Unexpected stop in Montreal

Expo 67 pavilion - Biosphere.

After a few days of relax and total isolation in Algonquin Park, it was time to return to civilization. The plan was to get to the Halifax, with a short stop in Quebec City. But when our ride got cancelled last minute, we had to improvise. So we caught a car to Montreal, where we stayed for a couple days.

Bilingual Canada

Most people probably know that Canada has two official languages – English and French. Both languages have equal status, and Canadian citizens as well as those applying for citizenship are not required to know both of them. That’s why we were a little worried about our trip to the province of Quebec. It is is the only province in Canada where French is the official language, and studies show that about 50% of the population here speaks only in that language.

Spontaneous concert on a public piano in Montreal.
Spontaneous concert on a public piano in Montreal.

Fortunately it was not so bad 😉 And even though we could not understand the meaning of most of the signs and boards that were written in a language we don’t speak – we usually didn’t have problems with communication. Sometimes with the help of hands and feet, or a third party, but somehow we always managed to express ourselves.

Montreal

Montreal is a city located on the island of the same name. It is the second largest city in Canada and the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world after Paris. 50 years ago Montreal was the capital of trade in Canada until Toronto took that title in the 70s of XX century.

The city itself can be briefly described as the mix of modern business and entertainment with historical touch of European culture. This can be easily seen while strolling through the streets.

Mont Royal

We started our tour with hill Mont Royal, from which the city got its name. It’s the highest peak on the island, where one of the largest parks in Montreal has its place. There’s a great panoramic view over the city from that point.

City panorama from Mont Royal hill.
City panorama from Mont Royal hill.

Walking the streets

We spent most of the time strolling through the streets of the city. We’ve seen some typically residential districts, some of them with small gardens, looking a bit like rural houses. We passed Chinatown, that doesn’t look much different from rest of the area, and we came to the strictly business districts, full of tall office buildings. However, in every part of the city that we visited, we noticed that there’s a lot of…

…churches

One gets the impression that Montreal has much more sacral buildings than other cities. Churches of different denominations, different sizes and shapes. All very well maintained and unique.

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.

Among the many that we have seen, some that deserve special attention are: Basilique Notre-Dame on the Place d’Armes and Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the World in the Rue de la Cathédrale.

Old Montreal

The quintessence of European culture in Montreal. While strolling the narrow streets of Old Montreal you can feel like in a small, historic European town. Some houses mostly turned into cafes and restaurants, where you can relax with a glass of wine or eat something good.

 

While here, enjoy Place Jacques-Cartier. The place is not really less crowded than those narrow streets around, but here you can meet a lot of street artists – painters, jugglers or the bands playing different kinds of music around.

St. Helen’s Island

To summarize our stay in Montreal, we went to see St. Helen’s Island. This is another place where you can relax from the hustle and bustle of the city, while enjoying activities such as theme park, a swimming pool complex, a museum of Fort de l’Île Sainte-Hélène, or seeing the famous Biosphere – pavilion, created specially for Expo 67.

Night panorama of Montreal from St. Helen's Island.
Night panorama of Montreal from St. Helen’s Island.

We really liked the view at Montreal skyline after the sunset – calm waters of the river and city lights reflecting in it created a magical picture.

Practical tips:

  • You can get on foot to majority of Montreal attractions. But there’s also a good public transportation system.
  • A single ticket, valid for 120 minutes (with the possibility to transfer) costs 3.25 CAD (3 USD). If you plan to use public transportation a lot, then it will be more convenient to buy L’Occasionnelle Card. This 24-hour ticket costs 10 CAD (8 USD). All the necessary information about the types of tickets and their prices can be found at: www.stm.info.

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