My trip to Montreal was a great experience. While looking forward to six days and five nights of vacation, some were doubtful that I would enjoy a vacation alone, but I did.
While staying down town, across the street from McGill University, my hotel was in a great location. I chose it based on the following: Good ratings on tripadvisor, I wanted a boutique hotel, I had a certain budget and I needed a workout room. (I didn't think outdoor running was going to work there).
After learning that the Bodies Exhibit was a few blocks from my hotel, I was excited to go. Somehow I missed it while it was in Cleveland but jumped at the chance to see it on vacation. Explore the interior and exterior of real preserved human bodies. Everything is exposed, including a room of unborn babies throughout the pregnancy. If you have the chance, I recommend the exhibition. These are real bodies. (beware)
The irony of that scientific exhibit had me thinking after I walked around McGill University and wandered into the Redpath Museum. Marine Vertebrates are on display as you enter the building. After looking at them, I thought how common it is for us to look at the skeletal systems of other mammals but not humans. Take the Field Museum, for example. There is an entire area dedicated to mammals that all look like (maybe they are) taxidermy. Walk into the bodies exhibit and you think how odd and eerie it is to look at a preserved, mortal human being.
I explored Old Montreal on my second day. Architecturally, this was my favorite area. It definitely has more of a "European" feel to it, although the french Canadians will tell you that Montreal does not look like Europe. The narrow, brick streets, cathedrals and tiny stores make it a cozy part of the area. I visited Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours, one of the oldest churches in Montreal. Because the cathedral became a pilgrimage site for sailors, wooden ships are still hanging from the ceiling today.
I was late getting to the Beaux-Arts Museum. I didn't have as much time in there as I would have liked. Not until I moved to Madison have I enjoyed looking at furniture at art museums. (I am surrounded by a ton of furniture stores and live across the street from the Modern Art Museum). They had some fantastic modern furniture through the century. They also had a 1984 IBM computer on display!
St. Denis and Mt. Royal were my favorite streets to wander. There are a ton of fun local stores to browse around. I was able to find suitable gifts for my beloved sisters (my best friends).
Yes, Montreal is freezing this time of the year. My heart (which is no longer heavy) has been set on going there since 2006. My family visited there in 1985. I was ready to go back as an adult. I chose to move to a cold state from a cold state. And I can tolerate the cold weather. Finding a flight for under $500 from Wisconsin was another story.
Racing against the sunset at 4:10 every day, I would try to get as much of my outdoor walking out of the way as possible.
My favorite restaurants:
Le Cafe Vert (I believe that is the name)
Aux Printemps - Vegan, casual and pretty tasty.
Olive and Gourmando - Everything about this place was awesome. I went there for lunch and was seated at a community table. The food was fantastic, as was the decor.
Le Cagibi - A very, very casual place. Vegetarian. I went there for dinner, not knowing how casual it is. There are old couches, an old tin ceiling and hipsters all over their Macs. The food was delicious.
The above three places are all vegetarian friendly (if not exclusive). You know what you are eating and you can pronounce all of the words.
As a solo traveler, I would talk to the people around me, if I was in the mood. I did make friends with a Greek man who has lived in Montreal for seven years. He is trilingual. We went out for drinks one night. I found him to be very interesting and we spoke about our travels and he attempted to force me into speaking french. (They all told me that I have a cute french accent - that is credited to two authentic french teachers at Hathaway Brown School).
If you like to travel I do recommend you try a trip alone. I would do it again. But next time, I probably wouldn't go for as long.