Montreal Travel Blog› entry 1 of 5 › view all entries
Quebec was the first trip Susan and I took together. We rode Amtrak's overnight Montrealer from Washington, DC, up through New England and crossed the border at St. Albans, Vermont, early in the morning. Small towns dotted the landscape between the Canadian border and Montreal. It was a Sunday morning and families could be seen leaving their houses dressed in Sunday best and getting ready to go to church. The train arrived at Montreal's Central Station (Gare Centrale) underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. That was easy, as the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was where we stayed. Once ensconced there, we spent the afternoon exploring.
Next door to the hotel was the Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde.
Finding our way to an open plaza, and found musicians playing an informal outdoor concert. So we sat for a while, enjoying Bach played by a woodwind duo. This was the place to be on a late August afternoon!
The Queen Elizabeth Hotel was ideally located between old and new downtown Montreal. The next two days were spent getting to know both the modern and traditonal sides of the city. On the modern side were office buildings, and the shopping areas along Rue St. Catherine. On the other side was Vieux-Montreal, with the Place des Arts leading to cobblestone streets and squares and traditional stone buildings. Everywhere, the unique French-Canadian atmosphere of Quebec could be felt.
One afternoon we took the Montreal Metro out to to Île Ste-Hélène. Île Ste-Hélène, one of two islands in the St. Lawrence River, was the location of Expo67. The World's Fair grounds could be seen, though most of the exposition structures were gone and the area vacant. The La Ronde amusement park created for Expo67 was still in operation. It was looking a little run down, though. In all, it appeared to be an area ripe for development as a park.
Also on Île Ste-Hélène was Fort Stewart. Being a historical site, we certainly had to visit it! The fort had been built by the British in 1820-1824 to protect Canada from American invasion following the War of 1812. In addition to its role to defend Montreal, it served as a central armory for forts to the west. The fort continued to be an active Canadian military installation until World War II.
Susan and I spent some time walking the Underground City, too. Montreal has a large interconnected series of tunnels and shopping centers underneath its downtown. In Winter, one would not need to leave the office buildings and hotels above to go outside to eat, shop, or ride the Metro. Shops, restaurants, services, and a cinema were located here, all linked to Metro stations and buildings above.
We also visited some of the above ground shops along Rue Ste-Catherine. I noted that the sales personnel would first greet you in French. If they assessed that you were an American or English speaker, they would continue in English. One evening we had dinner at Ben's deli. The deli was one famous for its Montreal smoked meat (smoked corned beef) sandwiches. What a tasty sandwich that was! (Ben's closed in 2006.)Speaking of food, we typically had breakfast in the hotel's coffee shop. Signs there announced "La Bluet en Fête" (Blueberry Festival). And so, there were blueberry waffles and blueberry pancakes (as well as blueberry ice cream) to enjoy all week.