Full disclosure here, my french skills are nonexistent. I can basically read signs and apologize for my lack of knowledge. That being said, almost everyone here speaks some degree of English so I really don’t have a hard time asking for directions on the Metro. Once I figured out how to navigate this metropolis, a couple things became apparent to me.
First of all, Montreal’s bike-share program works. I don’t know if there’s any companies besides Bixi running the show, but they’re pretty well set. There are stations every few blocks, it’s a reasonable rate to use the system, and they’re pretty popular. The system averages somewhere around 20,000 uses a day and runs April to November. It seems a lot similar to the system in Toronto where one uses a selfserve kiosk to rent a bike and returns it to any free spot at any other station within a certain timeframe – in Montreal’s case you get half an hour. One neat component is that if the station you arrive at is full, you can get an extension on your time so you can find a free spot somewhere else or go get a coffee and wait for another user to show up. There’s enough stations across downtown and even out farther towards Longueuil.
Probably the point where I tip my hat to Bixi is their data accumulation. Because all the rentals are done from kiosks where a code is given for a specific bike, they know how many bays are open at each station at any time. Plus, they save the user’s information like favorite stations, approximate distances traveled and so on.
To offset the healthy cycling society of Montreal, they seem to smoke an awful lot. It seems no matter where you go there’s always someone on every street corner sucking ash. I can’t imagine the slightly cheaper price compared to B.C. is enough to sway the stats but maybe it’s the French aspect of this place.
While I did wander over to the Olympic Park and Expo Site, as well as to the BioSphere, I didn’t actually go in any of them. To go into the three attractions at Olympic Park – the biodome, the botanical gardens and the planetarium will set an adult back almost $60. And that doesn’t include the $20 it costs to go up to see the view from the observation deck of the Expo Tower. I’m not made of money and if I was, I’d probably throw it down on tickets to
HeavyMTL which is going on right now in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Aside from costs, Montreal is a beautiful place. The old ports and waterways, the parks and the view from the top of Mont Royal Park are enough to sway me. Some of the buildings here are architectural wonders. Underground, the malls and shops have enough clothes and food to keep me alive for years. I often judge a city by its transit system and actually enjoyed my time on the Metro trains.
Two days is all I have to see this place and while it is nowhere near as much time as I would need, it is enough to wet my toes and keep my interest in this place piqued enough that I’ll have to come back next year. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into HeavyMTL and not just listen from nearby.