The mind boggles when I think of all the money I have lost in Montreal's posh Casino... but let's not go there! First of all, the Casino is not situated in Montreal itself, regardless that it is called the Montreal Casino, but on an island called Ile Ste Helene. Acces is easy, either by car or public transportation. Parking is free, as is the shuttle service that will ferry you back and forth from your car to the casino itself. Upon entering the Casino, there is a secure area where coats are kept (open in winter), and this service, too, is free... as is the use of a wheelchair if such is necessary. The Casino is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day... careful though, because public transportation is only available till 00:45AM from Sundays to Fridays... and 1:15AM on Saturdays. If you miss the last buses, then you are OH SO STUCK!!! Unless, of course, you don't mind gambling your life away till the early light of dawn... What to do once you're there? Obviously, there's the gambling, but I strongly suggest, that while you still have money in your wallet, that you visit the Cabaret Casino for an evening of live entertainment whilst you savour an excellent meal. The entertainment varies from month to month, and is always excellent. Prices are high though... the entertainment is free, but the food is not! Expect to pay between £30 and £90 per person. The price will depend on your meal selection and whether or not you want wine and dessert. Don't want to sit down to a good meal and be entertained, but you're hungry and want a quick bite to eat... well then don't worry, there are numerous restaurants and cafes within the casino itself - prices vary for each, but the wisest choice (if you're strapped for money) would be to visit the buffet. The buffet offers a variety of different foods, and is based on a self-serve all-you-can-eat formula which will cost you under £20 per person. Please note that the casino is NOT child friendly... access is restricted to 18+, and interior and exterior security guards make certain visitors are within the legal age limit. If you're thinking... "I'll be 17 next week... they'll never know"... THINK AGAIN! The casino is NOT publicly owned... it is regulated by the government itself, and the security guards will demand identification if they even suspect you are a minor. Trust me, if you're under 18, it's easier to get into a bank vault than it is to get into the casino. Also, please note that there IS a formal dress code at the casino, and you will be turned away at the door if you appear in scruffy jeans and a not-too-clean T-shirt. The dress code is constantly changing, no doubt because fashion is as well, therefore it is always a good idea to call the Casino first to enquire about the code. There are other rules and regulations which are strictly upheld, and it's always a smart move to read up on them before visiting - at the moment they have banned all alcoholic drinks from the gaming areas, they have also banned cameras from the building, and there is not a single area where you are allowed to smoke. True, the dress code (upheld in an effort to retain a good international image) is a bummer, the lack of drinks in the gaming area is somewhat a nuisance, and for smokers, the no-smoking policy is bound to be daunting... but none of this will truly matter once you enter the Casino de Montreal, and get caught up in the splendour and excitement of what is considered one of the world's largest casinos. The casino can hold up to 4,000 people, and boasts 3,200 slot machines, 115 game tables, a keno salon, a Royal Ascot electronic horse race course, and a high flyers (don't go there, trust me) area for those who can afford to lose dizzying amounts of money! The atmosphere inside the casino is incredible.. as is the decor. The ground floors (talking about the floors you stand on) are made of glass, and water flows beneath this glass... it makes for a dizzying moment when first you enter, as there isn't a single human being alive who won't cringe at walking on a glass floor for fear of going through it. Don't worry though, perfectly safe (so they say)... anyways, the rest is just as spectacular and typically what you would find in an expensive gambling establishment... red walls, high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, glass floors, thick plush red carpeting, red velvet curtains, lots of gilded mirrors, and other gilded statues and accessories... the list goes on, and is extremely impressive. There are numerous bank tellers and foreign exchange tellers within the casino, as well as ATM machines, all of which, including the machines, are all too happy to help you get rid of your excess cash. There is also the Casino Boutique where you will find the perfect souvenir to mark your day at the casino, or purchase sweets and lottery tickets (as if you really need to purchase the latter in a casino). The Casino de Montreal is worth a visit, but I suggest you leave your wallet and cards at home, and take only what you are prepared to lose... it also helps (from personal experience) to make certain you have change in your pocket in case you need to make a phone call. Also... don't forget the dress code, and leave your camera at home.
Montreal is a Canadian City that maybe most people will not immediately think of; when asked to name a Canadian city Toronto and Vancouver would likely more often spring to mind, but this is one city that has bags to offer and any visitor to Canada should see. Montreal is located in the French-speaking province of Quebec, whose most famous export is Celine Dion!. It is said to be the most European city in North America, due to the fact that it was colonised by the French and English and the architecture in the original city - the Old Port - is very much European influenced. Montreal is actually the second largest Canadian city and in 2007 was ranked the 10th cleanest city in the world by Forbes. Montreal has loads of activities. There is the park Mont Royal (meaning Mount Royal - from which the city's name originated) located overlooking the city where you can walk on the numerous trails and in winter skate and sled in it parklands. There is also the Old Port which is a tourist hotspot, where you can have a horse and carriage ride around the beautiful historic buildings. If you fancy a spot of shopping there are plenty of shops on St Catherines Street and even in the city's underground shopping centre which is located beneath all the central city buildings - providing a great place to escape the harsh winters! Don't also forget the Gilles Villeneuve circuit just across the water from Montreal island which is home to the annual Canadian Grand Prix! Only around 1/2 hr to 1 hr's drive away you can be in the foothills of the Laurentian mountains where skiing and snowboarding, as well as tubing, is a huge winter activity. Montreal has lost to offer, and will give you a completely different perspective on Canada to Toronto and Vancouver. It is well worth a visit if you get chance!