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Montreal is what every traveler is looking for, and more. A little bit of Europe close to home, with sidewalk cafés, fine cuisine, high fashion, venerable cobblestone quarters and heritage churches, and more people who speak French than
anywhere else but Paris. It's exotic, but it's also comfortable and reassuring, with modern office blocks, big American cars, a subway and logical streets, and people who can get along in a language that sounds like American English.
Montreal is also a celebration of the seasons, from ice skating and cross-country skiing in the middle of town to gardens that appear from nowhere in spring; and a rejection of same, with an underground city where the calendar doesn't matter and an army of machines that makes the snow disappear.
It's safer than most large cities, and with a shrinking Canadian dollar, it proves that you don't have to travel to the Third World to find bargains. Moreover, if you ever tire of the city attractions, skiing and hiking and boating and other outdoor activities are within an hour's drive.
Most of all, with late-night street life, a vibrant arts scene, nightlife, festivals and outdoor activities all year, botanical gardens and attractions galore, it's fun.
In name and in fact, Montreal is, literally, "Mount Royal," the huge hill or small mountain-- take your choice--that overlooks the city and always provides a reference point. For Indians of centuries ago, the mountain was a lookout point that kept their settlement secure. French traders and settlers found it equally advantageous to guard over river routes, and established one of their main settlements at the base of its slopes.
Montreal became British after Her Majesty's Forces overwhelmed Nouvelle France in 1759. The city grew as a port and rail center on the backs of immigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe and Italy and China and the United States. But the French convents and churches and way of life survived as well, and today, the city lives, labors, and loves largely in the French language.