This weekend I hopped the border to explore Old Montreal. My first stop was to La Maison Du Patriot, a hostel in Old Montreal and my lodging for the weekend to get settled. Located between the St. Lawrence River and the downtown skyscrapers, the historic city was once surrounded by walls and can easily be explored on foot. Old Montreal is an exceptional city center, still civilized & busting with life. With Old City attractions like the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Old Port and Museum of Fine Arts, as well as the Biodome, Botanical Gardens and underground shopping, this city is a great family destination.
La Maison Du Patriot is located in the heart of Old Montreal, on a 400 year old cobbled street and walking distance to all the historic sites. The hostel was cozy, clean and the most bohemian hostel I’ve stayed in to date. I detected Spanish, French and German nationals, but no other Americans. Because of the central location to bars and restaurants it was a bit noisy in the evenings. My only disappointments were that there was no parking and no receptionist to give hints about navigating the area.
Steeped in history, and only a block from my hostel, are the quays of the Old Port. It’s thanks to this port that Montreal became the thriving international city it is today. Today the port welcomes six million visitors yearly to various festivals and recreations activities. While I was there, Cirque du Soliel had tents set up for their show Kurios. The port is also home of the Montreal Science Center.
Place d’Armes square is the second oldest public site in Old Montreal. First developed to stage military events, and later used as a Victorian garden, the center now holds a monument in memory of Paul de Chomedey, founder of Montreal. Surrounding the square are historic buildings including the Norte-Dame Cathedral, Saint-Suplice Seminary and the New York Life Building.
Facing Place d’Armes is the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral. One of my reasons for visiting Montreal, Notre-Dame is one of the crown jewels in Quebec’s rich religious heritage and focal points in Montreal’s history. Entering into such a holy place took my breath away. Knowing that many people worked for years to create this space for no other reason but to glorify, worship and praise God is incredible. I was blessed with a random act of kindness when I arrived without cash. I only had my credit card, however the woman behind the counter suggested I pray for her instead of paying. After I assured her I would be honored to carry out her wish, I was granted full access. http://www.basiliquenddm.org/en/basilica/pictures.aspx
Diagonally across the square stands the New York Life Insurance Building which was erected in 1887, when it was the tallest building in Montreal. When the clock tower, which is what captured my attention, was completed, the 9th & 10th floors were occupied by the largest legal library in the entire country as a gift from the owner.
I could bore you to tears writing about each building’s history. Around every turn was another building with exquisite details. I felt like I’d stepped onto a movie set! For example, the Court of Appeal, which covers a city block, was the second Palace of Justice in Montreal. Built between 1922 – 1926 it’s designed in the Classical revival style and built of a Montreal limestone and grey granite. The bronze panel doors are enough to instill justice simply by gazing upon them.
Saturday morning was raining so I decided to explore the Biodome before walking outside at the gardens. Housed in a building originally constructed for the 1976 Olympic cycling games, the Montreal Biodome now allows visitors to walk through replicas of a Tropical Rainforest, a Lauretian Forest, the Saint Lawrence eco-system and a polar area. All ecosystems found in the Americas. There’s a nice variety of animals in each habitat, including noisy parrots in the tropical area. I felt like I was home! I really enjoyed being able to see the puffins up close without having to freeze on a boat. I recommend this as a unique experience for every age group. http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/biodome
The day warmed up, as I expected while I was at the Biodome and I decided to head for the Botanical Gardens. The Montreal Botanical Garden is considered to be one of the most important botanical gardens and promises acres of beautiful themed gardens and greenhouses. Founded in 1931, city residents can obtain a pass for free admission which is why I saw so many joggers using the paths. What a great idea! There are many themed areas, and my favorite was the Chinese garden constructed along the lines of a traditional Chinese garden. There are also a rose garden, Japanese garden, Alpine garden, trails and sculptures to enjoy. I was intrigued by their Youth Garden program for children ages 8 to 15. Kids can sign up and receive their own 2m x 4m plot in which to grow and harvest their own herbs and vegetables. That’s neat! http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden
I will add labels photos at http://emiling.com later today.
P:S: No, you didn’t miss grand descriptions of the delicate French pastries because I couldn’t find any. And I tried. Montreal is very metropolitan full of many nationalities and flavors, unlike Quebec where I could find a Napoleon pastry in every shop. The cupcake trend is very popular there as it seems to be everywhere. Nothing special about that.