I recently had the opportunity to visit Montreal for a quick trip. Because of the circumstances, I only had one day to see it. It was going to be a whilrwind, but sometimes whirlwinds can be fabulous. Plus, I figured that one day in Montreal is better than staying home and, say, cleaning out the fridge. So I went.
I was excited because I worked for a number of years for the Canadian government in Buffalo, and had heard a lot about it from my Canadian co-workers.
I knew I wanted to see Old Montreal. Mainly because I’m that kind of history nerd. I love old buildings and old timey places. I want to see where a city began. I want to hear the history, get a feel for the old buildings and the people who built them. Learn how the city grew up, and what its people were like back in the day. And see how these places are currently being used.
So, with my one full day in Montreal, I chose to tour around both the east and west sides of Old Montreal.
I began at Place d’Armes, in front of Notre Dame Basilica. As soon as I got out of my Uber, I stepped right into tourist mode. I couldn’t help it. The place is absolutely stunning. And right up my alley.
If you read my blogs you know I’m prone to daydreaming about history, and that occasionally my mouth will fall open when I see something that completely catches me off guard. I actually caught myself doing both of these within minutes of arriving at Place d’Armes. I’m okay with that. In my mind that means that I have found that place of wonder that makes all the little inconveniences of travel worth it.
In Montreal, I found it. Immediately.
I walked around the square and snapped about a hundred pictures because quite frankly I couldn’t help myself. Everywhere I looked, I saw photos begging to be taken. So I took them. Lots and lots of them.
These sculptures, named “The English Pug and the French Poodle” caught my eye right away and the accompanying plaques explain them. I couldn’t do a better job of it, so I’ll quote the plaques:
“ ‘THE ENGLISH PUG AND THE FRENCH POODLE’
A dashing looking English man, holding his pug, gives a superior stare at Notre-Dame Basilica, a symbol of the religious influence on French Canadians.
210 feet away to the northern corner of the edifice, a woman in a Chanel style suit, poodle against her, shoots an offended look to the Bank of Montreal’s head office, a symbol of English power.
With their masters oblivious to each other, the two dogs on the alert already sniffed out the opportunity to unite.
The inspiration for this work was from the Commedia dell’arte and Two Solitudes from novelist Hugh MacLennan, these two snobs set up an ironically touching scene of the cultural distance between English and French Canadians.
Marc A. J. Fortier, Artist”
I’m smiling as I walk to the statue I’ve noticed in the center of the square. It’s a monument to Paul de Chomedey, a French military officer and who is credited with the founding of Montreal itself, and it’s by artist Louis-Philippe Hébert. It’s beautiful.
My only criticism of this square is the lack of green. No grass, no flowers, some trees around the perimeter but it could use some more color. To me, in the summer, a city square should have all sorts of colorful plantings. That being said, the architecture holds my attention well enough.
Beside the Basilica, there is the Saint Sulpice Seminary. This building was built in 1687. That’s right, 1687!
The New York Life Insurance Building, built in 1889. Photo credit to aviewoncities.com
The art deco Aldred Building, completed in 1931. It’s reminiscent of the Rand Building in Buffalo.
500 Place D’Armes, built in 1968 in the international style. Reminds me of the Main Place Tower in Buffalo.
I went in to Notre Dame Basilica which is right on the square and I’m pretty sure my mouth fell open again upon entering.
What a treasure! So gorgeous and so beautifully maintained. This church opened in 1830. The towers were added later and completed in 1843.
Here are three of my favorite shots of the Basilica. It made me think of all the incredible churches in Buffalo. This one is much more grand, but shares some of the same great design elements of more than one of our Buffalo churches.
Montreal is home to some of the oldest buildings in North America. As I amble down Rue Saint-Paul, I get a feeling like I’m in Europe, with its amazing architecture, cobblestone streets, and all these cool little shops, places to relax and get a bite to eat.
I walked along Place Jacques-Cartier, one of the many squares in Montreal. I actually spend a lot of time here. It’s spectacular, busy, and friendly, all at the same time. Deliveries are being made, any number of items are being purchased. There are art exhibits on the street, art is being created, being bought, and being sold. People are relaxed, laughing, visiting, talking. Even yelling greetings to each other across the square.
I like it here so much I sort of don’t want to leave. It seems like an old world town. The kind of place I’d like to stay. Even live. It helps that the street itself leads down to the Port of Montreal, and we all know I am meant to live near water!
OLD PORT MONTREAL
So I head down to the port. There are slips for ships intermingled with museums, restaurants, housing, even grain silos. When I see the silos, I am again reminded of Buffalo.
Grain Silo at the Port of Montreal. Photo credit to: Heritage Montreal
I’ve circled around, back to Place Jacques-Cartier to meet up with my husband for a late lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes. So delicious and so relaxing! If you go to Montreal, do this. Even if you feel like you don’t have time. Make time. This is how a vacation is supposed to be. Relaxing, talking and visiting while enjoying a beautiful meal on a beautiful terrace overlooking a beautiful town square! It’s just, well, beautiful!
Photo credit to Afar.com
We head over to see the west side of Old Montreal. Here are some of my photos of the west side.
The two photos above were taken in the underground city. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. In Montreal, there is an entire city, underground! Where people live, work and shop!
MY IMPRESSIONS & FIVE PLACES I’LL GO NEXT TIME
I’ve decided this quick trip to Montreal will need another look. I plan to come back to see more.
- Bonsecours Market – It was closed during the time I was in the neighborhood, and I love checking out markets.
- Mount Royal – I want to hike to the top and get a birds eye view of the city!
- Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, because I’m a history nerd like that.
- I’d like to take a tour of Montreal City Hall. Because I love tours of cool buildings. 😉
- I would absolutely spend some time in the Underground City. Very intriguing to think that some people live here, work here, shop here. Don’t really ever have to go outside. Even though I love being outside, I’d also love to see more of this.
So this was my quick jaunt to Montreal. Well worth the trip, short as it was! I found it to be my kind of town. I truly didn’t mean this post to include so many Buffalo comparisons, but I found so many similarities between the two cities I couldn’t not mention it. While Buffalo seems smaller and friendlier, Montreal is much more walkable. A direction in which Buffalo is surely headed with so many people moving into the downtown area. At least I hope so.
Ever been to Montreal? Comment with your impressions or share some ideas for my next visit!