City Guide
Underground City
Directly under the heart of the city, 19 miles long, the Underground City is probably the most famous aspect of shopping in Montreal. It is a web constantly growing, linking many major buildings and multi-level shopping malls in the area, and a shopper's paradise in any season.

Thousands of boutiques, major hotels, restaurants, universities, dozens of office buildings and attractions are all linked together by brightly lit, scrupulously clean passageways. The "city" is definitely the Montréal of Montrealers offering to more than 500,000 people every day a connection to work, shopping, dining or entertainment.

One major section is reached via Peel and McGill metro stations on the green line, and another via Bonaventure station on the orange line. Safe and sheltered from the elements, the Underground City offers a huge range of goods and services as well as a handy way to get from place to place without weather or traffic problems.

Archive for the ‘tourism’ Category

After my lovely cheerful encounter in the Square St. Louis I briefly went back to the hotel and then took the subway to the exit at Jean Drapeau Park. There are two large islands in the St. Lawrence River: Ile Notre-Dame and Ile Sainte-Helene. The latter more than doubled in size in preparation for Expo 1967. From the Park Jean Drapeau metro station I took local bus 167 to get to La Ronde, an amusement park originally set up for Expo 67. I had a ticket for tonight’s international fireworks competition which was going to be held at La Ronde, so I had to go and pick it up at the information counter.

Entrance to La Ronde

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My lengthy explorations of the Olympic Stadium, the Botanical Gardens and the Insectarium, and my visit to the Jean Talon Market in Montreal’s Little Italy had definitely stimulated my appetite for a good meal. By this time it was mid-afternoon and I had taken the subway back to the Latin Quarter in the St-Denis area, one of Montreal’s major entertainment districts. The streets are packed with restaurants, bistros, cafés, hip boutiques and galleries and the Quartier Latin is definitely one of the places to be in Montreal.

I exited the subway at Sherbrooke and headed one street west and I ended up coming out right across from the Square St. Louis which is a beautiful neighbourhood park with benches and a fountain in the centre. On the east side of the street was a restaurant that caught my attention with its colourful outdoor tables and chairs. I checked it out and saw that it was a casual Mexican restaurant called Mañana. It looked like a great place to grab a late lunch and was in the perfect location since I was planning to relax a little in the park after the meal.

A colourful little spot: Mañana, on rue St-Denis

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Appropriately rested from my action packed day yesterday I had a leisurely breakfast and headed out on the subway at 9:30 am. I love the subway system in Montreal since it’s safe, efficient and all the major sights are accessible via underground transportation. And the interesting thing is the trains run on rubber wheels – none of that metallic clanking that I am so used to from places like Toronto, New York City or Chicago…

My first destination for this morning was Montreal’s Olympic complex, located in the Hochelaga-Maissoneuve area, originally a city founded in 1883 by local farmers. Hochelaga-Maissoneuve was integrated into Montreal in 1918 and today is one of Montreal’s main working class neighbourhoods whose residents are 90% French-speakers.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is best accessed from the Pie IX subway station and upon leaving the station I walked across the vast concrete expanses surrounding this historic stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics. One of it’s nicknames is the “Big O” and it was supposed to be one of the most advanced structures of its time, holding just over 56,000 people. It featured a retractable roof that was held in place by cables suspended from a 556 foot tall tower, incidentally the highest inclined tower in the world.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium with its inclined tower

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After my official Montreal bike tour, my individual explorations of the Lachine Canal and my chat with André from Ça Roule, I decided to go for a little stroll to explore Montreal’s Port area which was hustling and bustling with celebrations on this Canada Day. I strolled out on Jacques Cartier Pier to an outdoor concert stage where two well-known Canadian singers, Kim Richardson and Sylvie Desgroseillers were enchanting the audience with Mo-Town and R&B melodies.

Kim Richardson

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I had thoroughly enjoyed my guided bicycle tour with Ça Roule and Bruno, a licensed city guide from Guidatour, really introduced Montreal up close to us. And my own independent explorations of the bicyle trail along the Lachine Canal introduced me to a side of Montreal I had never been exposed to. After returning my bike after a full day of exercise I wanted to find out a bit more about who is behind this operation, Ça Roule, or Montreal on Wheels, as it is known in English.

Montreal, by the way, is a fabulous city to explore by bicycle. The Old Port area, the bicycle path network along the Lachine Canal and alongside the St. Lawrence River, as well as the islands of Ile St. Hélène and Parc Jean Drapeau in the St. Lawrence are eminently bikeable. Of course the trail network on Mont Royal also adds some interesting terrain for cycling enthusiasts and many of Montreal’s quaint neighbourhoods lend themselves perfectly to be discovered en vélo. Montreal was actually voted the number 1 city for bicyclists in 1999 by Bicycling magazine.

Ça Roule is a Bicycle Rental and Touring Shop located on the harbourfront boulevard at 27 De La Commune Est. André Giroux, the owner, created this company 12 years ago. He originally studied law and spent 7 years as a lawyer, specialized in litigation and legal consulting for large real estate developers. As an avid sports person, André plays hockey and tennis and he really enjoys cycling and in 1994 he decided to open a small rental store that initially focused on renting roller blades, a big craze in the mid 1990s. His original stable of equipment also included 12 bicycles. In the meantime his fleet has grown to more than 70 bicycles which include touring bikes, tandems, trail bikes, electric bikes and electric scooters. His store also rents kids trailers and child carriers.

I asked him what the name “Ça Roule” actually means and he explained that this French phrase literally means “it’s rolling”, but is generally understood as “it’s going well”, “it’s running well”. He explained that his store specializes in customer service, his staff is knowledgeable, and they are available to provide advice on all sorts of biking activities in and around Montreal. Everyone gets outfitted with a city-wide cycling map and a free bottle of water is included in every tour.

André Giroux from Ça Roule

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