A mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly
1) The traffic - as snarled, if not more so, than Toronto. I've always managed to get stuck on the Metropolitan. Even surface streets on a Sunday afternoon are terrible (Jean-Talon and Cote-des-Neiges...arrgh!)
2) The turn signal does not exist. You're putting along, maybe 10 km/h at most, when unexpectedly somebody darts in front of you.
3) Maps lie. Sure, it looks easy to get from point A to point B. The mapmakers never factored in that on many routes, it's impossible to turn anywhere. A 5-minute jaunt turns into a 20-minute quest. Heaven forbid if you miss the correct turn...
4) Stopping on a red light at the top of a steep hill downtown is cause for anxiety...especially when being tailgated.
5) Franglais works!
6) Useful feature inside the subway cars - each has a pixelboard that not only shows the next station, but the connecting bus routes.
7) The panhandlers are more animated than in other locales.
8) Main fashion accessory for teens - metal spikes and lots of them, especially plastered on hooded sweatshirts (patterns along the edges of the hood, down the middle of the hood like a mohawk, in the middle of one's face, etc).
9) Medieval stuff also prevalent, and not just in specialty stores. Wandered into one department store (Simons) and noticed a large display of Robin Hood-like lace-up shirts on sale. Too bad I hadn't seen this when pondering a Robin Hood/Jack Frost costume last Hallowe'en.
10) Driving on unknown bridges at night that twist in every direction is disorienting (especially the Victoria Bridge). Somehow I wound up in the casino parking lot (but now know where the Habitat complex is).
11) Smoked meat is a gift of the gods.
12) The stretch of Mont-Royal (the street, not the town or hill) east of Saint-Denis has terriffic CD stores, one after another.
13) The St. Viateur and Fairmount bagels live up to their illustrious reputation (wolfed down 5 or 6 while I was there).
14) Women wear stockings usually seen only on naughty 50s pinup models...especially if they're changing their clothes in the middle of a rainstorm [OK, gotta explain this one - it rained most of the weekend. I was wandering down Prince Arthur near the Main, when I passed a attractive twentysomething woman changing in the rain (with an older guy holding an umbrella). Underneath her clothes was a two-piece blue bikini (the type you'd wear to the beach) and 50s style black stockings. Every guy on the street, including me, stood there dumbstruck, trying not to stare but unable to help ourselves from tossing glances at her before she slowly tossed on a beige dress. We all stared at each other in disbelief and amusement, while she didn't appear bothered at all, smiling away. I thought there might have been a photo shoot, except no cameras were in evidence. Given the rain, maybe the bikini was a better bet].
15) After a jumbo smoked meat sandwich for lunch, the way to go for dinner is vegetarian.
16) Museum Day drew crowds, despite the rain. On Sunday, many museums opened for free. This was the weekend for free events, considering the Doors Open programs in Toronto and Ottawa. Had enough time to quickly dash through three: the McCord Museum (Montreal history, where the big exhibit was on Montreal in the winter), the Redpath Museum (a tiny natural museum on the McGill campus, would have worked for me if I was 7, not 27) and the Museum of Contempory Art (one I'd go back to again - the main show was a large display of Nan Goldin photography).
17) Stop at the giant orange - Gibeau Orange Julep, home of a great Orange Julius-like drink (possibly better, since I detected orange pulp). You can't miss it coming down the Decarie...
18) Any kind of meat can be made into creton. Not daring enough to try it.
19) Very strange cheap booze to be found in grocery stores. Stubby bottles of wine. Jugs of sangria. Wine with strange names and stranger labels. Triple-fermented beer.
20) Beware horn-happy drivers from New Jersey.
21) Montreal...gotta go there at least once a year.