Bad Luck Day in Montreal

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Some days you’re lucky, some days you’re not.

And for some reasons, we always have a hard time “mastering” Montreal. It should be easy: it’s a first-world city, a blend of North American and French influences, it’s close to Ottawa… and yet, we always seem to run into minor annoyances—which doesn’t happen to us when we travel to, let’s say, Toronto.

After a night of being eaten alive by bed bugs and getting little sleep, we decided to spend the day at the Parc Jean Drapeau, more precisely on the Île Sainte-Hélène, one of the islands in the Saint Lawrence River. We hadn’t been there since Radiohead’s concert in 2008 and the weather was gorgeous—a perfect time to enjoy the outdoors.

Driving in Montreal is a frustrating exercise, yet we didn’t have the choice since the hotel was far, by the airport. Feng is an excellent driver but he was soon lost between one-way streets, “no right turns on red light” regulations and construction work. We got trapped in a massive traffic jam on Papineau Street—apparently, the entire city had decided to drive across Jacques Cartier Bridge.

Fortunately, we found a good radio station, “Rouge FM”, playing classics from the 1980s and 1990s and it seemed to keep Mark relatively quiet.

When we finally arrived on the Île Sainte-Hélène, we realized parking was a steep $16. Ouch.

Never mind. We paid and headed towards the Biodome… one of the first “landmarks” I visited in Canada back in 2002.

Next thing we knew, we were thirsty. No problem, there were a bunch of vending machines nearby. Actually, problem: they were all empty. And the ice cream shop didn’t sell any drinks.

Moving on…

We spent a while exploring the park, hiking to the Tour de Lévis, admiring Montreal’s skyline and checking out the La Ronde attraction park. I actually toyed with the idea of going to the amusement park, but tickets were almost $60 per person. Ouch. Again.

Eventually, we drove back to Montreal, and bam—traffic jam on Papineau, again. And yes, we did try to avoid this street but somehow there was no way around.

It was time for Mark to eat. “No problem,” I said. “Let’s find a coffee shop on Saint Denis.” Before you ask me, no, Mark doesn’t drink coffee but franchised coffee shops like Tim Hortons, Second Cup or Starbucks are an easy way to get some hot water for the bottle and they often have relatively clean restrooms where I can change him if needed.

We drove around Saint Denis. Not a “Le Café Second Cup”, “Le Café Starbucks” or “Timmies” in sight. Shocking. In Ottawa, we have one every block or so. In Montreal, the bar scene is bigger and local seem to enjoy wine more than coffee!

Eventually, we found a small Tim Hortons hidden somewhere. Phew.

Alright. Time for us to eat. The small fancy restaurants around the area weren’t a great place for Mark so we decided to head back to Montreal’s downtown core and figured we could grab a bite in Chinatown.

Little did we know that half of the city also had the same idea—we couldn’t find parking anywhere! Every time we spotted an empty space, there was either some restrictions (“permit only” or indecipherable parking regulations) or a fire hydrant. Or an idiot who had parked over two perfectly fine spots.

Believe it or not, we drove around Montreal for… yes, 90 minutes. And it’s not like we were trying to find a specific restaurant in a specific street. Honestly, after 20 minutes of driving, we were ready to eat anything. And eating close to the hotel wasn’t an option either—there wasn’t much in the area and I was scared to find cockroaches in my food at the hotel’s restaurant (well, if the room had bed bugs… you can only imagine what was going on in the kitchen!).

Eventually, we found a spot close to Sainte Catherine and had Korean food. Best Bulgogi ever, trust me. Especially when you’re starving.

A last minor annoyance occurred we went to grab some water and drinks at Jean Coutu on Sainte Catherine. Entering the store wasn’t a problem, but exiting was: presumably to avoid shopping cart theft, there was two vertical posts at the exit door and the opening was too narrow for the stroller. Granted, it’s a small thing, but I found it infuriating, stupid, and thoughtless. If you are going to make your store difficult to access for wheelchair users, people with walkers or people with strollers, go all the way and block the entrance as well as the exit, so that we can avoid the place altogether!

Finally, we got lost on the way back to the hotel… but at least, room #104 didn’t have bed bugs.

Phew. What a day!

You can see the complete set of Montreal pictures here.

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Biodome

Biodome

Biodome

Biodome

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Fall is on The Way

Fall is on The Way

Fall is on The Way

Fall is on The Way

Montreal

Montreal

Pont Jacques Cartier

Pont Jacques Cartier

Fall Leaves

Fall Leaves

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Tour de Lévis

Tour de Lévis

Biodome

Biodome

Parc Jean Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau

Pont Jacques Cartier

Pont Jacques Cartier

La Ronde

La Ronde

Turning, Turning, Turning!

Turning, Turning, Turning!

Montreal's Skyline

Montreal’s Skyline

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

18 Comments

  1. That seemed like an exhausting day. Driving in Montréal is hell. We usually park the car at relatives, and take the métro. You can easily access to l’île Ste-Hélène my métro.You can take the bus from the airport to downtown, but with little Mark, I understand that the car is a better option. It looks like the weather is gorgeous in Canada.

    • I think next time we will take the métro. I love public transportation but since we were staying by the airport, it made more sense for us to drive in the city (and then park and walk!).

  2. Seems like things are more expensive in Montréal indeed. We went once to visit the “jardin botanique” and the “insectarium” and the parking lot only was 12$! One adult ticket is almot 20$! The thing that quite, quite shocked me is that if you are from Quebec, you are paying much less!

  3. Oui c’est vrai Zhu, pour les résidents du Québec je ne sais pas si c’est partout pareil pour les autres attractions à Montréal mais le Jardin Botanique fait ça. Y’a du genre 2 ou 3$ d’écart entre le price normal et le prix spécial Québec 😉 Sinon tu t’es trompée, la boule c’est pas le biodôme Choupette c’est la Biosphère (l’ancien pavillon des Etats-Unis lors de l’Expo Universelle de 67 🙂 )

    Montréal c’est super chiant pour conduire là-bas, moi je conduis jamais dans Montréal, je me gare dans les “bouts” des lignes de métro (genre à Longueuil ou à Angrignon) et j’y vais en métro, bien plus pratique, moins de stress et tu payes pas plus cher que ton parking à 16$ 🙂 Pis oui c’est chiant aussi les one-way à Montréal, les parkings dans les rues où tu peux stationner de telle heure à heure, en jours impairs, si c’est soir de pleine lune, etc 😉 😀

    Mais je vois sur tes belles photos que vous avez eu du beau temps, c’est cool 🙂 On profite plus dans ces cas là 🙂

    • Oups, my mistake! Je vais corriger ça. Je crois que je me perds dans les langues et les endroits! 😆

      Je n’ai jamais vu un écart de prix en Ontario ou au Manitoba. La seule fois où j’ai vu ça, c’était en Argentine et en Chine parce que le pouvoir d’achat des locaux est bien différent de celui de la plupart des touristes!

  4. Hi Zhu,
    How are you?
    I think that we all have our stories of aggravation from on the road. I don’t think that these are ever permanent. Wait a year or two and see how you fare.
    Yes, lovely autumn hues :)… Your photo of Montreal looking towards Radio Canada makes me think of pur last two trips…

    Have a great day.

  5. Gorgeous pics! I’ve only been to Montréal once, but I remember that driving and parking were a nightmare (and I wasn’t the one doing it, either!). But then again, I feel most major cities have that problem. Still, $16 for parking is STEEP!

  6. I’ve never been to Montreal and have been told by several sources that my English origins and lack of French language ability means we wouldn’t have a pleasant experience, shame really as your photos look beautiful, although the thought of bed bugs and cockroaches is not very inviting!

    • I don’t think language would be a problem. I speak French there but people often reply in English when they overhear Feng and I speak English!

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