After our last disastrous holiday, I wanted something relatively safe, easy, and relaxing. We decided that a good old road trip would be just what the doctor ordered – we love road tripping in the US, and we loved Vancouver so we decided to explore more of Canada on the “near” coast and also fit in a return trip to Niagara Falls, which I loved last time.
This was my first trip to Quebec – ie. french-speaking Canada. It was fascinating and the french influence was palpable in the architecture and food.
One of the main sights to see in Montreal is Notre Dame Cathedral (photo above, and below) which felt quite European. and has a beautiful interior. I always find entrance fees to churches to be unacceptable, so I resented paying it, but I’m glad I went inside to see this.
We spent a few days exploring the main shopping Street, Rue Sainte Catherine. This is a lovely street with shops a plenty, complete with our fave Tim Hortons (a coffee shop which seems to be a Canadian institution, and we love the French Vanilla Cappuccino). There are also many shopping malls which have food courts – a good way to eat relatively cheaply. There is supposedly an underground network but we did not find this to be the case – it took 3 attempts to finally find our way from 1 mall into another mall. Rather than a comprehensive, extensive underground networks of paths, like there is in Toronto, here it’s more that there is a passageway between adjacent malls – if you can find it! I’m sure it’s useful in midwinter though, just would benefit from better signage.
In the mall called Complexe Des Jardins, we found the coolest thing – a station to recharge your phone for free by pedalling on an exercise bike thing – amazing! We need these in the UK.
We were lucky enough to see some Beefeaters coming out of a church service in Christ-Church cathedral. My BF and I didn’t realise that there was a service going on so as we approached the church we were having a loud discussion about whether you can go into a church holding a coffee cup (I said No; My BF said yes). When we realised, we shut up pretty fast – and I think that answered his question about church etiquette!
As we left here we were approached by a homeless man who asked for money and when we declined, he demanded “what?! do you think it’s free to just come here and walk around on the street?!”. Um, yes.
We walked down to the Old Town and the river which was pretty but very quiet off season. There was an outdoor ice rink which I’m sure would be lovely in the winter. The Old Town was a small area with attractive buildings hosting lots of art galleries, cafes, and gift shops. We followed a coach tour group of Chinese tourists into a shop selling fur coats and hats. They had a rather impressive display of a stuffed polar bear and other animals. i was interested to see if any of the tourists would purchase anything as it was vastly out of our price range, but most left empty handed.
There is also a Nelsons Column here, just like the one in Trafalgar Square in London, to commemorate the British Admiral Nelson who died in the Battle of Trafalgar.
Bizarrely, we also came across a piece of the Berlin Wall in the Ruelle des Fortifications inside the World Trade Centre! It was apparently a gift from the City of Berlin to celebrate Montreal’s 350th birthday.
On the last day we walked through McGill University which had a pretty grounds.
We then climbed Mount Royal, which is essentially a very large park in Montreal – although to call it a park would not do it justice. It is like going for a walk in the woods and it doesn’t feel like you’re in a city at all! It’s a really beautiful setting and a little bit of wilderness in the city. There is also a lake and a small ski hill, which sounds awesome. We headed straight for the viewpoint where you can look over Montreal.
It was a lovely sunny day and we did some people-watching (the hippies who sat perched on the edge; the young well-groomed lady who put her small Pomeranian dog on the edge?! ) before heading back past the giant illuminated cross, and walked down into the Mont-Royal / Mile End part of the city. We had to fit in a visit to Schwartz’s Deli – another local institution which claims to be the oldest deli in Canada. We devoured a smoked meat sandwich and it was beautiful.
Overall, we enjoyed exploring Montreal and would recommend to others.
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