June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bienvenue a Montreal! Welcome to Montreal!

Want to go to Paris? Feel like mountain climbing in the Pyrenees? Want to walk through an old town with cobblestone streets and cafes lining every side of the Grande Allee? Save yourself a ton of money and visit Canada, and in this case, the beautiful city of Montreal. Many may not be aware of the fact that for every U.S. dollar you spend in Canada you are actually getting $1.30.

Buy away and eat away! (Keep in mind there are no pennies in Canada anymore.)

Montreal is only a six-hour drive from Northern New Jersey without the hassle of having to go through security or pack a limited amount to fit into one small bag. I am a firm believer that driving is the way to go. Obviously for those who so choose, there are many daily one-hour flights from either Newark, La Guardia or JFK to Montreal. Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau Airport is only about 30 minutes from the downtown area depending on the traffic, and there is no comparison between Montreal traffic and the nightmares we often have to go through to get from one place to the other locally. However, due to weather restrictions in the winter, most construction and repairs on the streets of Montreal are done during the warmer months. There may be detours due to that.

In order to enter Canada by car one must have either a passport or a U.S. birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship, a permanent resident card or a government-issued ID card. Children are allowed to have copies of birth certificates instead of a passport. Remember, although not that far by car, Canada is still considered a foreign country.

Once one has crossed the border, the drive to the city of Montreal should be no more than 45 minutes to one hour. Keep in mind that speed limits in Canada are in kilometers, and temperatures are in Celsius. When you hear that the temperature is 39 degrees in the middle of July do not worry that you will freeze. In fact you will be perspiring and hot. That temperature is approximately 102 degrees! Driving at 100 kilometers per hour is approximately 62 miles per hour. Gas is sold in liters and food is sold in kilos. A gallon of gas is the equivalent of 3.78 liters. Beware of the prices! Try to fill up as much as you can prior to entering Canada. The last exit before the border will be Champlain.

Prepare yourself for signs to be in French. While everyone will probably be crossing the Champlain Bridge to get to the downtown area of Montreal, be prepared that the sign will say PONT Champlain. Before you know it, all of these foreign signs can easily be mastered. Sortie is the word for Exit and Arret is the word for STOP! For those who have food on their minds, boulangerie is a bakery! In Quebec the law is that signs must be in French, and when appearing in store windows they must be twice the size of anything written in English.

The dilemma of where to stay in Montreal depends on whom you are traveling with. If I were traveling alone with my spouse I would choose to stay at one of the hotels downtown. There are small boutique hotels, larger hotel chains and every other type of accommodation you might need. I think I might choose the Sofitel downtown on Sherbrooke Street. It offers keys for Shabbat and is of a more deluxe nature. The choices of where to get kosher food in the downtown area are very slim. There are myriad kosher restaurants but none really downtown. There is a Chabad on Peel Street that only serves lunch and one or two others that I will note in my restaurant list. On McGill College, a street in the middle of downtown, there is a Second Cup (the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks), which carries kosher sandwiches and danish. It is imperative to ask them which choices are kosher. All coffee drinks at Second Cup, wherever the store is located, are kosher. Just look up the street from this Second Cup and the regal looking McGill University and its massive campus can be seen. An additional note of interest is that all cakes sold at Starbucks are kosher!

In a sidebar will be listed all of the kosher restaurants in the Montreal area. I will also indicate at which it would be beneficial to make a reservation in advance. There is amazing take-out prepared food, which can be purchased and brought to any hotel in the downtown area.

There are several hotels that are closer to the Jewish areas. Remember that nothing takes that long to get to in Montreal. If you are staying downtown you will be in the Jewish area in 20 minutes by car. It might be fun to try out the Metro (subway system), which is quiet, as it runs on rubber wheels, and very clean.

Montreal is a clean and safe city. I would not hesitate to walk at night.

This year due to the fact that Tisha B’Av is August 13 it is possible to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival, June 27-July 6, and the Lasso Montreal which is a relatively new country music festival that will take place Aug 15-17. These festivals take place each summer in the downtown area. Many of the activities are free and tickets are available for purchase in person and online. Promenading through the streets where the festivals are taking place is quite enough entertainment for each night. The same holds true for walking on the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, taking in the sights and sounds of old world charm filled with some modern innovations.

The Cirque du Soleil began in the Old Port of Old Montreal. Its large white tent stands proudly and there is a show, “Kurios,” which is being shown through August 25. The founder of the Cirque, Guy Laliberte, still lives in Montreal and his innovative approach has changed and charmed people’s ideas of the circus forever. Be sure to call for information and to find out whether or not it will be in French, even though the antics are of a universal language. Again, there is no kosher food in Old Montreal, but lots of cafes where it is fun to have a drink and watch the world go by. At night, Old Montreal becomes even more alive with musicians serenading people as they walk through the streets, artists selling their wares, and possibly clowns around every now and then as well.

The architecture is stunning and the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and Palais de Justice (court house) stand proudly. Take a caleche (horse and buggy ride) through the narrow streets of Old Montreal, and I am sure your driver will fill you in on much of the history of the area. One can rent bikes in Old Montreal whether they be for two or for six hours. It is fun to ride them alongside the river, which in this case is the Champlain River. Bike paths are everywhere. By the way, bikes can be rented on almost any street downtown and dropped at other locations. There are boat rides available from the Old City, and best would probably be to visit a Montreal tourist office (there is one on Peel Street downtown and one in Old Montreal) where you can get all of the detailed information. In the Old City there is also the Montreal Science Museum, which children and adults love.

In the center of the city is a mountain known as Mount Royal. From the top of the mountain, which can be reached by car, bike if you are very physically fit, or bus, it is possible to see the Adirondack Mountains of New York on a clear day, as well as the Olympic Stadium and other well known Montreal landmarks. There are lookouts for cars to park and enjoy the view. Visit the Biodome with children, where they are able to walk through four different seasons and ecosystems—one minute they will be freezing as in the Arctic and the next moment they will be walking through the tropics. From the Biodome one can walk over to the Olympic Stadium and Tower. Tickets can be purchased as a package, and the Botanical Gardens are just a few steps away.

Although Montreal has several designated Jewish neighborhoods it is possible to stay downtown or in Old Montreal to have access to a Chabad House as well as the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue in Westmount. There are several hotels that might be more family-friendly closer to the Jewish areas where restaurants and minyanim abound. While there you must try poutine, which is French fries smothered in cheese and spices. Very yum. Pizza Pita is located in what used to be a Pizza Hut on the corner of Vezina and Decarie and has a very varied menu with many kinds of pizza, salads and poutine. It is either for takeout or to eat at the many picnic tables surrounding it outside. Tons of parking is available. The Lubavitch Yeshiva is just two blocks away. The Kosher Quality Bakery is approximately eight blocks away and there is nothing that you cannot get there.

Just a few blocks away and included in the Montreal eruv is the Courtyard by Marriott Montreal Midtown. Easy parking and not far from many of the amazing bakeries, restaurants etc.,

Ruby Foo’s Hotel is just a few blocks up the street from Pizza Pita as well. An older hotel, the Quality Suites offers a kosher packaged breakfast but truthfully their rooms and meeting areas are definitely a step down from the other hotels mentioned. All of the hotels mentioned are familiar with families who are shomer Shabbat and their need for kosher food within a close proximity to where they are located.

I am a big fan of going to Mont Tremblant for Shabbat. The recreated village in the Laurentian Mountains is beautiful and lovely. There are many different hotel and condo choices. A great advantage of staying in Mont Tremblant over Shabbat is the thriving Chabad, which is run by Rabbi Yisroel Mochkin. Each Shabbat afternoon the Mochkins host guests from everywhere for a generous and lovely lunch. Minyanim take place in the Chabad House. There are a variety of hotels and condos. It is easy to pick up food in Montreal to have for Shabbat as there are many delicious choices for both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi palates. Mont Tremblant offers beautiful walking trails, a lake and a gondolier, which can take people all the way up to the top of the mountain. It is great for couples and for families with children as activities abound.

Montreal has several different Jewish areas. I can say quite emphatically that I never experienced any type of antisemitism while living there. At this point with the Palestinian demonstraters who have shown their faces at various events I would assume that you would find them there as we do here.

The yeshiva community is located off Van Horne and de Vimy. The Chasidish community. (Montreal has the second-largest population of Chasidim in North America next to New York.) The community can be found between Park Avenue and de Vimy and between Van Horne and Ste. Catherine. The majority of Sephardim live in Cote St. Luc or St. Laurent, where they have their own schools, shuls, kollels, shtiebels, etc. (and the most delicious bakeries). The majority of the dati leumi community lives in the Hampstead/Cote St. Luc area.

The Cavendish Mall is home to the only almost-completely-kosher food court in North America. There are at least five or six kosher establishments in the food court, as well as a doughnut store by the name of Sfingy. (There are no Dunkin’ Donuts in Montreal.) Check the easily seen teudah on the wall at each of the food establishments in the mall. There is an indoor playground directly adjacent to the food court, and family members have the opportunity to sit at the same table and choose from many different options as their children run and play. A selection of pizza, sushi, deli, hamburgers, Chinese food, falafel and shawarma restaurants are all there. There is also a candy store called Sucres.

There is a dairy restaurant, Boca, in the mall serving paninis, pasta, sandwiches, etc. It is not in the food court. The IGA (supermarket) in the same mall only has a kosher bakery, take-out food department, meat department and fish department, all under hashgacha. It is worth checking out. There is also a ladies’ clothing store in the mall with the appropriate name of Tzniut.

Very close to the hotels mentioned above in close proximity to a Jewish area where the Lubavitch Yeshiva is located, there are many other Ashkenazi shuls is the Decarie Square Mall, which shares a parking lot with Pizza Pita. Within the past year or so several new kosher restaurants have opened their doors there. The oldest of them and always busy is Leyley’s. It is dairy. For takeout or sitting down is Umai Soo She; also new is Cafe Olait, which serves salads, sandwiches, desserts and coffees.

For those interested in shopping it is well known that most of the frum children’s clothing which is sold in Lakewood, Monsey, Borough Park, etc., is manufactured in Montreal. All of the manufacturers have factory store outlets and are open on Sunday. They all take credit cards and are open to the public. In most cases do not look for a storefront. They are in office buildings. A trip to Montreal is not the same without visiting Cheskie’s bakery on Bernard. There is nothing you can buy there that will not be delicious. It is best known for its rugelach and cheese crowns. Right next door is Deli 365, and the famous smoked meat and charcuterie that is well known in Montreal can be purchased there.

For those who prefer to shop downtown, Simon’s Department Store on St. Catherine Street would be a worthwhile stop. Montreal streets are connected for some miles underneath due to the brutal winter. This indoor world is called the underground city.

I am not sure if my passion about this amazing city has been given its proper due as a result of this synopsis. I have not touched on the things to do for families on the way into and out of Montreal. I have not zeroed in on the amazing blending of Sephardi and Ashkenazi cultures and palates. I have not emphasized enough the safety and cleanliness of the city. For anyone who needs further information please do not hesitate to contact me at The Link and I will be more than happy to help construct an itinerary that would best suit your needs as well as your choice of where to eat and stay. Kosher restaurants abound as do parks, choice of synagogues and minyanim, in and outside of the city. In closing, I must thank my “Montreal agent,” Marci Whitman, who fills me in on all of the new and closed restaurants in Montreal in order to keep this list accurate.

Please be in touch at [email protected].

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