Thu 25 Jul - Montreal, QC

A big walking day focused on Old Montreal and the canals...

Below is our Runkeeper map. We walked more than 17 kms over a 7 or so hours period.

We had booked into a Free Walking Tour of Old Montreal that started at 10am so we left home around 8.30am and walked into town. We walked eastwards on Rue Notre-Dame almost the whole way, the street obviously being named after the Basilica.

We found some familiar landmarks from our earlier wanders, including this school of superior technology, ETS. We liked the name.

Rue Notre-Dame is a very old street and part of it includes old hotels and businesses in European styles. We felt this could have been a business street in Paris or London.

A coffee seemed a good idea before our walking tour started so we did a quick pit stop at Cafe Starbucks Coffee (love the name).

Our guide had asked us to meet him on the western side plaza adjacent to Hotel De Ville, the town hall. There is a "small" problem today... That plaza was completely taken over by a film crew, filming the next installment of "X-men". Huge props, many many extras and lots of equipment. When we arrived they seemed to be filming stunts based on blasts and screams.

They tried to enforce a "no photo rule" - sure that worked with us, NOT. Gotta have a photo of the... no photo.

The extras looked fantastic in 1970's clothing and styles. A large gathering of fur, velour, corduroy and leather in all the possible shades of brown that you could imagine.

The extras seem to spend an inordinate amount of time waiting, waiting, waiting. The lady in the foreground was yelling at us "no photo". Very funny! Let's have a picture of that.

Some of the props and equipment...

Well, we found our guide, Marc-Andre, across the street and our tour therefore started in a different location. He told us the filming was for HK Project which is the new X Men movie, set in Paris where the characters travel back in time to the 1970's. We kept our eyes open for Hugh Jackman but no luck.
Marc, in the red jacket, was a fantastic guide and possibly our best yet. He was logical, thorough, very easy to follow and covered both old and new history and future development of Montreal. He even stopped when the surrounding traffic or movie noise was too loud for us to hear properly. We learned so much and saw some unexpected gems during our tour. Hans was paying close attention.

For instance, this castle (yep, that's what they called it) was home to the early mayors of Montreal. The building was used temporarily by American forces when they took control of Montreal for a short period prior to their Revolution against the British. They wanted Quebec to be the 14th United State. That vision was short lived because the Americans failed to capture Quebec City, the capital at the time while Montreal was just an insignificant city so... they packed up and went back to the US.

We then walked down through the old town to the Sailors Chapel. The sailors believed they needed to confess all their sins before going out to sea just in case they would not be back, and they came here to do so.

Di believed Marc when he suggested sailors had lots of sins...there are a few sailors in her family!

The chapel's entrance has a statement concerning "Mary's care for them whilst at sea".

The inside of the chapel is lovely, as typical of a wealthy Catholic Church. Marc pointed out little model boats hanging from the ceiling. These were donated by grateful sailors who came back safely.

Marc said that the sailors made the model boats themselves. Very nice touch.

The chapel is right on the edge of the Old Port and Mary stands on top to farewell and welcome sailors.

We liked the streetscape looking west from the chapel, which is right next door to Bonsecours Market.

We spent some time in the Old Port area and Marc talked about the islands in the river, one of which was created of rubble from the excavation for the metro and served as the site for the 1967 World Expo. As Marc put it, in 1967 the world discovered Montreal and Montreal discovered the world. The expo really sounded like a key event in the city's modern history.

The walking tour continued into the old financial district of Montreal, where most of the old banks have now moved into downtown and the old buildings have been or are being converted for other purposes.

The building below is a hotel and was bought by a co-founder of Guess Jeans who lives there on the premises. According to Marc, he also uses the building to display his huge collection of Pop Art, including the huge sculptures out front, worth many millions of dollars each.

Marc also told us that the owner was a Rolls Royce fan and he was probably right as there were 2 Rolls parked out front.

Another bank building, the former head offices for Roval Bank of Canada, had been bought by a firm that restores historic buildings. The firm uses this building as their "show piece" and rents it out for events and period films. The interior was gorgeous with the foyer below having an Italianate ceiling and lots of gilt.

The main banking chamber was more French is design with lots of marble...

And the polished brass elevator doors with unique scenes from the sea.

We then crossed the street to find another building converted into a hotel - the St James. It is considerd the fanciest hotel in Montreal and Madonna and Rolling Stones stay here while in town. When the Stones are here, they book the whole hotel from themselves (we figured Keith needed a floor to himself).

Marc then led us into the World Trade Centre of Montreal. The glassed roof covers an old alleyway and joins old and new buildings very sympathetically. The smooth black square is a running fountain.

Di could not resist running her fingers through the water. No one else could resist that either...

Elsewhere inside that space is another gem. A significant slab of the Berlin Wall, gifted from Berlin to Montreal in 1992 at a time where Montreal was struggling to align the French and English parts of their city.

The graffiti is original and was obviously facing West Berlin. The East Berlin side is blank and east Berliners were not given any opportunity to approach the wall.

Then just around the corner we had a nice surprise, something the had no inkling existed - an underground linked tunnel system which is bigger than Toronto's Path. It is called RESO and starts at the World Trade Centre. RES comes from the French word "reseau" which means network. O is the logo for Montreal's metro.

Di was eager and at the head of our group.

This mural showed artistically what it was trying to achieve, a tunnel bypassing roads and linking the old Town, Metros and the new downtown.

A map showed it better. We laughed as it appeared that we can walk underground all the way to our hostel if we so choose. Nah, it was a nice day outside.

The tour finished after 2+ hours and we applauded and tipped Marc's efforts. It was time for lunch and we were on Chinatown's doorstep so there is where we went.
We had 2 purposes - a light cheap lunch so we went back to the excellent dumpling place from our first Montreal stay (it was packed again which is such a good sign). Unfortunately, we had to wait a while for dumplings but Di was ready for the moment they landed on the table.
We ordered the same dumpling combination as last time we were there and again it was all delicious.
The second purpose of our Chinatown visit was to find a new 8GB SD card for the camera as all we have seen in Canada so far were too expensive (twice or three times as much as what we paid in NYC). We were referred to an electronics store called Davidson's and were in luck. C$22 for a 8GB SD card. Hans was happy.
Whilst in the store another customer asked us where we were from. When we said Australia he started relating stories about the Cockatoos he had kept as pets. How they chewed through wood, and how he could hear their sceeching a block away when he left the house. Funny guy. Although his neighbors may not have agreed...
We decided to walk more so headed north but quicky realized we were back in an area we have already explored, the Festival site for Just For Laughs.

We instead headed back south west, generally meandering towards home along the river, then canals. The city has done a lot to beautify the area around the Old Port, with nice parks and bikeways.

Looking eastwards towards the Old Port and Old Town.

The canals continue west and we followed the edges of Canal Lachine. Now, not all of Montreal is pretty. They made the same architectural mistakes as many other big western cities during the 60's and 70's. These box units reminded us of the ones near the Cahill Expressway in the Rocks area of Sydney. Oh dear...

Along Canal Lachine we came across old mills and silos, barges and locks. All looked very cool to us. OK, this guy may distort that picture...

This barge had been reinvented into an interesting use. It is now an upmarket spa where white robed clients came to lounge on sun beds while waiters served them drinks. Or at least, that is what it looked to us.

Canal Lachine has 4 set of locks which are still in operation. We saw one lock being opened whilst there but it was all automated and there were no college students grinding at winches like it was in Ottawa.

Our walking tour guide had mentioned "shipping containers" almost being the "mascot of Montreal" due to their importance in the maritime activities here. He also mentioned that 2 containers had been converted into restaurants along the canal. We found them, by accident. They looked trendy and inviting, perhaps with too limited menus but the food did smell nice.

These flags represent all the local pennants - from left, Canada, Quebec being the blue with white cross, the red cross being the flag of Ile De Montreal (the city's island). We were not sure about the last flag.

Across Canal Lachine is evidence of the old milling and port business, which was a huge economic success in Montreal until, in 1959, the St Lawrence Seaway was completed and Montreal was no longer needed as a staging/transit location.

We got a real sense today that life was tough in Montreal during the 60's and 70's, although many other big port or industrial cities around the world would also have been caught up in the transition.

A lovely view looking back towards the city, with a very old tug boat in the foreground known as the Daniel McAllister. According to the blurb, this vessel is the 2nd oldest surviving ocean going tug in the world.

We had a closer look at the tug. No wonder it lives on - steel plates coat the hull completely. Tough stuff.

We crossed over an active lock and found ourselves near a parallel but now inactive lock.

Hans loves hanging over the edge of these... Di not so. Me and my shadow.

Following the bike path west along Canal Lachine, we stumbled onto this little hut with lots of people's names listed on plaques.

We went there to have a closer look....

The hut appeared to record names of those who have volunteered in the creatation of the Trans Canada Trail.

The Trans Canada Trail Is mind blowing in length. We thought the Appalachian Trail was amazing, but this is much longer, when fully completed it will be 23,000kms long! They expect to complete it by 2017 but it already has 16,800kms of usable trail, which can be completed by hikers, bikers, horse riders, cross country skiers and snowmobilers (which seems a bit of a cheats way to us).

Further along... What? They spelled Hans name wrong.

We shortly returned to our local section of the canal and headed inland. A coffee at Cafe Starbucks Coffee seemed an appropriate way to unwind and reflect and to start blogging.

The coffee (and iced tea for Di) was fine, however the wifi speed was not. Slow, slow, slow to upload pictures. We looked around inside and noted about 20 other customers on laptops or ipads (some had both) and more on phones. Reason; this Starbucks is next to a university and most of these customers looked like... university students. So we finished our drinks and returned home around 5pm.

A huge day followed by a quiet night. We ate the chicken curry Di cooked last night, drank some red wine, planned for tomorrow and blogged. Good night.

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