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Canada: An Option
by

Arnie Greenberg

Did you ever dream of a land where the sky is blue, the vistas breathtaking, the standard of living high, the educational system superior, housing costs low and the prospects for the future better than most countries of the world. Did you ever consider traveling to a country of fresh water lakes, plains, tall mountains and streams ready to be fished? If you did, then you’ve been dreaming of Canada. I won’t say it’s the best country in the world. It certainly is one of the largest, and with a population of only 30 million people there is plenty of space to move.

Canada is a democratic country made up of countless religions, ethnic groups, creeds, colours and backgrounds. Unlike the USA, which fashions itself ‘a melting pot’, I live in a ‘cultural mosaic’. My ancestors came from Russia over a century ago. My neighbors are German, French, Italian, British, Ukrainian, Chinese, Portuguese and Jamaican. I hear different languages in the street.  And while I can extol the virtues of being a Canadian, the best part is that I live in one of the most vibrant, entertaining and peaceful cities in the land: Montrealer.

It frightens many and travel plans for many are on hold. I want to offer you an alternative. COME TO CANADA.

The vastness of Canada prohibits one from seeing the whole country on one trip. I myself haven’t seen it all. From Montreal to Vancouver on the Pacific coast is a five-hour flight and it’s about one thousand miles from the Atlantic. I suggest that visitors select areas like the West coast with its rugged mountains and great ski resorts like Whistler in British Columbia. One can sail around the off shore islands or camp on a deserted part of the coast of Vancouver Island.

The regions around Jasper Alberta or Banff are magnets for all who like fresh water lakes, mountain retreats or hiking trails and wild animals that can be seen all along the roads. There is something exhilarating about walking on a glacier or watching bears or deer or mountain goats frolic near the super highways.

There are prairies with waving wheat. Canada is one of the world’s great breadbaskets. And for those of you who like boating and fishing, the Great Lakes are the size of inland seas. This is a very peaceful nation, from sea to sea. Yet, with Canada’s recent decision to get involved in the Middle East the people have shown their willingness to join in the fight for freedom of the skies and the democratic way of life. 

My suggestion is that you pack cars cars, take a train and head north. Canada welcomes you with beauty, activities, culture and a rate of exchange that makes it economical for any purse. I recently exchanged a  $750 cheque for Canadian cash. I received $1177.88 and that wasn’t at the best rate of the week. The Canadian dollar is trading at about 63 cents US. What that means is restaurants, museums, hotels, car rentals and bar bills are about as low as you can get in North America.

Consider property values. While there are houses here at astronomical prices, the average family dwelling is under $250,000 Canadian. A condo in the center of the city can go for as little as $79,000 Canadian. You figure out the Math. It’s very inexpensive and the good news is that Montreal has the lowest or close to the lowest average house price than any major city in Canada. That means you can buy a house or condo, use it seasonally and rent it out while you aren’t here. Even the taxes are low for a North American metropolis. A house in Montreal would cost twice as much in Toronto or Vancouver. Go to your bank and buy $100 worth of Canadian dollars. You’ll be amazed at what you receive.

Buying property here is easy. Contact any of the major real estate companies. They will have listings in all parts of the province.  A call to the Chambre des Notaires du Quebec, (The Chamber of Notaries of Quebec) will allow you to find out how to make the purchase. You’ll find it’s very easy. There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing real estate here. Anyone can buy a property for his/her use, as a rental or a vacation home. While there is no capital gains tax, you might have to pay a withholding tax when you sell. It is a small amount and based on the profit made on the sale. My best advice is to find a property through a major agency and get the laws straight by calling the Notarial Board. A notary in Quebec, unlike in other countries, is a lawyer involved only in real estate. You’ll need their help to obtain a deed of sale. There are notaries in Montreal who you can talk to in almost any language. They can be reached at (514) 879 1793 or by writing La Chambre des Notaires du Quebec at 630 Rene Levesque Blvd, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The largest real estate companies are Royal Lepage email; www.royallepage.ca

Or Remax at www.remax-quebec.com It’s best to know what area you want to live in. That’s why I recommend a trip to Montreal or Quebec City.

An hour’s research taught me that a condo in a good area can be as low as $84,000 and that’s the ‘asking price’ in Canadian dollars. Middle income family homes with 3 or 4 bedrooms in the suburbs but close to the city are well under $200,000 Cdn. If you can get a copy of the Saturday edition of the Montreal Gazette, there are pages and pages of listings.

A recent survey suggests that a growing number of parents are opting to buy condos for their children coming to Montreal to attend university. And the cost of university is another good thing. Even with inflated rates for out of town students, attending university (anywhere) in Canada is a bargain. Even Canadians from other provinces know that buying and reselling, even without a profit, is better than just renting. And the bonus is that Montreal universities have an excellent reputation. I taught here for 37 years. I know the quality of higher education.

Lets look at the Provence de Quebec as a possible destination. There are a number of areas for you to consider. Rurally there is the area north of Montreal in the Laurentian Mountains. Dotted with lakes, towns and cottage communities, the Laurentians has been a popular playground for visitors to the area since the 1930’s. There is a super highway to get you there and one of the best ski villages in the east at Mont Tremblant. The trip is only an hour and a half from downtown Montreal. On the way you’ll pass other ski centres or villages where you can buy local crafts at bargain prices. Even if you rent a place in Tremblant you will pay only $400-$650 for a 2-bedroom condo for five nights including 6-day lift tickets, a fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, fireplace and a free shuttle to the lifts. Contact them at www.tremblant.com or call 1 888 666 8008 for reservations.

The hills are awesome. And the view from the top is truly memorable. The best news is that it is only an hour and a half from Montreal. Of course if you buy a house in the Laurentians, you are there that much faster.

Get in touch with the Montreal Tourist at www.tourism-montreal.org

The same can be said for the Eastern Townships, south east of Montreal. Here too there are lakes, forests and wonderful ski venues. Lakes Massawippi or Memphremagog are miles across, filled with fish, water skiers and pleasure boats. Within a few hours there are at least a dozen excellent ski hills such as Orford, Owl’s Head or Mount Sutton.  Most of the villages have numerous antique furniture stores. Quebec antiques are in demand all through Canada and beyond.

Quebec City and the area east to the Atlantic is a playground of skiers, boaters, naturalists, hikers and artists. The area called Charlevoix on the north shore of the St Lawrence River boasts mountains down to the river, fjords along the Sageunay and whales spawning in the waters near Tadoussac. It’s thrilling to watch the Belugas appear and disappear as the feed in the pleasant waters.  At la Malbaie you will find The Chateau Richelieu one of the best hotels in the region. It boasts a championship golf course and a full gambling casino if that’s your interest.

There are other areas too but for me, you haven’t see Quebec unless you visit Quebec City, the capital, or Montreal, truly the most exciting city and the largest in the province. Traveling to Quebec City is like traveling to a foreign country. It is the most European city you will see and the last in Canada that still has its protective wall. Quebec is filled with history and is predominantly French. But don’t worry about language. In the hotels and restaurants they will smile, welcome you and speak English. The most prestigious hotel is The Chateau Frantenac (Tel: 1-418-692-3861)with 605 rooms in the upper town, looking down at the old city with its cobbled streets and historical sites. You can visit the Plains of Abraham where in 1759 a battle between the French and the British decided the future of Canada. That’s when Britain took possession of what was then Canada.

For this writer the most exciting place to visit in Quebec is, by far, Montreal. This island city of over two and a half million people is upscale, exciting and visually splendid. It boasts Mount Royal, rising in the center of the island. Not only is it a playground with bicycle paths, a small lake and picnic grounds, but from the numerous lookouts you can see a modern city spread out below, filled with activity, culture and awe. I have often heard people say it’s their favourite city. I understand why. There are theatres in two languages, museums, an amusement park, a museum at the Fort at Ste Helen’s Island, a famous hockey team now playing in a new multi million-dollar arena and the legacy of the Olympic games with housing and a magnificent stadium. You can tour the stadium and take an elevator to the top of the symbolic tower. From there you can get a bird’s eye view of a magnificent modern city. This is where The Cirque du Soleil, now an international spectacle, got started. In the area around the harbour, called Old Montreal, there are narrow cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages and street vendors, entertainers and happy tourists. This are lets you witness the origins and growth of the original colony. It is a gourmet’s paradise. There are more restaurants in Montreal than you can visit in a lifetime. Every ethnic dish is available and remember, the prices are in Canadian dollars.

We have a casino too with Las Vegas type shows, 3000 slot machines, 120 gaming tables and a 5* restaurant. Add to all that a Botanical Garden, Biosphere, River boats, four major universities, a center for architecture, numerous golf courses, a race track and an international fireworks competition each summer. Add in a jazz festival, film festival, Just For Laughs Museum and some of the best Historical Museums and you have other reasons to visit.

The real Estate people are always interested in showing you what you can buy. There is some excellent investment properties here as the city grown and immigration continues.

Don’t omit an evening on Crescent Street. That’s where the action is all year long. There are bars, restaurants for all budgets and sumptuous Victorian architecture housing luxury boutiques. It’s all part of an ambiance and a feeling of what Quebecois call a ‘joie de vivre’. 

Montreal is waiting. The best time, unless you are a skier is the spring and autumn when the leaves turn red and all of Quebec is painted in rich tones of red, orange, yellow, brown and green. Bring your cameras. There is no more perfect visual image than Quebec in the fall. Summers are hot but that’s when most tourists invade the restaurants, museums and the ballpark. Baseball too is a part of this up to date and inexpensive city.

 For general tourist information telephone 1-877-BONJOUR (266-5687) or email: www.bonjourquebec.com.

Recommended Restaurants:

Les Filles du Roy (Daughters of the king)
33 St Paul ST E. (Old Montreal)
Canada

The name comes from the women who were sent over here during the early years of settlement to marry and settle here. The restaurant is very OLD MONTREAL with costumes and antique furniture in a building dating back to the first inhabitants.

Reservations recommended.

CASINO Restaurant ‘Nuances’
Ste Helen’s Island
Canada  

Phone: 5140 392 2746

This is part of Montreal’s Casino. The restaurant was awarded a diploma for excellence in 2001. The menu is created according to the theme of the show. It’s a favorite of people who do not gamble at all.

Les Ramparts
93 de la Commune St. E. 
Canada

Phone: 514-392-1649

This typical restaurant serves food deserving of the Gastronomy Award it recently received.

Le Festin Du Gouverneur
Old Fort at Saint-Helen’s island
Canada

Phone: 514-879-1141

This is a must for people who want to discover what a meal and entertainment was like in the first days of this city. Don’t be surprised if you become part of the entertainment. But you will eat well at a set price and return home with a smile on your face.

THE ABOVE RESTAURANTS ARE NO MORE THAN $60 PP wine & Tip Incl. Tax is 15% more.

A good steak dinner with salad, and trimmings, plus wine and desert can be found at The BIFTEQUE near the Dorval airport.

The price is about $20 pp plus tip & tax.

There is also MOISHE’S at 3961 St Lawrence (The Main). It’s a traditional steak house with many Jewish dishes added. It’s a little pricey but visitors to Montreal are never disappointed. Tel 514-845-3509

For Jazz and ribs try BIDDLES JAZZ & RIBS INC. I am never sorry when I hear great music in a happy atmosphere in the heat of the city at 2060 Aylmer, especially when Charlie Biddle is there.. A great meal for $20-25 plus wine, tip and taxes.

RECOMMENDED HOTELS

Hilton Montreal Bonaventure ***** An exceptional hotel $140-$360 Canadian

www.hiltonmontreal.com

Hotel Omni Mount-Royal    *****  Also exceptional  $160-$320

www.omnihotels.com

Chateau Versailles  ****  My favourite   $125-$240 Cdn. Prize winning hotel.

www.versailleshotels.com

This is a small renovated old building on a street filled with great restaurants, antique shops and some of the best art galleries in the city.

BED & BREAKFAST

Manoir Harvard    (Award winning)

www.bbcanada.com **** 5 rooms $175 Each Cdn        “Best B&B in Montreal”

In a residential area, near shops and public transportation.

Au Revoir!

#   #   #

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 

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