Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It's Time I Tell You About Montreal...

I know, sounds like a click-bait subject line… Our culture is increasing shaped by social media and to get attention among the caucophony of daily communications, using click-bait has become almost ubiquitous.  Anyway, guess what happened in Montreal?  (see, I just can’t help myself!!)

The only time I’ve been to Canada was at the tail end of an Alaskan cruise a few years ago.  In that instance we spend a couple days in Vancouver, no where near long enough to do it justice, but long enough to walk through Stanley Park, and then take a ferry ride over to Vancouver Island and tour the Butchart Gardens and the area around the Empress Hotel.  I thoroughly enjoyed what we experienced there and knew that returning to Canada was something I’d be very much be interested in doing…

So when it was suggested that we load the front-end of a trip to Vermont to see the Fall colors with a trip to Montreal for several days, I was all in!  Driving to Montreal from Vermont (which we flew in to) was easy, and at least while we were in Vermont was also very scenic.  The border crossing into Canada was remarkably simple and quiet.  The border facility had several lanes, but only one was open, and given the fact that there were only 3 or 4 cars in line, it was all that was needed to be open.   A quick check of passports and some routine questions about destination and purpose, and we were on our way.

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the province of Quebec and the second-most populous in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary”, it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is on the Island of Montreal--didn’t know Montreal was on an island?  neither did I…  In 2016 the city had a population of 1,704,694, but the metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million. French is the city's official language and is the language spoken at home by 49.8% of the population of the city, followed by English at 22.8% and 18.3% other languages.  Montreal is the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.  No matter where we went, we were able to speak English without any problem—tourism was obviously a huge industry from what we saw.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention before going too far,  that a city as large, old, and culturally diverse as Montreal cannot be adequately visited in only three days.  So my “summary” of the experience is really that, a summary of a whirlwind experience in this fabulous city.  Most of our travel involved walking since we stayed very close to the downtown (“Old Montreal”), but we also took their Metro, which is a rubber-tired, underground rapid transit system and the main form of public transport in the city.  And of course we took the HopOn-HopOff bus which is a “must-ride” option when available because it typically gives you a quick overview of many of the key sites to come back and visit.  There was of course also the option of a horse-drawn carriage for those seeking a slower, more romantic pace.

Easily one of the highlights of Montreal is it’s many spectacular churches and basilicas.  Below is The Notre-Dame Basilica.  Its main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829.  On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years.  The interior of the basilica was overwhelming in grandeur and inspiration, with its deep blue vaulted ceiling decorated with golden stars, intricate wooden carvings, stained glass windows, and a 32-foot pipe organ with 7000 individual pipes, four keyboards, 92 stops.

Beyond the incredible architecture in the city, the museums, shops, and restaurants were too numerous to count, or to highlight here.  Suffice it to say we never got bored, nor ever went hungry!  One of our days was spent at Montreal’s Botanical Gardens.  This facility not only included fabulous gardens, but also an Insectarium, as well as Montreal’s Biodome.  This entire complex was adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, the first Olympics event awarded to Canada (they’ve subsequently hosted the Winter games in 1988 and 2010 in Calgary and Vancouver respectively).

So I think I need to stop here before I can no longer refer to this as a summary of our visit to Montreal.  To see more photographs, and to read some of the details of the different landmarks, just head over to my website’s Montreal gallery  
( ) where you’ll also be able to order enlargements, prints, notecards, etc. if you’re so inclined.  

And of course I’d highly recommend you consider a trip to Montreal if you haven’t already had the good fortune to visit there—it’s a spectacular place!

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