First off, if you don't speak Quebecois French, stay home. If you speak any other language, especially English, then you'll be ignored and will more often than you ought to be the recipient of a rude people. Sure, if you're spending big bucks on your hotel or your meal, you'll be OK. But, if you're in the less-touristy, regular-Joe kind of places, be prepared not to be treated well, no matter how nice you are to them. That's not to say we didn't find people who were gems, but we were more likely to find the lump of coal.
OK, so the people aside, the city itself is kind of a dump. We stayed at the Hotel Gault in Vieux Montreal. The hotel itself was fantastic. Stepping out the front door of the hotel, it smelled like it probably did in the 1600's - yes, like an open sewer. Our friend who lives in Montreal said that it was the caleches, the horse-drawn carriages, and all the horse-dung that made it smell like that. But there isn't much horse dung anywhere, and to get a smell that pervasive, there would have to be horse poop on every corner. No, it just smelled bad. But, on the plus-side, you kinda get used to it.
The buildings in much of the city, at least the commercial buildings, were either simply dreary or in a state of disrepair or outright abandonment. Many of the buildings are empty and for rent, decrying a sad economic state of affairs for this once proud city.
Architecturally, the few buildings that have any character seem to be completely out of place. The majority of the modern buildings look as if they were built no later than the 1970's.
In all, I felt a little sorry for Montreal, especially after having just arrived from a visit to Toronto, where that city is so vibrant and full of such great energy.
Other reports confirm this general impression of decay:
The Quebec government is so obsessed with language it’s letting important services like health care and road maintenance go. Montreal roads are rotting away with holes. Old and poorly maintained infrastructure means more of the kinds of disruptions that send me into meltdowns. The climate is so harsh that even the best buildings are falling apart. The city is filthy and infested with pests like squirrels. As I said in my first letter, health and social services are next to nil
here. If any of you take the trouble to help me find resources in this city, don’t be fooled by the glitzy websites our CLSC network (government run health and social services network) so proudly displays. The CLSC system is a province-wide joke.
I don’t know if it’s a Montreal thing or a millennium trend, but sad songs are so popular here I can’t go anywhere without them whining in my ears. Our stores sound like funeral parlors.