Montreal is always an amazing getaway destination from Toronto – in a bit more than 5 hours you can reach a vibrant destination that distinguishes itself with a special European flair. The city is equally close to the eastern seaboard and easily accessible within a few hours from places such as Boston, New York City or Philadelphia. This easy access combined with Montreal’s vibrant unique cultural scene make it a popular summer escape.
We had planned our Montreal getaway for some special reasons: being the avid tennis fans that we are, we decided to catch some top level tennis at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Every year, Toronto and Montreal host the biggest male and female tennis stars at their respective tennis stadiums. This year, the men’s elite players were playing in Montreal while the female players were competing in Toronto. We had booked tickets for August 10 and 11, 2011 and were excited to see a line-up of the world’s best tennis players in one of our favourite cities: Montreal.
So on a Wednesday morning we headed off early at 6 am and managed to avoid the rush hour traffic that normally snarls the morning drive in Toronto. By about 11:30 am, after a short traffic slowdown at the intersection of highways 40 and 15 in Montreal, we had reached our destination: Uniprix Stadium at Jarry Park, location of the Rogers Cup 2011.
Right away we got treated to an amazing match: the world’s former number 1 Roger Federer was set to play against young Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The crowd was solidly behind the Canadian who put in a respectable performance. The excitement continued with the conclusion of a match between John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis, followed up by a sometimes tense battle beween Novak Djokovic and Nikolai Davydenko. We had a brief look at the Del Potro – Cilic match before the sky clouded over and released its fury in a powerful thunderstorm. All the tennis watchers were huddled underneath the stadium’s overhangs and in the retail tents that were set up around the area. The dark clouds overhead released their heavy wet load with amazing intensity.
Then it was time to get to our accommodation for the night. Always on the lookout for unconventional travel ideas, I had recently come across a website called www.airbnb.com which actually connects travellers with locals who are renting rooms or apartments. Airbnb offers a wide range of accommodations, from simple pullout couches in someone’s living room for maybe $20 a night to high end condos and loft spaces for $250 a night and more.
Since we were on a tight budget I ended up booking a queen size bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment for $50 a night. We were located literally across the street from the Lionel Groulx metro station and just minutes from the Marché Atwater. Airbnb added a booking fee of about $6 to each night, so the accommodation came to $56 a night, which was not a bad deal at all. The location was fantastic, and the apartment itself, although not fancy, had everything we needed.
We had a fully equipped kitchen at our disposal and met our other flat-sharing travellers: a nice young couple from Toronto who were in Montreal for a week. The reduced lack of privacy was not a major deterrent, although locks on the bedroom door would have helped since we had a high-end video camera and a laptop computer that we would have liked to safely store. Fortunately the other travel guests in the apartment were respectful and honest, but a place to lock our valuables would definitely have been helpful.
Day 2 of our Montreal tennis excursion was equally exciting. We started with a morning stroll through the Jean Talon Market, a huge farmers’ market in Montreal’s Little Italy. About 300 vendors, mostly local farmers from the area surrounding Montreal, display their wares in this popular marketplace. Then we followed up with a nice greasy breakfast at Deli Joe before we entered Uniprix Stadium for another day of great tennis. From the Murray brothers in doubles, to Berdych and Karlovic, to Wawrinka and Anderson, Tipsarevic and Dodig and Fish versus Gulbis, we enjoyed another world-class selection of tennis matches. After crashing for a few hours back at our apartment we went for a walk on Atwater Street before heading for a nice dinner to Guido and Angelina’s, a stylish Italian restaurant at the intersection of Atwater and St. Catharine streets.