Mon 8 Jul - Montreal, QC

The weather looks superb so we did more exploration on foot today - Montreal old town, the Old Port, Notre Dame and Chinatown, all conveniently located within walking distance from each other. First, a metro ride...

Four stops later we got off at Champ de-Mars. The bloke behind Hans is taken an interest in what we are doing. Perhaps tourists are not that common here after all...or he can't understand the photogenic qualities of a Metro station.

Montreal Hotel De Ville - City Hall...

Some very artistic and elaborate landscaping outside the City Hall.

We wandered the streets quite a bit and zig zagged and went into buildings, so run keeper did not cope and we don't know how far and can't show you a map. Much less distance than yesterday though - at a very leisurely pace.

Facing north, the triangular tower in the centre of the picture below was apparently a symbol for Montreal's summer Olympics in 1976 according to Di. Hans didn't know.

Montreal like many cities around the world had been revitalizing parts of their waterfront and old rail-yards in this post industrialization era. This neighborhood looked quite exclusive, although it reminded us a bit of Pyrmont in Sydney.

We were not sure what this building was but imagined that with a statue on top that appeared to be blessing the wharves which is towards it was looking, it was some kind of church.

Looking along the Old Port front with the Bonsecours Market on the right hand side, which was the old centre for goods arriving in the Port. This has now been converted into boutiques - so outside was better than inside (shops were not open nor interesting to us). There was a market on level 3 but that was closed.

The streetscape here was very much like Paris along the Seine, but without the souvenir sellers.

Self portrait for a quay looking back at the Bonsecours Market

They've used some of the old wharf areas as a park with nice features like an island surrounded by a pond with paddle boats, and this series of cascades down to river level.
We saw this seagull swaying back and forth in the water. Still asleep - perhaps after a big night...?

We then headed north towards the Clocktower that needed further exploration. Behind is the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The river here is part of the St. Lawrence seaway and is very fast flowing.

We found that the entry door to the Clocktower is open, there is no entry fee and that anybody is invited ascend to the top. Good call. Hans climbs the 192 steps up to the outdoors viewing platform of the Clocktower. How did he know that there were exactly that many steps? Because each step had a number and you start from 192 and each step up you take will be marked with a number that is one less than the one before. Di is not very keen on towers and explores the ground level instead.

There are clock faces on all four sides and they are all connected through the still functioning clockwork inside.
There is a small outdoor viewing platform at the top, open in 3 directions but not towards the water. Here we are looking back at from where we came.
Looking south with first the Concorde Bridge and behind it Pont Victoria which is the bridge that we came in on from Boston. Note the very strong current in the water. The peninsula you see is man-made as ice and spring floods caused lots of problems for the old Montreal Port.
Looking southwest towards Montreal's Centre Ville (downtown). .

Looking north towards Jacques Cartier Bridge. There is an amusement park on the island to the right with a large rollercoaster. When we come back...

If you looked carefully at the picture above, you would see a beach in the lower left corner. Yes, Montreal has done the Paris thing (we have also seen this in Vienna) and created a sandy beach on top of concrete next to a stretch of water which you are not allowed to swim in. Looks tempting though, to sit there with an ice cold beer or drink. The beach didn't open until 11am so we moved on.

Time for Caffe. We found a small coffee shop cum patisserie on Rue Notre Dame and we tried Canadian espresso for the first time. Very good. We found out that the owner came to Canada from Roma at the age of 6, so perhaps no surprise then.

In the shop next to the cafe, there was a t-shirt with a Canadian take on that old evolution theme. They love their hockey here.

If you continue Rue Notre Dame you get to... Notre Dame. Yes, there is one in Montreal too and it has been designated a "Minor Basilica" by Pope John Paul because of its important relics and its beauty.
It costs $5 each to get in but a free quick tour is included.
The Notre Dame Basilica lived up to the hype and was quite spectacular. We first wandered by ourselves then did a 20 minutes guided tour (which actually took 30 minutes) facilitated by a young girl with the most gorgeous English accent and, boy, she knew her stuff very well. Hence we ran over time with her enthusiasm.

The Roman Catholic Church established in Montreal in 1657, just 15 years after the founding of the city in 1642 so the history of this church and the city are very much intertwined.

The original cathedral was situated on the location of the road out the front and was replaced by Notre Dame 1829. It took 100 years to then complete the interior decoration. All hand painted and just beautiful. The stained glass windows on the lower level show the religious history of Montreal from 1642 to 1929, one significant event per window and in chronological order. Fantastic work from Limoges.

We found out that Monday through to Friday, Notre Dame is more a museum than a place of worship although they had glassed off a small corner section for people who want to worship at any time. No photos allowed there which is fair enough.

Di looked impressed... Perhaps by Basilica's organ which has 7,000 pipes.

Hans is pointing to Jeremie's name. He keeps popping up in various places... Or are we just on the lookout for his name... Maybe.

The pulpit, but it was no longer used for sermons.

Di lights a candle for our safe journey (not that we are catholic, but...)

This chapel is attached to the back of the Basilica and had to be fully rebuilt after it was burned down in 1978 (they think arson with someone leaving lit candles in a wooden confessional box early one morning). A marvelous restoration job and it is filled with natural light.

Yes, the sun was shining down on Hans...
The location of the arsonists confessional box was behind the stairs. There was an original huge stain glassed window at the back of the chapel/front of the Basilica but they were only able to save 2 small sections which are restored here on the upper levels (you can see the blue glass of one of those behind Di).

After our tour we sat in a plaza opposite the Basilica and admired the statue of Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal.

It was about 1.30pm and time for lunch. We wandered into Chinatown deliberately seeking Asian food. They should actually call this place Little Vietnam as most of the restaurants are Vietnamese.

We found a Chinese dumpling place that had good karma - no spruiker, no tourists, busy with customers and all they do is shanghai style dumplings.

The ladies in the kitchen keep making fresh dumplings constantly and they are fast.

15 dumplings for under $8, so we ordered 2 different kinds, one fried set and one steamed set, and stuffed ourselves. Delicious! Thumbs up from Di.

Chinatown here is about 2 blocks, not very big, but feels authentic. It made us a little homesick for our time in New York's Chinatown...

We gradually wandered towards home - through the main CBD area - which was the usual boring buildings so no photos.

We stopped at the Marie De Monde Cathedral, near home, but a quick look in showed it was large and wealthy looking but no where near as glamourous as Notre Dame so we did not stay. We then decided on no further sightseeing for today and headed back to the hostel.

On the way, this is a detail from a lot larger artwork that hid a development on our street. Hans couldn't get it all into a single frame so this would have to do.

We came back to HI Montreal for a break around 3pm.

A couple of hours later, we wander down to the basement. Hmmm, it looks like a kitchen there to the right. Let's have a look...

Oh yeah, there is a storm cooker here...

What's on the menu tonight? Pasta with creamy tomato bacon sauce says the Master Chef.

Time to eat. Is it any good? It is bl***y delicious.

Note the mug in the picture (no, not Hans), the other one, on the table. As consumption of alcohol brought in by the punters is prohibited at the premises due to liquor licensing laws, we used the amazing cover up of mugs to hide our red wine. Seemed to work, no liquor licensing police approached us.

We had also bought an olive baguette earlier today at the Patisserie, which of course went down extremely nicely with the pasta. An all together most pleasant meal.

After dinner, we are back to chilling in our hostel room. Off to Ottawa tomorrow, but we will be back. Good night.


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