Tuesday, November 3, 2015

OH CANADA! Montreal June 2015


The drive to Montreal from Ottawa is about 2 hours.  We left after church around 2 and arrived about 4pm.  It rained most of our drive and was raining when we arrived so we just checked into our hotel, had dinner and relaxed.

Next day first thing on the agenda was a Hop On/ Hop Off Bus Tour.  We have found this is the best way to see a city when you don't have a lot of time there.  It also gives you an overview and helps you decide the sights and places in which you want to go back and spend more time.

Montreal is divided into two main sections- Old or Vieux Montreal and The rest of Montreal, which is dived into sections which are designated as Quarters... The Quarter International, the Quarter Musee, the Quarter Chinois, and the Quarter Latin. 
As our hotel was close to Vieux Montreal, and as we needed breakfast we decided to walk there before boarding our bus and just grab something to eat. But then..

We saw this!
The Basilque Notre-Dame.

Be prepared for cathedral overload.
Don't mean to overwhelm you with photos but
it was overwhelming!
Positively Stunning!

 The starry blue ceilings were inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral in Paris. 

These windows are unusual for a church because rather than depicting biblical scenes, they show scenes from the  religious history of Montreal. 

Its gothic architecture is considered among the most dramatic in the world. 

Behind the main chapel is a "secret " chapel , much more modern in its central alter but still breathtaking in its ornate details.

I would call this a pretty good (more like staggering!) first impression of Montreal.

Now for the bus tour...

This was our cute bus stop!
Everywhere in Canada you find this chairs.  Love it!

Double decker- view from the top- the only way to go!

This glass sculpture is outside!
I find that remarkably trusting.

This adorable little cottage was in the middle of the main public park. 
Tin roofs are very popular in Canada. they deflect sun in summer so the house stays cooler, they handle heavy snow loads, it sheds snow, it is highly fire resistant and it will last a person's lifetime.

St. Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal

 The view overlooking the city from Mount Royal
Olympic stadium in the distance

Canadians love cute statues!

Old and new together.


 I told you that Jazz Festival was following us!
(or is it the other way around?)
Regardless, we once again got to hear lovely music wafting through the air.

We flew by this awesome display of wonder while on the bus so I didn't get a very good photo...

but once again, google images comes to the rescue!
 Now, just how cool is that?!

So for anyone coming to Montreal- I don't want you to be disappointed so I will share a little bit of what disillusioned me a bit.
I had heard raves and raves about what a wonderful city, beautiful city Montreal is.
As usual, when expectations are high, one is often disappointed. 
The city is vibrant and full of life and festivals and culture and cultures.  Old Montreal is so enchanting. BUT...
The majority of the buildings are from the 60's or the 'Communist Era' as I like to call it.. We saw many of this style of architecture when we were in Russia.

Boring. Concrete. Ugly.
But at least Vieux Montreal made up for it. 

This one is SO 60's but at least it's colorful!
It's the Palais des Congres and it was right across from our hotel.

Montreal has a very cool Underground City!
Perfect for this cold climate in winter.
This is the view from our hotel leading to it
but the following googled images will give you a better idea.
That skylight is street level!

This is the most unusual spa I have ever seen!
It has a restaurant, an outdoor pool, the works. 
Built into an old barge.

 And look where it is located- not a very glamorous spot.
Kinda cool, though.

After our Bus Tour we wandered down to the Old Port section of town.
Were we surprised to find a BBQ Rib Festival going on!
(who knew BBQ was big in Montreal?)

 And they take it seriously, folks!

We had planned to eat in Old Montreal, but we were hungry and who can resist the smell of BBQ?

Just outside the RibFest were these Food Trucks all lined up in a pretty little row.  And though we were pretty stuffed with ribs, that Pink truck had homemade cookie ice cream sandwiches calling its siren song to me.  I always give in.

The Old Port area was on the water and had so many fun things going on.  

The harbor with the Biosphere in the background.
It was built for the 1967 World's Fair but now is a museum dedicated to the environment. 

I love when cities restore old areas and buildings and turn them into something fun and hip.
This old warehouse now features cafes and stores and entertainment venues.

Ok.  This guy freaked me out.

He wasn't a live human being but he sure fooled me.  I was going to say he wasn't 'real', but this is definitely real.
Look at those eyes!  Amazing!

Vieux Montreal was right across the street from Vieux Port 
so we ambled over there to finish our day discovering its delights.

Such a charming place. 
I was enthralled! 
You feel as if you are in Europe.

The next day was spent largely at Montreal's Botanical Gardens.  
But first things first...
At Fairmont Bages. A local institution.  Usually a line out the door. 
They have a rivalry with St. Viateur Bagels as to who has the best in town. 
We didn't try both so can't give our verdict.   

 Montreal bagels are smaller and crispier than in the U.S.

A few of the sights we saw as we drove to the Gardens...

Another thing Montreal is famous (or infamous) for is its exterior winding staircases.

Read the explanation below.
From the Mont Royal Cross to the numerous cathedrals, Montreal has a rich history of architecture, but that winding, twisting, fabrication of metal resting just outside your front door has a history of its own, one that justifies the insane idea to build external stairs in a city that is annually coated in a thick layer of ice. 
Architecture is defined by and defines the space and people around it; it provides a looking glass into the social, economic, and historical forces that have shaped the cityscape and changes the way people interact with each other and their environment every day. The stairs of Montreal are much more than just an inconvenience in the winter months; they are a unique reflection of the cultural bricolage that is this city.
The stairs curve, they twist, and they climb up from the sidewalk like vines growing out of a concrete jungle. In the summer they are spread over with green ivy or speckled with beer bottles and lawn chairs as residents survey the street-side from their urban tree houses. In the winter they become ramps of ice, the packed down crust of snow making them into a slippery adventure hung with frost. They are a burnished patchwork of rails and bars and rugged steps that flow out of the buildings as naturally as a glacier sliding down a mountainside. But, most of all, they come in colors and shapes and sizes as variable and beautiful as the people who use them. Montreal’s external stairs are a defining feature of the streets, as much a part of the façade as the brick, stone, and wood fenestration and masonry.

They are even depicted in local art and given a nod in playground equipment.

The Botanical Gardens is a National Historic Site and is considered one of the most important botanical gardens in the world due to its extensive collections. 

 More of those giant hostas.
 This tree is  years old!

Awwww...baby pine cones.

Great insect house.
Love all the colors of nature!  Even in the lowly bug.

Let's get real here.  I love nature. Truly, madly deeply.  
But if I only have 2 days in a city like Montreal I normally wouldn't spend one of them in a Garden. 
No matter how wonderful I heard it was.
No matter that it was rated #4 of the best things to do in Montreal on TripAdvisor.
Want to know the real reason we came here?

Because when I researched it the images below came up every time.
And come on!  That's no longer just a garden we're talking about!
I simply HAD to see this!

Sadly when they were nowhere to be found and we asked about them we found they were for a special garden show and contest years ago.  A one time only event.
Yes, I was crushed but these gardens were magnificent and so varied and the day was so lovely that we very much enjoyed spending it there anyway. 

This could be seen from nearly everywhere in the gardens.
It's part of the Olympic Stadium.
(If you ask me it's creepy.  It reminds me of those alien creatures from "War of the Worlds".

The Olympic Stadium was right across the street from the Gardens.

We ended the day at Schwartz's Deli for its famous smoked meat sandwiches.

Yes, we had to wait in line.

Yes, they packed us in like sardines.

Yes.  It's so famous they even made a musical about it. 

 And yes.  They were delicious.  
I craved them for days afterwards.

So there you have Montreal through our eyes. We loved it!  We highly recommend it to any and everyone.

We leave rejoicing in all the beauty, history and good food we enjoyed. 

Nest stop: Quebec City!

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