FX Excursions

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Revel in Montréal’s Parisian Ambience and Boundless Natural Beauty

by Ron Bernthal

Sep 16, 2022

PHOTO: © DAY TOURS – BATEAU- MOUCHE

September 2022

As the second-most populated river island on the planet (behind Zhongshan in China), Montréal offers visitors and its 1.9 million residents a plethora of urban amenities, from its Parisian atmosphere, great restaurants and hotels to cultural and sporting venues, along with seafaring opportunities from St. Lawrence River cruises to kayaking local canals.

In addition to several new hotels and restaurants, numerous urban development projects will benefit both Québécois and visitors. The new REM (Réseau Express Métropolitain), a fully automated, elevated light rail transit network, will make the city even more connected and accessible, with direct links between various Montréal communities. With 42 miles of rail line connecting 26 new stations, the 100 percent electric REM will not only alleviate traffic snares but also reduce tons of fossil fuel emissions. Plans include direct train access between Montréal’s Trudeau International Airport and downtown. The project is expected to start operations in late 2022.

@JFSAVARIA

One of the city’s newest arts icons, The Ring, suspends a 98-foot steel structure at Place Ville Marie, symbolizing the strong connection between Montréal, its citizens and its visitors. Award-winning landscape architects Claude Cormier + Associés designed The Ring.

This year, Société du Parc Jean-Drapeau unveiled major renovation plans, focusing on “re-greening” the park space, to include a riverside promenade featuring a ferry entrance and waterfront public square open to the river. The former Expo-Express bridge will transform into a New York- style high line promenade, and certain spaces in the park will be dedicated to wetlands.

Look for Royalmount, the second-largest private real estate project in Québec, to open in phases beginning 2023. Located in the heart of Montréal, the mixed-use complex developed by Carbonleo incorporates an upscale retail offering with more than 170 stores and 60 bars and restaurants, businesses and entertainment. This pedestrian-oriented development project will be 100 percent carbon-neutral once fully functioning. The first phase comes at a cost of approximately $835 million.

Currently undergoing a major renovation, the Museum of Contemporary Art will reside in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles. As work continues on the new building on Place des Arts, MAC relocated to Place Ville Marie in November 2021 and will remain in its temporary home until completion of the museum’s transformation in 2024.

CHECKING IN WITH MANUELA GOYA
Vice President, Destination Development and Public Affairs, Tourisme Montréal

Are any COVID-19 restrictions still in place for residents and visitors to Montréal?
The province of Québec prides itself on being one of the safest destinations anywhere in the world. The city’s vibrant array of hotels, restaurants, bars, boutiques and malls, museums, theaters, concert and sports venues, popular attractions and more are open at full capacity and ready to serve all comers in a manner that is mindful of safety and security.

What major cultural revitalization projects are taking place in Montréal?
Le Théâtre St-Denis is set to begin a new chapter in its history by becoming part of Espace St-Denis, a new cultural and gastronomic destination in the heart of the Latin Quarter. This new entertainment offering includes the storied theater, a studio-cabaret with a 180-degree virtual environment, a French brasserie-style restaurant, a terrace and grill and more.

The Centre d’histoire de Montréal begins its transition; the space will become the MEM – Centre des mémoires montréalaises. Located in the heart of Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles, at the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Saint- Catherine Street, MEM will be a museum and citizen space that will be both inclusive and innovative. Citizen voices of yesterday and today will be honored as we reveal the identities and history that make up the city’s world famous “showmanship.” Opening planned for 2023.

Recreational boating and cruising are nice attractions for many visiting the city. What water options would you suggest to visitors?
Hop aboard and get ready to cast off on a pleasure cruise to remember with Le Petit Navire, an ultra-quiet, zero-pollution electric propulsion boat (carbon-neutral certified) designed for ultimate touring. Offering 45-minute or two-hour guided cruises along Old Port or Lachine Canal, a trip aboard Le Petit Navire has been a must-do Montréal experience for more than 15 years.

Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy river surfing by standup paddleboard and kayaking, just minutes from downtown. In Montréal the rapids of the St. Lawrence River provide a couple of options for stationary surfing. While using a similar technique to catching waves in the ocean, river surfing is its own unique experience, largely because the wave just doesn’t end. Founded in 1995, KSF offers a selection of river-based excursions, and surf lessons are one of the most popular activities.

DIVERSIONS

Montréal is actually the largest island in the Hochelaga Archipelago, which comprises 235 much smaller islands. St. Lawrence River cruise boats offer great options for visitors looking for one- or multiday river adventures. Freshly renovated, Port of Montréal’s Grand Quay offers updated marine infrastructures alongside unique contemporary spaces designed for the enjoyment of cruise passengers and landlubbers. The Port will open its newest venue, the 213-foot Port of Montréal Tower, to visitors in late 2022, a unique architectural feature certain to become one of the most sought- after new venues in the city.

PHOTO: © ALEXANDRE CHOQUETTE / TOURISME MONTRÉAL

For cruising options, the popular 121- foot Bateau-Mouche launched in 1992 and offers a 440-square-foot, glass-enclosed upper deck; a glass-enclosed lower deck; and an open-air deck, with a total capacity of 152 passengers. For its dinner cruises, the ship does not use plastic glasses, plates or utensils — real chinaware only — and its green philosophy also means a smoke-free environment at all times.

The 60- and 90-minute day tours cover many Montréal locations, including the OId Port, Montréal Olympic Stadium, Montréal Science Centre, Jacques Cartier Bridge and Habitat 67. The 3.5-hour dinner cruise covers the same attractions and includes a fine-dining menu, a live musical performance, a sound and light experience, and other amenities.

As another option for St. Lawrence River cruising, Croisieres AML operates dozens of sightseeing cruises, including whale- watching and Zodiac tours, several different types of brunch and dinner cruises, and much more.

LODGING

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal
Opened in 2019, this sleek, upscale hotel offers 169 stylish rooms and suites, a spa, a rooftop indoor pool and 24-hour fitness center. Dine at the expansive third-floor MARCUS restaurant, terrace, lounge and bar, developed by noted chef Marcus Samuelsson.
1440 Rue de la Montagne
$$$$$

Hôtel St-Thomas
The upscale, 23-room boutique hotel in downtown Montréal, located in a heritage building, juxtaposes old-world charm with modern architecture. Opened in 2020, within walking distance of Place des Arts and excellent restaurants, the hotel includes complimentary breakfast, free WiFi and smart TVs.
430 Sherbrooke St. E.
$$$$

Hôtel William Gray
Housed in two 18th- century buildings in Old Montréal, the 127-room hotel boasts a modern interior and original exterior, with contemporary art and one of the best spas in the city, offering unique treatments, herbal sauna and outdoor pool. Nice views, three dining venues.
421 Rue Saint-Vincent
$$$$–$$$$$

DINING

Gia Vin & Grill
Located in the Saint-Henri neighborhood, a 13-minute drive from downtown, this new casual and friendly restaurant offers arrosticini (charcoal-grilled meat skewers), seafood and vegetable dishes, and pastas like pici all’anatra, a duck- laden Tuscan specialty.
1025 Rue Lenoir
$$$

Monarque
This atmospheric brasserie ranked No. 17 on Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants list, and its great cuisine matches its savvy interior design. Fish and shellfish specialties include a bouillabaisse studded with mussels, monkfish, cod, prawn and squid. Also excellent: dry-aged beef, snails, sweetbreads, duck and squab, and a large wine list.
406 Rue Saint-Jacques
$$$–$$$$$

Terrasse Carla
Perched on the sixth-floor terrace of Hampton Inn by Hilton, it features views of Old Montréal and décor that channels 1950s Saigon. The menu mixes French and Vietnamese flavors; try the gingery salmon tartare or mussels in white wine and coconut cream sauce. Open 3–11 p.m.
985 Blvd. Saint-Laurent
$$–$$$$

JUST THE FACTS
Time zone: GMT-4
Phone code: Country code: 1
City codes: 514, 819, 438 (New city codes 263 and 354 begin in October.)
Currency: Canadian dollar. U.S. dollars are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops. U.S. credit cards are accepted everywhere. Key industries: Aerospace, electronic goods, pharmaceuticals, printed goods, software engineering, telecommunications, textile and apparel manufacturing, tobacco, tourism and transportation

INFO TO GO
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport lies about 12 miles from downtown Montréal. Travelers can transit to and from the airport via express bus service ($8.50, 45–70 minutes) or taxi ($32, 40–60 minutes). Car rental agencies are available at the airport. Few downtown hotels offer airport shuttle service.

COMING AND GOING
For entry to Canada, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport, and some COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Trudeau Airport provides border pre-clearance for departing passengers bound for the United States.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
French is dominant, but Montréal is the most bilingual city in Québec and Canada; almost 60 percent of the population speak English and French.

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