A Month in Montreal (ou un mois à Montréal)

By the way, the ‘t’ in Montreal is silent!

Thurs, Sept 1
Perfect timing to arrive the day before a 4-day holiday weekend, that’s the way I like to travel!  Lately I have been trying to travel on weekends instead of during the week – dropping bags and facilitating a conference call right away (when you barely know what the wi-fi code) is not my idea of relaxing transitions!

Fri, Sept 2 – Old Montreal & Notre Dame Basilica
I decided to check out Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal)
I grabbed an Uber down to the Old Port.  Uber’s relationship with the city and local cabbies are very tenuous – similar to other cities, you have these cabbies who spent a fortune, mortgaged their homes to get the cash to buy a license (or a medallion in NYC, Chicago, etc.) – and now there are thousands of Uber drivers not paying a cent for the same privilege.  You have to feel for them as they are hardworking contributing members of society – and these cities shouldn’t have been charging hundreds of thousands to begin with.  Sooner than later we’ll all be jetting around in self-driven cars, or better yet – mini aircraft so there you go!  The Uber situation was constantly on the news (which I’m glad to not have to watch anymore!)

Ok back to Old Montreal and the Old Port!  Montreal sits along the St Lawrence River which interestingly has rapids on the south side of the island – see post below on the Parc des Rapides!

Highlights of the Old Port:

St Paul Street:

Notre Dame Basilica:  A must-see in Montreal.  In 1672 the original parish church was built on this  site.  James O’Donnell, an architect from New York, was commissioned to design the new church in a Gothic Revival architectural design.  The church’s status was raised to a basilica by Pope John Paul II in the 80s.

I picked the right time to arrive as I joined a free tour (although you couldn’t always hear with screaming kids in our group…..) and an organ concert.  Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes – instead they show scenes from the religious history of Montreal.  Celine Dion got married here in 1994 🙂

Notre Dame videos:

I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine at a rooftop bar (Terrasse sur l’Auberge) – along with some incredible views of the city and port!

Around our neighborhood – Plateau Mont Royal, or the Plateau:

Interesting wall art:

St Louis Square:

Latin Quarter:

Downtown General (Crescent Street, etc.):

Sat, Sept 3 – St Julie & Montreal with Greta and Jurgen!
Visits with our German friends Greta and Jurgen (whom we met at Lemala Camp in the Serengeti and who visited us in Chicago in 2014) was something Dave and I were most looking forward to in Montreal!  And my solo visit with them was a great welcome to Monreal!

After buying some provisions at the famous Atwater Market….

We went for a walk in the nearby pretty San Bruno Park…..

before enjoying a taste of home, ‘Summer in a Bottle’ rose from Wolffer Estates, before a fabulous dinner – with more wine of course, and an interesting honey bourbon!

Sun, Sept 4 – After a leisurely breakfast we made our way back to Montreal.
Our first stop was the Parc Rapides, an 74 acre urban park and migratory bird sancturary (with over 225 species including the great blue heron), located in the city of Lasalle (southeast coast), adjacent to the Lachine Rapids. A 1984 excavation uncovered artifacts which proved the presence of the First Nations (Indians) on nearby islands more than 2000 years ago.

Following a tour of the south coast and lunch in LaChine (French for China) – is often said to have been named in 1667, in mockery of its then owner Robert Cavelier de La Salle, who explored the interior of North America, trying to find a passage to Asia. When he returned without success, he and his men were derisively named les Chinois.

Mount Royal Park
Then onto the peak at Mount Royal Park for the best views of the city!  This park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who co-designed Central Park.  However, due to the depressed economy in the 1870s much of his initial design had to be scrapped.  Our first stop was Kondiaronk Belvedere, named for a First Nation/Native Canadian chief Kondiaronk, whose influence led to a major peace accord between the French, Iroquois and other First Nations in the 1700s.

This is a popular place, packed with tourists and residents enjoying the views, the park trails (you can ski in the winter), and the gorgeous weather!

Inside Mount Royal Chalet & Smith House:

Another lookout with the Montreal Olympic Tower in the distance:

Jardin Botanique and Parc Olympique (Mon, Sept 5)

Botanical Gardens: Useful Plants, Perennials, Garden of Innovations, Rose Garden:

Floating gardens

Poisonous Plants

Sculpture, pond, First Nations Garden:

Japanese Gardens:

Chinese Garden:


Olympic Park:

More adventures with Greta and Jurgen!

Old Montreal & St Catherine’s (Sat 9/10:)

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel:

Chapel museum – Miniatures Room:


Shopping & St Catherine’s St:  Dave bought an incredible soapstone Inuit sculpture – check out the detail!  It’s being shipped to Phoenix.

Little Italy & Jean Talon Market (Sun, 9/11)

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A unique dining experience – Europea (Thurs, Sept 15)
This dining adventure deserves its own post – very upscale cuisine presented in a whimsical way that doesn’t take itself too seriously – I like that!

George-Etienne Cartier Monument, Mount Royal Park (Sat, Sept 17)
This monument, to honor Cartier, a Canadian statesman and ‘Father of Confederation’ makes a statement and is a standout along Ave du Parc.  Very pretty at night with the lighted cross on top of the mountain.  A major bridge into Montreal is named after Cartier as well.

Around town – near Mount Royal Park:

Hotel Dieu & museum
Dave was born at a ‘Hotel Dieu’ in El Paso and he wondered if the Montreal outpost was under the same Catholic order, company, etc.  Hotel-dieu, literally “hostel of God,” is an archaic French term for hospital, referring to the origins of hospitals as religious institutions.

Hotel Dieu is the first hospital in North America / oldest in Montreal, founded by Jeanne Mance (our apt was on the corner of Jeanne Mance and Laurier Ave). During its history, many medical milestones have been recorded at the Hôtel-Dieu, including the world’s first removal of a kidney (1868), the world’s first removal of a tongue and jaw (1872), the first femur transplant (1959), the first identification of an AIDS patient in Canada (1979), the world’s first successful recovery of a person with severe burns to 90% of the body (1981), and the world’s first robotically assisted laparoscopic surgery (1993).

We decided to check it out and also stumbled upon its museum…

The hospital – pretty ugly:

17th-century oak double staircase that originally graced the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in La Flèche, France. It introduces the history of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint-Joseph

Origins of Montreal and founding of the museum by Jeanne Mance:

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Nursing exhibit:

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Life in the Hotel:

After a busted visit recommended by our museum host to check out the art deco lobby of the Neurological Institute, we walked further up into McGill for a view of the imposing McConnell Hall before heading home:

Quebec City (Sun, Sept 18 – Tues, Sept 20)
We really loved our visit to Quebec City – storybook is the perfect way to describe this charming and inviting city with its old flower-adorned French colonial buildings, well-kept streets, and its old fortified walls protecting the city since 1620!  A few rumors we heard about Quebec City that we found to be false – it’s a poor city (not from what we could see – everything was immaculate and well-maintained) and no one really speaks English (au contraire!  not only did they speak English one of our waitresses sang the desert menu to us – en Englais!)  🙂

Quebec City is the only remaining North American fortified city north of Mexico.

Royal Square:

Lower Quebec City – near our hotel

En route to the Upper City:

Chateau Frontenac & the Esplanade

Upper city – around Rue St Louis

Upper city – around Rue St Jean

Around the Notre Dame Cathedral

The Ramparts & Citadel


Our Hotel – Hotel 71 (Soixante Onze) – very modern, comfy bed (with automatic underbed lighting at night if you walked near it – cool!),

amazing view of the Chateau and upper Quebec City (same view as the penthouse next door) – day:

and night:

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity – The first Anglican church outside of Britian.  We took a 30 min tour with one of their guides who had a great accent and was a good storyteller too.  The cathedral is designed in the neoclassic Palladian style and modeled after St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square in London and St Peter, Vere Street Chapel.  King George III paid for the construction of the Cathedral and al

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Centuries old altar cloths:

Silver and bibles brought over from the British crown, starting with King George III.

Change Ringing – The Cathedral’s bells date from 1830 and are the oldest change-ringing bells in Canada.  They were made by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London – the same company that cast Big Ben, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the great bell “Jean-Baptiste” of Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.  Repairs were made to these bells not that long ago, and get this, they come with a 100 yr guarantee – how do you enforce that?  🙂  A team of eight ringers is required to ring all eight bells in sequence

Musee du Forts

Back to Montreal!  (weekend of Sept 24)

Musee de Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) – Fri 9/23
So nice to come back to Montreal and still have Fri off for vacation before the weekend, and before Dave’s departure on Sat!  We ventured down to the Fine Arts museum to ‘get our culture on’.  The museum is very chopped up, in different buildings – with pretty small exhibit areas.  The downside is that you are always getting on an elevator to see something new – the upside is that I guess you can’t get lost easily!

Contemporary art – always makes me scratch my head – sorry, I tried to get Dave to skip – he’s not a fan either!

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Contemporary Inuit

Canadian art

Decorative Arts

Marie Reine du Monde Cathedral (Mary Queen of the World Cathedral) – minor basilica and 3rd largest church in Quebec.  Well worth a visit.  Greta will be so happy to hear we went since this is her favorite church in Montreal!

Ciborium, reproduction of Bernini’s famous ‘baldacchino’ in St. Peter’s Basilica:

Chapel of the Assumption & Bishop’s mortuary chapel:

St Joseph Oratory (L’Oratoire de Saint Joseph) (Sun, Sept 25)
I was so glad that Michel at Toi Moi highly recommended visiting St Joseph’s – I almost didn’t go!  I caught an Uber there and marveled at this magnificent church perched on top of Mont Royal – definitely a spectacle.  I also forgot that there was an elevator to the top – I took the stairs and also took a few breaks for breaths and photos!  St Joseph’s is also very visible flying into and out of the city – eye-catching and gorgeous!

Outremont Church – Sun Sept 25
Located right down the street from our pad, I popped in after visiting St Joseph’s, making my way down Mont Royal on the way back home.  I loved the pretty pastels.

Outdoor stairs to apartments and condos – very Montrealesque!  We wondered how bad it would be to shovel snow in the winter!

Some beautiful homes close to the University of Montreal and the Outremont neighborhood:

Our place
We rented a 1-bed apartment on airbnb in the Plateau de Mont Royal neighborhood – an excellent location with a few grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and shops close by.  It was well-equipped with everything we needed for our stay including paper, laundry, and cleaning products (I love when I don’t have to buy supplies.)  The cookware and cutlery were great – not surprising given the owners have multiple cafes in the Montreal area (we loved the cafe downstairs!)  Bed was comfortable (though pillows were rock-like!)  TV channels were miserable, equivalent of 2-12 in the 70s – luckily we have Roku!  Sounds funny to say but LOVED that we had nightstands with actual drawers, a full sized dresser, and some hangers (these are all typically lacking, or non-existent in many of our rentals.)  Montreal is still a smoking city – and unfortunately we could smell smoke quite a bit in the apartment, wafting in from outside.  Laundry in the basement was a bit of a pain, but the price was totally right for this place.  We were very pleased with it overall.

The awesome staff at Toi Moi Cafe – where we warmly welcomed and enjoyed a hearty breakfast, nearly everyday (and have the pounds to prove it!)  A customer took this shot on my last day!  Asbed (apt and cafe owner), Fanny, Mathilde, and Michele went out of their way to make us at home!


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