Sat 27 Jul - Montreal, QC

Dead centre of town, back to Mont Blanc Royal, a late brunch and... more walking. Today was also our last full day in North America... for this time. UK beckons tomorrow...

We both still have colds so we had a slow start to the day and took it easy on ourselves by catching the metro to Snowdon to start our exploration. Here is how we walked from Snowdon to Sherbrooke metro station - just over 12km today.

Snowdon is a suburb south west of the "Mont" and the metro stop closest to St Joseph's Oratory which TripAdvisor reviews had suggested we should see.

This Oratory is the largest church in Canada and claims to be the largest shrine to St Joseph in the world. It attracts pilgrims who use the centre set of steps for kneeling on, one by one, reciting a small prayer, before moving up the next step and repeating. 194 steps - that's dedication. You can see a lady on her knees near the bottom in the photo below.

Of course we knew none of this before arriving and just stomped up the steps towards the St Joseph's Oratory like usual...

The view from the balcony on the second floor was good and quite different to what we had seen of Montreal so far. Commoners were not allowed any higher up inside.

Di relaxing after climbing the 194 steps...

We found the inside of St Joseph's Oratory a bit disappointing. Normally Roman Catholic Churches are ornate. This one was big and modern but seemed to miss some glamour.

Why a shrine to St Joseph in particular? Brother Andre, the founder of the Oratory claims to have prayed to St. Joseph for the healing miracles he performed. Brother Andre was himself canonized as a saint in October 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

We went into the crypt and found something a bit creepy - when Brother Andre died they kept his heart preserved. You can see it here in a jar (presumably of formaldehyde) on the left. For pilgrims it is probably amazing to be so close to the heart of a saint, for us hmmm...

From the Oratory we went for a cuppa. We need to keep up the fluids... and cold medication.
From Second Cup coffee shop, we went to the dead centre of town - yep, a cemetery. We focused on a huge cemetery called Cote Des Neiges which takes the back half of the "Mont" as in Mont Royal. Most of the cemetery is in good condition, clearly still used, with lots of space for more people.

They even have "real estate" offers for space in the main mausoleums - with a price reduction. We could imagine Tim Short selling this on TV and saying but wait, there's more, you also get all this not for $9,000, not for $8,000 but now for the low low price of $6,900! Hurry, before they are all gone...

Cote Des Neiges cemetery is pretty and park like and many catholic ornaments are really nice statues - lots of angels and weeping figures. No, the lady standing in front of the ornaments may be an angel but she is not weeping.

Hans being appropriately solemn... As you should, right?

This grave was sad but interesting - the lady died young, aged 23, but her family created a unique monument which we thought was lovely.

Another unique monument. We were not quite sure about the ethnic background here... The name Lustig points to German or Prussian, but Lustikova sounds Russian. Also, the lady's name is spelt 2 ways, Sibyla at the top and Sibylka further down. A mistake...?

The Chinese have their own section within Cote Des Neiges cemetery which included temples and lions.

What we found a bit morbid is that when the first partner of a couple dies, some families put both partners names on the headstone, with photos, and just leave date of death blank for the other person. In other words, you have a photo on a gravestone of somebody who is still alive... See the examples below.

Who knows, for the surviving partner it might be of comfort. We could see the practical, money saving side of it which seemed very Chinese.

And why was this skip bin "smoking"?

Ahh.. Incense. There was a strong incense smell around the skip bin. Old sticks thrown away or deliberately there for good karma...?

We knew from our Montreal map that Cote Des Neiges cemetery bordered Parc Mont Royal and logically we figured there must be some gateways between the two. We got to one big gate, locked, another smaller one also locked so what do we do? Follow a local bloke with his bike down this path...

The bloke then disappeared with his bike into a gap in the fence through these vines and ditch... When in Rome... probably applies to Montreal too. We continued to follow...

And we came out near the main gate to the Protestant cemetery. Di is pointing to the forest we emerged from.

Fun twist - why the Catholics feel you need to be walled off from the Protestants can be a discussion for another day!

We easily found our way onto a lovely familiar path in Parc Mont Royal and headed to the Chalet for a drink break.

It was already after 12pm and we took the slow winding route down the Mont towards the suburb of Plateau Mont Royal which we were told had good places for lunch. We liked Parc Mont Royal and think it was definitely a highlight of Montreal.

Once we reached Plateau Mont Royal we found funky murals on walls and interesting cafes and businesses. This small mission was holding a wedding ..."another one bites the dust"...

On Rue Saint Laurent we found a crowd queuing outside an eatery and we had to investigate. It seemed to be a deli called Schwartz's and based on the smells specialized in smoked meats. Probably yummy but we were not prepared to join a huge queue and wait for a long time. All the people behind Di were queuing to get in...

When we passed Square Saint Louis the other day we noticed some nice (and also busy) restaurants so we wandered back that way. Hard to choose between 4 adjacent cool places but we liked this one, Universel, the busiest as even at 1.45pm people were still eating breakfast/brunch. We joined them.

We ordered beer and sangria with our brunch meals as opposed to most other punters who went for coffees or juices. We felt that the drinks were well deserved. The meals were incredibly big and also delicious.

Weighed down with food, some alcohol, and having walked in the sun with colds we were tired and so caught the metro from Sherbrooke station back home. We arrived back at the hostel around 4pm and crashed.

Not much nighttime fun for us. Another quiet evening - doing online check-in for our flights for tomorrow, the last batch to washing and resting. Good night.


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