We and a couple of our Canadian friends left for the station early and arrived in Montreal at about 4 pm. The trip was smooth and somewhat uneventful.
I have to say that VIA Rail was not as I expected. For some reason, I expected a much more luxurious experience. Instead, the train appeared to be quite worn and small. Amtrak has nothing to worry about…it is significantly more spacious, comfortable, and higher quality than the VIA Rail line (sorry VIA Rail–just keeping it real!)
The Montreal Union Station was a pleasant surprise! The station is large, clean, modern, and filled with shops, eateries, and large, clearly marked boarding and departing screens.
We took a cab from the station to the hotel and it gave us a chance to see a bit of the city. We were amazed at the narrow streets winding in between towering buildings. The traffic was significant as were the crowds along the streets.
Many of the restaurants had outdoor patio areas, but these patios were placed in between parked cars along one lane of traffic! Needless to say, we didn’t choose to eat in any of those patio areas!
When I began searching for a hotel to stay in while we were in Montreal, I opted to go through booking.com. They offered better deals in hotel accommodations and most of the reservations offered a free cancellation policy. Since I booked all our reservations about 4-5 months in advance, this was a non-negotiable feature. I’ve heard stories about people whose plans were forcibly changed due to unforeseen reasons and they had lost the money they had put aside on the hotel reservation. I didn’t want to risk that happening. So the free cancellation policy was a definite must-have for me!
Old Montreal is the area you want to be in when visiting this beautiful city, so we selected a hotel that was right in the middle of it all.
Of course, there are many hotels in Montreal, but if you visit, you might do well to consider The Place De Armes Hotel. It is one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, but the interior is modern and filled with everything you would expect from a 5-star hotel. They offer a free breakfast every morning, and each afternoon there were 2 room service attendants who would bring us 2 bottles of water and 2 small Lindt chocolate candies. Our room had a very comfortable king-size bed and the pillows were soft and luxurious. The bathroom decor was done in black and white with marble floors and counter tops. There was a huge jacuzzi tub which made us think twice about whether to go sightseeing or just take turns sitting in the jacuzzi tub all afternoon! The hotel employees were incredibly friendly and helpful. They were kind enough to teach me a few phrases in French every day as we walked out the door on our sightseeing adventures.
The Place De Armes is situated right next to the Norte Dame Basilica (amazing photos coming tomorrow!). During the day, you can hear the church bells ring as special events are occurring in the church itself. This turned out to be the ideal location for us. Everything was within walking distance, except for the St. Joseph’s Oratory, which is about a 45-minute walk uphill—we chose to take a cab when we visited this site (more about this Holy place soon)!
Other sights along the way…