Archive for September, 2008

Montréal: Simply Irresistible!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Montréal, a charming and unique North American town, is one of those cities in the planet that hypnotizes you the moment you step on it. Its perfect combination of old traditions and modernity and its undeniable French heritage blended with the progressive beliefs of American society have shaped Montréal’s culture making it one of the most pleasant and exclusive places to visit.

Considered by many the next design city, Montréal caters to all kinds of travelers specially those who love fashion, arts and style. The town is full of boutique hotels, designer stores and an incredible cuisine with roots from the culinary hub of the world, France. Its different neighborhoods which include Old Montréal, Downtown Montréal, Hochelaga-Maissoneuve, Plateau Mont-Royal, Mount Royal and “La Ville Souterraine” or Underground City; offer you almost the unimaginable.

Old Montréal: Where Tradition Comes Alive

This is the neighborhood you want to visit if you are looking for some history and tradition. The European charm can be experienced in every corner of the quarter, flooded with cobbled-stone streets frequented by horse-drawn carriages or “calèches” carrying tourists, and fascinating Victorian architecture. Old Port Montréal, once a worldwide port and now the social, economic and cultural soul of the city, will mesmerize you with its incredible views and delightful cafés. Place Jacques-Cartier, the main square of the town and a major gathering place, is located in the heart of Old Montréal and it is the entrance to Old Port. It was built in 1804 and restored in 1998 and attracts visitors who enjoy street artists, face painters and caricaturists. You will also find the Place de la Dauversière, a beautiful public garden recently restored and the famous Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica; a must in your list of things to do if you enjoy Gothic architecture.

Other Points of Interest at Old Montréal

Montréal City Hall
Bonsecours Market

Montréal Science Center
Pointe-à-Callière Museum


Downtown Montréal: The Heart of the City

Downtown Montréal is where all the action happens. Nestled between the river and the mountain, this neighborhood is full of skyscrapers and it is the convergence spot for professionals, tourists, artists and students alike. Shopping addicts overflow the Sainte-Catherine Street while those in search of trendy clubs and bars head to Crescent Street or “Rue Crescent.” Culture is never left behind at Montréal and at downtown you will find such world-class cultural institutions like the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée d’art contemporain.

Other Points of Interest at Downtown Montréal

Tour de la Bourse (Stock Exchange Tower)
Ile Notre-Dame – Hosts the Canadian Grand Prix Formula One
Ile Ste. Helene – Hosts La Ronde – Montréal’s Amusement Park

Hochelaga-Maissoneuve: A Nature Paradise

If you are looking for a place to breathe in and breathe out, the Hochelaga-Maissoneuve district is the place to visit. With its myriad of green spaces, its insectarium and its Botanical Garden among other attractions, this neighborhood will leave you feeling connected with Mother Nature. The Montréal Biodôme, a unique concept in the world, recreates the four finest ecosystems of the Americas allowing guests to discover the Tropical and Laurentinian Forests or greet the penguins at the Marine and Arctic/Antarctica zone. If you love all things creepy, Hoechelaga-Maissoneuve offers the Montréal Insectarium and if you are a plant enthusiast, the Montréal Botanical Garden boasts a collection of more than 22,000 species and varieties of plants.

Other Points of Interest at Hochelaga-Maissoneuve

Montréal Tower/Olympic Park
Musée du Chateau Dufrense

Plateau Mont-Royal: The Bohemian Montréal

To get immersed in the real Montréal head to the Plateau Mont-Royal. This working-class neighborhood is predominantly francophone and is home to a diverse fusion of artists, students, young families and yuppies from different cultures. While visiting this area of Montréal you will find hip cafés, trendy shops and a remarkable night scene. If looking for affordable yet delicious dinning, The Réservoir offers excellent alternatives and a unique bohemian vibe while the La Fontaine Park is the place to relax with the family on a Sunday afternoon. If you are ready for some shopping Saint-Denis Street bursts with boutiques from Quebec’s most famous fashion designers.

Other Points of Interest at Plateau Mont Royal

Prince Arthur Street
Square
Saint-LouisNuit Blanche sur Tableau Noir
Mont Royal Avenue

Mount Royal: A Montréal Phenomenon

Designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, the same designer of New York’s Central Park; Mount Royal is perhaps one of the most famous spots of Montréal. Located in the middle of the city, this mountain park is a symbol for Montréalers that hosts the Konidarok Belvedere which provides a majestic view of the downtown and the Beaver Lake, a man-made lake. Regardless of the season, this place will always be the local’s playground.


Other Points of Interest at
Mount Royal

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal
Chalet du Mont Royal
Bernard Street

Underground City: La Ville Souterraine

Although not really a neighborhood, the Underground City is always worth mentioning in any guide of Montréal. This set of interconnected complexes is also known as the indoor city and is the largest of its kind in the world. It has more than 32 kilometers of tunnels spread over an area of 12 square kilometers and links major buildings and multi-level shopping malls in the area. It is a shopper’s paradise regardless of the season!

If you are planning to visit Montréal, think it twice; you might never want to return home again. Montréal is simply irresistible!

Montréal Restaurants: Our Picks

Joe Beef
L’Atelier

Schwart’z

Pizza Madonna
Cluny
Artbar

Montréal Famous Events

International Jazz Festival
Just For Laughs Festival
Montréal Fireworks Festival

Avoiding Vacation Rental Scams: Don’t Let them Trick You!

Monday, September 15th, 2008

So after hours of research and e-mailing back and forth, you finally found the vacation rental of your dreams; a beautiful home with a nice view, private pool and only steps from the beach, best of all, at a ridiculously low price. You are so happy with your choice that you decide to make the deposit payment right away; the courteous owner that has replied to every one of your e-mails, asks you to send money through Western Union. What do you do? Run and wire the money before he rents it to somebody else, right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, and although we believe most owners are honest people, travelers must be aware of internet fraud and scams, know how to detect them, avoid them and report them. The situation described above is one of the most common vacation rental scam scenarios and happens more often than what we would like it to. Malicious individuals looking to make easy money legitimately acquire listings and subscriptions of beautiful properties in vacation rental directories, post them at incredible rates; collect the money from innocent travelers usually via Western Union, Moneygram or any other wire service and disappear after receiving the payment. These properties were bogus and travelers head to their vacation destination only to find out that there is no such property and they have been scammed.

Regrettably, in cases like this there is not much that vacation rental directories can do. Directories are advertising and promotional services and their function is to list properties. You would not call the Yellow Pages to complain on a plumber that never made it to your house. However you should definitely let them know about the fraud and any other mishap you face as a traveler. Responsible online directories will remove the property immediately to avoid other travelers from running into a similar situation and report the incident to antifraud authorities.

So at the end what can you do to avoid being ripped-off? The first and most important thing is to actually be aware that situations like these do happen. Try to find out as much as you can about the property you are planning to book. See if the listing includes comments from other travelers and ask the owner for references. If possible find out how long has the property been listed on the directory; chances are that a property that has been there for more than two years is not a scam.

Another very important thing to consider is the suggested payment options. Avoid by all means wiring funds via Western Union, Moneygram or any other wire transfer service. These are the most popular payment methods used by scammers. Try to make the reservation with a credit card, but never give out key financial information such as a bank account number or social security number.

Whenever possible it is best to deal with owners that you can meet locally. If this is not the case, try to be skeptical and ask as many questions as you can. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t!

Finally, if you suspect that a property ad may be part of a scam report it immediately! Visit Rentalo” Following is a list of organizations that can help:

- FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)

- FTC online complaint form (www.ftc.gov)

- Canadian PhoneBusters hotline: 888-495-8501

- Internet Fraud Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov/)

- Non-emergency number for your local police department

If you are suspicious about a Rentalo.com property, please write us an e-mail at: abuse@rentalo.com and visit Rentalo’s Avoiding vacation rental scams and frauds page.