Story by Patricia Noonan
MONTREAL, QUEBEC — Last-minute plans, no reasonably priced accommodations … unless $400 plus a night for one room with two doubles in a mid-priced hotel can be considered a deal. This was the scenario that was going to blow my budget. We needed two bedrooms for sanity and privacy. After all, we were on a three-day summer weekend getaway. Sharing a room with my significant other, my son and his friend just wouldn’t work for me. The cost of available rooms or suites for what I needed was looking very steep … so what to do? B&B it.
I discovered Airbnb.com, a website that offered varying possibilities to suit my group of four.
Home-stay Industry Booming
According to a 2011 consumer survey (Growth Monkey) for weekend and week-long trips, 76.3% of respondents would book a B&B for domestic summer leisure travel. Another important factor for B&B patrons is the ability to check online reviews (74.1%) and website images for the property. As well, many individual property owners say they will begin or continue to use social-media resources, including Facebook (61.4%) to increase or maintain reservation rates in the upcoming year.
Save on Your Next Trip
On Airbnb.com, users sign in to search the accommodations on the easy-to-navigate site. With video tutorials it helps even more when booking the place you would like to stay. There’s also a calendar on the page that shows if it’s already booked, so you don’t waste valuable time waiting to hear back from the host. When you find a place that appeals to you, it usually takes at least 24 hours to have your reservation accepted. At that point, you receive a billing receipt for confirmation. It’s very user-friendly. Your host will either email or call you with the street address and provide further contact information. As well, you know where you stand regarding cancellation time and other need-to-know detais. The home-stay market, which connects travellers with home or apartment owners looking to rent out their properties, is booming and Airbnb.com is among the industry leaders, along with companies like homeaway.ca (and .com) and Canada-based iStopOver.com.
Tour the Mile End in Montreal
When we searched for places in Montreal, I was attracted to the name of our hosts’ title for her place, Island of Quiet. For a downtown neighbourhood location in Montreal, this gave us a sense of what to expect. It was modern and well maintained from the professional images taken for Airbnb.com. It also turned out to be quiet and private, with two bedrooms separated by a bathroom. There was a living-dining area that provided us with the amenities we required, like cable TV, WiFi, and a well-equipped kitchen in case we decided to eat in or snack. It listed what was nearby in the neighbourhood, which was also 10 minutes from the downtown core.
With Airbnb.com, you have a choice to search for a stay with a family/host or you can choose to have a completely private apartment or home. Heck, you can even rent an island or a castle, but that will, of course, cost you just not as much as if you were an “A” list celebrity.
Montreal Dining Highlights
Having been to Montreal many times before, I didn’t need advice about the city. But people not used to a destination might feel more secure having the assistance and knowledge of the host right at hand.
When we arrived, it was raining and we were tired. We did not have a plan for dining out that night. The teens decided to stay in and order pizza while me and my guy dined in the neighbourhood. This is where having our host, Carole, in close proximity was great. (She owned the apartment that included our mini apartment, just below her place.) We bumped into her as we were heading out and she recommended a lovely local restaurant. After a short walk, we enjoyed classic French bistro food at Chez Leveque, a welcome end to a long drive and nasty weather.
For breakfast, we started out at one of the best espresso bars in Montreal, Caffé in Gamba, and then jaunted off to the 24-hour bagel house, Fairmount Bagel, for the ultimate in a traditional Montreal experience. You can’t say you’ve really had a bagel until you’ve lined up outside the funky little door and had the real bagel deal in Montreal.
After wandering around the microcosm of the chic Mile End neighbourhood, we discovered Dieu du Ciel, a unique little brewpub serving up flights of microbrewed beers alongside Quebec charcuterie plates with fresh baguettes. Dieu du Ciel placed third in the inaugural Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada Guide that Vacay.ca produced in October. With inventive brew names like Rigor Mortis, Decibel, Rosé d’Hibiscus and Corne du Diable, it’s inevitable that sampling is the order of the day. It’s a thirst-quenching introduction to Quebec beer culture.
While high-end dining is not to be missed, we really didn’t have time with the teens for that, as they had their own agenda at a graffiti art show. I wanted to revisit my first trip to Montreal from more than 30 years past. I needed to go to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. While a lot has changed since I was a teen, that’s all a good thing. With Maison Boulud ensconced within the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Rue Sherbrooke, relaxing drinks at this top-notch bar was a fitting touch to a frantic weekend start and all the dining out was quite affordable due to the savings on accommodations. For the four of us, a night at Island of Quiet cost just $109 — and that’s something to shout out.
More About Island of Quiet
Location: Rue Hutchison near the corner of Saint-Joseph Boulevard West, Montreal, PQ
How to Book: Visit the Island of Quiet page on the Airbnb.com website for details on making reservations and other details.
Nightly Rates: Starting at $79 for up to two people, plus $15 additional for each additional person.