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Trip Reports

Bienvenue à Montréal – Trip Report

Winner Of Montreal 15,000 Ultimate Rewards Giveaway

Thanks to everyone that entered the Montreal giveaway!

The suggestions that everyone submitted were EXTREMELY useful and I can’t thank you enough for taking time to comment!

The winning comment was from Lauren.

She said

Montreal has lots of old churches, so if you are into architecture I’d recommend checking that out”

Lauren certainly was right, there were a lot of churches in Montreal and the architecture was impressive.

I emailed Lauren this past week and she decided to go with the $100 Amazon Giftcard, so I will certainly be using those 15,000 Ultimate Rewards for another giveaway in the near future.

Bienvenue à Montréal

If you follow FFU on Facebook, you know I was in Montreal this past weekend.

2 weeks ago, my friend Chris and I decided on a whim to go to Montreal for a quick 36 hour excursion.

To our surprise it was only 15,000 Avios Points each from Chicago, while the actual cost of the ticket on Kayak.com was $1,300!

Thanks to all the wonderful suggestions that FFU Readers submitted, Chris and I were really able to take advantage of Montreal in the short time we had on the ground.

The trip almost started off with a real bang when we showed up at O’Hare Airport and were waiting at the Gate when they asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to get bumped and take a flight the next morning along with $300 in compensation each!

Before the announcement was even complete, we were at the desk and volunteered.

Given that it was the last flight of the night and a tiny plane, it looked like we might actually turn a small profit on our trip but then at that last second there were 2 no shows so we didn’t get bumped.

The flight was a on Embraer RJ145 Regional Jet which is more or less a tin can, as you can easily hit your head on the ceiling just by standing up.

It is definitely not recommend for people that are claustrophobic.

That being said, the flight was fine and we landed in Montreal at 11pm on Friday.

We originally thought we would just take a cab downtown, however thanks to the FFU Reader tips, we easily hopped on the “747” Airport Express bus and for $8 each were whisked downtown in less than 35 minutes.

For lodging, we ended up staying at Montreal Central Hostel.

Although we could have easily just split the cost of a Hotel room, being avid travelers who are always looking for an adventure, we figured it would be more fun interacting with the lively crowds at a Hostel rather than stay at a Hotel.

If you are a college student or recent college graduate, I’d highly recommend staying at Hostels over Hotels because you will be around people your own age and not to mention it is extremely cheap.

Each of us only paid $25 USD a night for a bed and it included breakfast, dinner, and free wi-fi!

At most Hotels, just the internet alone would cost $25!

The one thing that surprised us at the Hostel was how many people were there from all around the world.

As Americans, we definitely were in the minority!

We met tons of interesting people from Australia, Brazil, China, etc who we never would have met had we stayed at a Hotel.

After a early night Friday, Saturday morning we began to pour over all the FFU Reader suggestions and hit the town.

The first thing we did was buy a $7 all day Metro pass which helped us get around the City in an extremely cost effective way.

After wandering around for a while, we noticed the Bixi bike sharing stations all around Montreal.

Since it was a really nice day, we decided to spend $8 and get a 24 hour unlimited bike pass.

The only requirement is that you can’t ride the same bike for 30 minutes, so every 25 minutes you just drop your bike off at one of the hundreds of stations around Montreal and pick up another bike.

While Chicago has a awesome lake front bike path, biking on the street of Chicago is an entirely different experience and extremely dangerous.

However in Montreal, they have tons of protected bike lanes which is amazing, so it is extremely easy to get anywhere in the City on a bike.

Following FFU Reader suggestions, we biked all the way up Mont-Royal and then coasted all the way back down to Old Montreal.

I really liked Old Montreal with its cobbled roads, and eclectic cafes and shops!

After stopping for some water, we hung out in the town square for a while which to our surprise had free wi-fi.

We then quickly discovered that almost all outdoor areas in Montreal have free public wi-fi!

If this is socialism, then please sign me up!

We then hopped back on the Metro and went to the Jean-Talon Market which was pretty cool.

From my days in France, I am a huge fan of crepes, so when we saw a crepe stand we had to stop.

Delicious and nutritious!

Montreal being the 2nd largest French speaking population outside of Paris, we felt obligated to watch the France vs. Spain Euro Cup match.

This was really where the bike sharing came in handy since the bar was 2 miles away.

After leaving the market, we simply took out 2 bikes from the station, biked to our destination, and found a station right in front of the bar and dropped them off.

No looking for parking, paying for a cab or anything like that. Y

ou don’t even have to lock them up because the station does it automatically!

The game was kind of a bust since France lost but the crowd at the bar was pretty into it, and we got to enjoy some local beverages.

At night, we hung around the Hostel talking to people and eating a smorgasbord of free desserts!

Apparently, Sunday was Saint Jean Baptiste Day which apparently is some sort of Quebec holiday, so people were painting their faces in anticipation.

In an attempt to act like the locals, with the help of some paint, we transformed into the Canadian version of Braveheart.

 

On Sunday, we rented bikes again and hit up the Parc Jean Drapeau which is a large park.

What was cool about Parc Jean Drapeau,  is that you can ride your bike on the Formula 1 race track in the park.

It would have been a lot cooler if we were going 200 miles per an hour instead of 20 miles per an hour, but it was still fun regardless.

We also stopped by the Biosphere, which reminded me of Epcot.

Overall Review

Overall Montreal was a great destination for a quick 36 hour vacation and I’d highly recommend it!

Compared to most big cities, the pace of life definitely seems a lot slower in Montreal which is nice.

Since there aren’t hundreds of sites to see like New York City or Paris, you don’t feel rushed to make sure you don’t miss seeing anything.

What is the most unique about Montreal is that everyone speaks French!

So if you have never been out of the United States, I’d highly suggest Montreal because it has a feel of a European Country, however at the same time, if you can’t speak French you are in luck because almost everyone also speaks English.

If you are going to Montreal, I’d recommend staying for 3-4 days.

Given that the last flight I took was in January to NYC, this trip to Montreal has definitely reinvigorated my desire to travel more.

The more and more I discover how cheap some of these short-haul British Airway flights are, the more I am  tempted to do more of these short 36 hour weekend trips.

-Parag

My 2011 Travel Year In Review

Well this is a couple of days late already but better late than never…

2011 was a pretty good travel year for me. Although I failed to re-qualify for any Elite Status, I did manage to fly 42k miles (most of it was on award tickets or compensated tickets). While this pales in comparison to most people on FlyerTalk & Milepoint, in terms of amount of trips and total miles, for me it was a pretty good year!

My Tripit 2011 Summary

2011 Trips:

Madrid

After securing a nice mistake Delta fare, my friend and I went to Madrid & Ibiza for Spring Break in March for $270.

India

I had to go to a wedding in India, so I redeemed 120,000 Continental Miles (almost all from Credit Card and Chase Bank account sign ups), for my 1st Business Class redemption EVER! People knock on Continental but I was really impressed by their lie-flat BusinessFirst seat. Also it was nice to sleep during the 15hr direct flight from Newark.

Vancouver / Seattle

My girlfriend and I had been planning on going to NYC in August but the Hurricane Irene was suppose to make landfall the exact time we were in NYC. So the morning we were suppose to leave for NYC, we changed our itinerary on the spot and randomly picked Vancouver & Seattle. We redeemed some United miles that morning for 2 Economy tickets. Even though it was planned on the fly, we ended up absolutely loving Vancouver & Seattle!

SMD3

1 day after returning from the Vancouver / Seattle trip, I took off to be the official social media liaison for the SMD3. Lufthansa provide me with a complimentary ticket so unfortunately I did not earn any miles for the European portion, but it was still an amazing experience. It was the most whirlwind trip I have ever been on but I met a lot of other fellow travel bloggers like ThePointsGuy, MillionMileSecrets, MommyPoints, and not to mention hundreds of other mileage runners.

NYC / Philadelphia

1 day after returning from the SMD3, I headed out to NYC and Philly to visit some family and had the pleasure of experiencing MegaBus from NYC to Philly. Needless to say there is a reason why it only costs $5 one way…

2012

Unfortunately for my new job, I only have 2 weeks of vacation this year, so I doubt if I will be able to replicate the amount of travel I did in 2011 but who knows!

How was your 2011 travel? Do you have any travel goals for this year?

-Parag