of random, dirt-stained snow in the most beautiful places like Notre Dame and Chinatown. 


1. At the cool under the radar places we went to, we received very friendly, cheery service. Some websites say that you can find a friendly Montreal local (it's like finding a diamond in the rough, :) but they actually do exist and these people really do brighten your day--even if the words coming out of their mouth make no sense to you!
And Rapido Restaurant in the Plateau was pretty great. Amazing service, attentive and super-friendly staff and delicious breakfast in this unassuming gem is one of the reasons I'd return on my Why I'd Return to Montreal List--which is very short. We ate breakfast here every day and really enjoyed the atmosphere, the other diners and the great food choices which they were kind enough to let us customize.
Breakfast Day 1 at Rapido Restaurant- 4494 rue St Denis

3. As everyone says, the club scene is really good. We had no clue what the name of the club was, but it was a good one and unlike the local clubs here, all the music was very good. There wasn't one song I disliked and instead of people standing against the wall looking cool or sexy in their nice clothes, people were actually dancing and jumping and having a very good time! The clubs have patios where you can smoke and the club district is very Parisian. Drinks are more pricey than I was expecting by a few more dollars, but then again, I rarely go to straight clubs!
Carriages in VIEUX
4. In Vieux Montreal nothing is as breathtaking as horse-and-carriage or as old-fashioned. It was a sight to behold and the clop-clopping of hooves next to the vroom-vrooming of cars was very interesting on one-way roads. Still, one had to admire the beautiful stallions. BUT don't these Quebecois understand horse-and-carriage is animal cruelty? I assume they don't care, as they have no animal rights laws and are the top province in Canada for puppy and kitten mills. 

5. It was very nice to see so many cafes, restaurants and shops in charming, characteristic and architecturally beautiful buildings. One Little Italy restaurant had stone Herculean style statues and gothic gargoyles from the balconies of another in the Plateau was awe-inspiring. There certainly isn't a shortage of places to enjoy a latte or some grub!

6. The pizza had the mozzarella on top of all the toppings which was so cool. Usually toppings are on top. This simple fact blew my mind and makes for yummy pizza. 

You can see the Mont Royal hill from rue St Laurent
7.  Our hotel was pretty cool and modern. I loved the service, the hot water and the fact it had complimentary breakfast even though we ate petit dejeuner elsewhere. It was pretty central to Vieux Montreal, Chinatown, and the Gay Village which was a plus and they made it super-easy to actually check-in, get extra access cards and pay\find parking. 
8. You cannot miss the beautiful architecture. This obviously is a beautifully constructed city with a lot of stunning work from the cobble-stone hilly streets to the cathedrals and lamp posts. The stone buildings in Vieux Montreal are worth all the memory on your DSLR and before the crumbling mishap you could tell this was a shining city!

9. The French language is beautiful, romantic and pleasing to the ear. Even the homeless speaking French sound more high-class!

10. It really is convenience with liquor and beer is served in convenience stores and grocery shops. Genius idea however the SAQ at the Des Jardins Mall on Rue de Rene-Levesque lacks a lot more variety!

CAFE ARTJAVA which has reputedly the best coffee in Montreal although insiders say it's in decline.

Usual line-up at Schwartz for the okay smoked meat sandwiches $5.90 + tax per sandwich. People say there is better smoked meat in the city--and I was not even remotely impressed. I ordered 6 "medium" sandwiches. Some came without mustard!

Butcher at Schwartz on rue St Laurent holding smoked meat.

Cafe ArtJava in Plateau

Rundown Montreal

More rundown Montreal
And that is all for my review of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 
 Visiting has allowed me to appreciate my own city and community and be glad I have it so good! :)

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