Vieux Montreal: Exploring a Touch of Europe – Montreal, Canada
I got off the bus ride not expecting it to be so cold. Making my way to Old Montreal (about 5-10 minute walk), I stopped at Brisas Le 808 to warm up and downed two cups of coffee. I told the owner it was delicious, savouring the smoothness. I mentioned it was better than Tim Hortons. “Don’t talk to me about Tim Hortons” the owner said with a smile. I laughed.
Leaving the restaurant, I decided I had to buy another layer of clothing with three other light layers I was wearing. I bought a fleece jacket to keep me warm and now a souvenir with “Montreal“ in front.
I headed back to Rue Notre Dame my starting point. I walked around the property of Musee du Chateau Ramezay built in 1705, once residence for Claude de Ramezay, the 11th governor of the colony. Benjamin Franklin tried to persuade Quebec to go against the British rules but failed. Now this museum displays coins, furnishings, tools and more from the 18th and 19th century.
Hotel de Ville (1872-1878) is Montreal’s City Hall. Modeled after the one in Tours, France, it was here that president Charles de Gaulle of France marked Canada’s 100 birthday shouting “Vive le Quebec libre” (Long live for Quebec) much to the separatists delight but the federal government, who invited him, was not amused.
Across the street is Basilica Notre Dame de Montreal (Our Lady of Montreal). Opened in 1829, for $5.00 you can have a quick 20-minute tour of the inside’s gorgeous carved linden wood altar, a 7,000 pipe Casavant organ and stained glass windows depicting the parish’s history and biblical passages.
Though the cathedral dominates Place d’Armes, this square is full history. The red-stone Romanesque eight stories Edifice New York Life, was Montreal’s first skyscraper in 1888. Next door is Edifice Aldred (1931) resembling the Empire State Building, completed the same year. Now pigeons flock this area making their mark around the statue of Paul de Chomedey, Montreal’s founder along this cobbled square.
Banque de Montreal (1847) is Montreal’s oldest bank.
Montreal was born in 1642. The Obelisk (1893) near rue St. Francois Xavier has the names of Montreal’s pioneers. Around the Obelisk are benches to have a quiet break and relax.
No more signs of rain. The sun struggled to get out. I headed back onto Rue Saint-Paul, the oldest thoroughfare in the city, dating from 1672. This city has a feel of Europe. Walking along this windy, narrow cobbled streets. With cars passing by, I secretly wished for pedestrian only. I loved the different colourful signs of the shops and restaurants displaying their address number. It reminded me of Salzburg.
I sauntered down Rue Saint-Paul trying to find a restaurant to eat then found myself at Place Jacques-Cartier, named for the French explorer. Plenty of outdoor restaurants on this cobbled street. Unfortunately there were no colourful flowers inside the huge pots in the middle of the square on the mid May, in front of the Statue of Nelson (1809).
Despite the chilly weather I still sat outside, near the door, at L’Aventure Pub and savoured the Caesar salad and glass of white wine, watched a few people walk by. The waitress told me the forecast of 22C was expected today. Yeah right?
Energized and ready to go, I walked back to Rue Saint-Paul, stopping at Marche Bonsecours (1847), a beautiful classical revival style building. Once a market, a parliament of United Canada, a City Hall, now home to upscale boutique and art shops. The outside the intrigued me with the six cast-iron Doric columns and the silver dome.
There are plenty of narrow cobbled streets that branch off like Rue Saint-Dizier. Oh, the reminders of Europe.
Next-door is Notre-Dame de Bonsecours, founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys, the oldest church in Montreal built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel. It is free to tour inside of the altar, statues, and stained glass windows but on my way out I did slip some money in the box.
Just in front to the chapel, down Rue Bonsecours, is Maison Pierre du Calvert (Calvert House). Built in the 18th century, Pierre du Calvert supported the American Revolution. He met with Benjamin Franklin here in 1775. Paul was jailed from 1780-73 for giving money to the Americans. Now this is a bed & breakfast and a restaurant.
Ah Montreal. Elle est une belle ville (it is a beautiful city.) I’ll be back.