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Vieux (old) Montreal’s European Charm
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Vieux (old) Montreal’s European Charm

In the middle of my four-day Ottawa holiday, I decided the last minute hop on a bus for a two and a half hour ride to Montreal.

When I left Ottawa early in the morning, it was warm. I got off bus in Montreal it was raining and cold. Despite having three light layers, it was not enough. I managed to find a Dollar store and bought an umbrella, and then ten minutes later I found Bistro Le 808 Café on rue Barie. I had a bite to eat and drowned three cups of hot coffee. I told the proprietor. “Best coffee I’ve tasted. Better than Tim Horton’s.” He smiled, “Don’t talk to me about Tim Horton’s” I laughed.

The first thing I had to do before I started my walking tour I purchased a warmer layer. I found a store, bought an off white fleece jacket with “Montreal” and a design of a few colourful leaves. Right away I put it under my light jacket. Stepping out of the store, that warmth felt good.

I walked down rue Notre Dame, one of Montreal’s major streets. I paid the five dollar fee to go inside Basilica Notre Dame de Montreal to have a quick cook it’s it masterpiece altar, a 7,000 pipe organ and I loved the stain glass windows that tell the parish’s history.

The cathedral dominates Place d’Armes but also other historic architecture to see in this cobbled square. Montreal’s first skyscraper built in 1888 was Edifice New York Life at eight stories Next door is Edifice Alfred (1931) which resembles the Empire State Building. Also on this square is Montreal’s oldest bank Banque de Montreal (1847).

Not far is Hotel de Ville, the city hall built between 1872-1878. This peaceful looking building had a rough history. It survived a bad fire in 1922. In 1967, French President Charles de Galle visited here during Canada’s birthday. From the balcony, he shouted “Vive le Quebec libre” much to dismay of the federal government who invited him but the separatist crowds loved it.

I stepped on the cobbled, narrow street of rue Saint-Paul, I felt like I was in Europe. What would have been really nice if this street was only for pedestrians. As I walked I looked up at the unique street signs of shops and restaurant it made me think of the afternoon I spent in Salzburg, Austria with its similar set up.

I was getting hungry and hoped to sit outside for lunch but it was still quite cool. I turned on Place Jacques-Cartier, where all the restaurant patios were covered with plastic coverings. I saw the waitress at L’Aventure Pub and asked if I could sit outside by the door. It was no problem.

“I’m surprised it’s so cool out here today,” I said to the waitress as savoured my Caesar salad, garlic bread and glass of wine.

She laughed, “They said it was going to be 22 (Celsius) today.”

I laughed as well. “They got a 2 right and it’s not the first 2”

Full, rested and ready to go, I headed back to rue Saint-Paul. The six cast-iron silver dome Marche Bonescours (1847) had many roles in history such as a market, a city hall, parliament of Upper Canada. Now it houses boutiques and art shops.

Not far is Musee du Chateau Ramesay. This museum features 18th and 19th century items but the history is deep. It was here American Ben Franklin wanted Quebec to against British rules and failed.

I made a quick visit inside Notre-Dame de Bonsecours, the oldest church in Montreal and snapped pictures of the altar, statues and stain glass windows. I left some money in the donation box. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to climb the tower for a view of the port and the old town.

I made one last quick stop at Maison Paul du Calvert, another historical site dealing with Ben Franklin. This now museum was once home to Paul du Calvert, who supported the American Revolution, game money to Ben in1775. Paul went to jail for three years. If you’re not on a tight budget, this bed and breakfast is a perfect location to stay and explore Old Montreal.

My stay was brief. I must visit again to soak in the European charm of the Vieux Montreal.

Street Talk

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