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Travel Logs February 2016

Compulsive Traveler

Exploring the Art and History and Beauty and More of Montreal

By Sandra Scott

If the Art‑Deco Aldred Building on the Place d’Armes looks familiar, there is a reason. It is a smaller and earlier version of NYC’s Empire State Building.

In 1535 Jacques Cartier, the French explorer searching for a route to Asia, sailed into the St. Lawrence River but it wasn’t until 1609 that Samuel de Champlain established a trading post in what is now called Old Montreal, making him the founder of New France. Today the metropolis is Canada’s second largest city and one place to get a taste of France culture.

  1. Getting acquainted: Get to know Montreal on a hop‑on hop‑off tour that hits all the highlights along with an informative narration. Consider taking it around for one complete loop and then decide what venues you are most interested in. There is never enough time to do everything.
  2. The history: For a great introduction to the origins of Montreal visit the Museum Pointe‑a‑Calliere where the lower level has ruins from the different eras of Montreal. At the 18th century Chateau Ramezay, learn more about the history of the area and Benjamin Franklin’s attempt to persuade the Canadians to aid in the American Revolution.
  3. Old Montreal: Walk around old Montreal. Wander Saint‑Paul Street and other cobblestone streets soaking up the ambiance of the Old World flavor of Montreal. Discover your own favorite spots, do a little shopping and dining.
  4. Architecture: The Gothic Revival Norte‑Dame Basilica has a grand interior. If the Art‑Deco Aldred Building on the Place d’Armes looks familiar, there is a reason. It is a smaller and earlier version of NYC’s Empire State Building. The Canadian Centre for Architecture is a museum dedicated to architecture.
  5. Arts: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has one of the largest collections in Canada featuring many artistic disciplines including fine arts, music, and film. The Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal with its excellent acoustics has a new home in the Palace of Arts and is a venue for a variety of presentations. There are a slew of galleries in the city including two Inuit art galleries.
  6. Parks and gardens: The city has a variety of parks scattered throughout the city including the large Mount Royal Park designed by the fame Frederick Olmstead which offers excellent views overlooking the city plus a variety of activities including hiking. Do not miss the Botanical Gardens with 10 greenhouses representing different bio zones and more than 20 thematic gardens.
  7. Sports: When it comes to sports Montreal has it all. The best known is the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League. There is also a professional soccer and football team. Hear the roar during the annual Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and the Grand Am Sports Car Series. For participatory activities there are rental bikes, golf courses, skating rinks, swimming pools, and hiking trails.
  8. Shopping: The weather in Montreal is never a deterrent to shopping as so much of the city’s stores are connected underground. The silver dome of the Marche Bonsecours is hard to miss. It has served many purposes over the years. Today it houses shops where nearly all the items are Canadian-made plus artwork, restaurants, and a textile/fashion museum.
  9. Food: Montreal offers everything from the iconic Bear Tails in the morning to fine dining in the evening at up‑scale Chez L'epicier. Check out the restaurants in the Chinese and Italian enclaves or restaurants that feature Portuguese, Lebanese, and Eastern European cuisine.
  10. Unique: The religious faithful will want to climb the 283 steps of the Saint Joseph Oratory. John Lennon fans should consider staying in Room 1742 at the Fairmont’s Queen Elizabeth where Lennon wrote “Give Peace a Chance” during his “Bed‑In.” Finally, learn about the amazing world of insects at the Insectarium.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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