Exploring Montreal

Montreal Travel Blog

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Montreal

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.

Place des Arts
The church was built between 1875 and 1894 as a one-quarter copy of St. Peter's in Rome.

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.

Square in Montreal

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.

Île Ste-Hélène
We were there in time to see a performance by a band of Highland pipers and and drummers followed by reenactors in French colonial uniforms. The French costumed reenactors gave a cannon firing demonstration. (Montreal had been a fortified city during the French period, but Fort Stewart was built well after that time in the British era. The fort is home to two reenactor companies, one representing Highlanders and one French colonial era troops.)

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.

Fort Stewart
(We went to see the film Under the Volcano at the underground cinema.) The setup reminded me of Crystal City Underground in Arlington, Virginia.

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.
ladyluck13and7 says:
You know Andrew, I am always amazed by the amount of detail you are able to put in these things!
Posted on: Aug 03, 2010
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Montreal
Montreal
Place des Arts
Place des Arts
Square in Montreal
Square in Montreal
Île Ste-Hélène
Île Ste-Hélène
Fort Stewart
Fort Stewart
Pipers and drummers march in
Pipers and drummers march in
Pipers and drummers perform at For…
Pipers and drummers perform at Fo…
French colonial reenactors
French colonial reenactors
Cannon demonstration by the French…
Cannon demonstration by the Frenc…
Enjoying an outdoor cafe
Enjoying an outdoor cafe
Park in Montreal
Park in Montreal
Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-…
Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine…
Queen Elizabeth Hotel
Queen Elizabeth Hotel
Quay near Vieux-Port
Quay near Vieux-Port
Great Lakes freighter on the St. L…
Great Lakes freighter on the St. …
Susan at Place des Arts, 1984
Susan at Place des Arts, 1984
Met at Vieux-Port promenade, 1984
Met at Vieux-Port promenade, 1984
Montreal
photo by: cvanzoen