VISITING OLD MONTREAL

As I mentioned before, we had been warned it’s VERY important to time your travel into Montreal.  Although we have driven our “big rig” through many east coast traffic jams, we took their advice…as much as possible.  Even though the 300 mile trip was interstate-all-the-way, we still planned on 6 hours.  That meant we would be dodging rush hours on both ends.  We tried to split the difference and arrive in Montreal around 4 PM.  In retrospect, I would brave Toronto earlier in the AM for more open roads at the other end in Montreal.

1_montreal_traffic

 Why?  Montreal traffic really is horrific.  To get to our south Montreal KOA destination, we crossed multiple bridges –many with overpasses several hundred feet high.  Montreal sits much like Chartleston, SC.  The city has several rivers meandering through it’s boundaries creating a city on multiple islands.  Some are large, some small.  But this makes a spaghetti maze of roads and bridges. The traffic volume is bad but the roads are scary.  One problem was most were under construction—Oh yea! All at the same time.  And boy! Did they need it.  I was driving that leg so I don’t have pictures of the crumbling edges of overpass roads—truly loose concrete hunks and no secure road edge.  Because of our destination, we were in the left lane and it sure got my attention!  ‘Nuff said.  Don’t let this deter you, but be prepared.  Luckily, once you get settled, there’s great metro all over!

We stopped at the KOA campground that had shuttle service to town.  (Turns our we found it easier to drive our dinghy car to the nearest metro to get downtown)  At the RV campground, we found a big red sleeper bus.  

2_red_rv

We had seen one in Utah several months ago.  It’s an amazing vehicle, very popular with economy-minded Europeans.  The front part is typical bus seating for about 20.  The back is pullman sleeping with a pull curtain to the outside–it looks like it could be really cold.  They hit the campground around 6 PM.  Getting up at 6 AM, travelers cook their own breakfast, drive in to tour the local city, come back to the campground around 6 PM and cook their own dinner, then head off to their next stop the next morning at 7 AM.  Not an easy way to travel…. 

As I mentioned, we took the metro in to the city.  The hub was next to Canada’s Biosphere—built for Expo 67.  This is now a venue dedicated to environmental issues.

4_biosphere

Taking the metro was easy!  And it brought us right to the center of the action withoiut any more traffic nightmares.  

3_metro

Montreal, bills itself as the Paris of North America.  It’s a bi-lingual city…the main street, Sainte-Laurent Boulevard, divides the east, where French is spoken, from the west, where English predominates.  It is beautiful.  Using our maps, we walkled most of Old Montreal in two days.

Just up the hill from our metro stop we stumbled on the extraordinarily ornate Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, where Céline Dione was married in 1994.  This  is the oldest (300 yrs) stone chapel in city.

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Old Montreal has beautiful street scenes.   Some are modern and packed with color.

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We had lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes in the area.

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All this is side-by-side with historic Montreal…  Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum with it’s 300 year old Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours offers the highest view of the city and the Old Port.

7b_marguerite_museum

Hotel Ville de Montreal, in the Plaza Jacques-Cartier, is where the visiting President of France, Charles de Gaulle, announced “Vive le Quebec libre!” (Long live free Quebec) in 1967

7c_hotel_ville_de_montreal

Vauquelin Square, with the staue of Jean-Paul Vauquelin, was the site of the olf jail where prisoners were placed on display

7d_vauquelin_sq

We also loved the mix of color at the Rue Sainte-Helene historic area with its 22 gas street lamps. 

7e_rue_sainte-helene

The lighting was specially designed to emphasize the intricate architectural details of the buildings.  This area is often included in movies shot in the area.   

7f_rue_sainte-helene_lamp

Self-touring gave us a chance to wander.  Here we came across a Rose-Aimée Bélanger’s bronze sculpture of three women.  This was  in an open courtyard along Rue Saint-Paul.

6_women_sculpture

 

 Our last day we made a beeline to try a famous Montreal smoked meat sandwich before more exploring.  

9_smoked_meat

We decided to by-pass the highly touted Schwarts’s.  The food is great but the service is said to be the basis of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.  We asked some locals and settled on Reubens.  This was a REALLY big corned beef on rye.  Delish! And as a bonus our two sandwiches were dinner too.  (In Montreal we also should have tried their unique baked bagels.  We missed that one.  Let us know if you get a chance to sample them.)

Next we headed to the St Lawrence River area.  

Here is the Montreal skyline from the waterfront at Bonsecours Basin, at the Old Port of Montreal—

19_skyline_from_bonsecours

The Basin also includes the Bonsecours Market.

20_market

And an oddly shaped apartment building sits close by.

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The Sailor’s Memorial Clock Tower, a replica of London’s Big Ben, is at Victoria Pier in Old Montreal.  It marks the entrance to the old port of Montreal and is dedicated men of the Canadian Merchant Fleet who died in WWI.

22_clock_tower

Behind the tower is the Jacques Cartier Bridge, connecting Montreal to Montreal Island.

23_clock_tower_bridge

Montreal has a large, vibrant China Town.

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The paifang is on Saint Laurent Boulevard.

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We also found some great wall art.

25_china_town_wall_art

 

There were beautiful churches everywhere, like this Anglican Church downtown.

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And the spectacular CathedralBasilica of Mary, Queen of the World, inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

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No trip to Montral would be complete without visiting McGill University.  Founded in 1821, this is Montreal’s oldest university and has a top international academic reputation.

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The Roddick Memorial Gates stand at the site of the original gatehouse to Burnside, the country estate of James McGill, the university’s founder.  The Arts Building is framed by the gates, crowning the main drive on to the campus.

28_mcgill_arts_bldg

The Illuminated Crowd sculpture shows a mass of people illumated by a “light” from an idea/ideal.  The light casts shadows and disorder appears at the back as the light diminishes.  The sculpture was showing the fragile nature of man—and his emotions through space.

28_mcgill_crowd

From here, we head to Old Quebec–now our limited French will really be challenged!

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