A Montreal house takes a lot of care. So you’ve got to worry about pipes freezing and roofs leaking so sometimes I think I’m not here long enough to justify the care it takes, but that feeling evaporates very quickly, as soon as I come into the place.
– Leonard Cohen, writer/poet/singer/artist
Given the proximity to US major cities, one might think Montreal wouldn’t be that much different than others in the Northeast. They would be wrong.
Everything from the architecture, language, cuisine, and culture, Montreal certainly distinguishes itself as a bustling French influenced city. On first glance, high rise buildings might fill the sky but look closer to see the Victorian brownstones at their feet or the stately neo-gothic churches that sit quietly next door.
Speaking of churches, take some time to experience The Notre-Dame Basilica located at 110 rue Notre Dame Ouest. The Gothic Revival style of this massive stone church is as a result of additions and reconstructions.
Once inside, the dazzling combination of blue and gold is almost overwhelming. The effect is to make you feel like you’re sitting outside under an amazing sky. Representing Calvary, beneath the altar, is a magnificent wood sculpture of the Last Supper. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be there to hear music from the great Casavant organ, you’re in for a real treat. Not everyone can play this instrument with its 7,000 pipes ranging in size from 32 feet to a quarter of an inch, 92 stops, four keyboards, and a pedal board.
The stained glass windows, depicting the history of Montreal, were brought to life at Francis Chigot’s workshop in Limoges, France. In fact, the architecture, the blue and gold colors, and the gilded leaves on the columns are all based on the symbolism of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
You really do need to take some time to sit and reflect. Once you see it, you will never forget it.
If you’re looking for another impressive church, take a walking tour of The Cathedral-Basilica Mary Queen of the World and St. James the Greater. Yes, that’s the name. Dominated by its green copper dome and spires, thirteen statues circle the roof representing the thirteen patron saints of the parishes of Montreal. Inside, the great organ is almost as grand as the one in Notre-Dame. The magnificent interior was built to closely resemble St. Peter’s in Rome.
But, there is more to Montreal than fabulously grand churches. Take some time to explore Mount Royal Park, Montreal’s highest point and a grand lookout where you can see forever. At least it seems that way. Check out Olympic Park with its famous Olympic Tower, home of the 1976 Olympics.
Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, a wonderful 185 acres, includes over 22,000 varieties of plants. The Chinese Garden is a joint venture between Montreal and Shanghai. Visit the Insectuarium if bugs are your thing.
Don’t forget to relax at one of the many sidewalk cafes. People watching, shopping, museum hopping, strolling through one of the city’s wonderful outdoor markets, or bike the city…there is such a variety of things to do.
Check out these facts when thinking where you should take your next trip.
Montreal, surrounded by the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and Prairie Rivers, is actually an island. It’s one of over 400 islands in the St. Lawrence.
Mount Royal Park was designed by the same man who designed New York’s Central Park.
Montreal has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, right behind New York City. It lies on the same latitude as Venice, Italy. Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, following Paris.
Montreal’s Underground City, covering 18 miles, is a maze of tunnels, shops, and metro stops, connecting apartments, office complexes, banks, museums, and universities.
Exploring Montreal could take days or weeks. Yet, it’s also a city you can go back to again and again…and always find something new to visit.
If you go, here’s a starter kit to the local language…
Goodbye…………………… Au revoir
Please……………………… S’il vous plait
Thank you………………… Merci
See you soon!…………… À la prochaine!