September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.
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Montreal was our last stop on our East Coast adventure. We took the train from Quebec City to Montreal as it was a new type of transportation for us. Mostly we have flown or rented a car and driven between locales - traveling by rail was one more new experience for us.
Via runs a regular service between the cities and the four hour ride was an easy way to watch the scenery go by and not have to worry about driving. It didn't hurt that we went through several bouts of rain and we were secure in our coach seats having a nap while some one else did the driving.
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, and like many cities it sprawls over the landscape. Our hotel was out in the suburbs to north, but the Metro station one block away made the downtown and tourist areas easily accessible.
Our first stop was Old Montreal near the waterfront where just about all cities have their oldest neighbourhoods. The French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to visit the area on October 2 1535, but it wasn't until 1642 that Fort Ville-Marie (Montreal's original name) was built that the area became a solid colony.
If you know your Canadian history, many of the names like Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, and Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve stir up memories of your old Social Studies lessons from high school. Standing in the in the real geographic locations from those school lessons bring's the history to life.
The architecture of the city is old but subtly so, not like the obvious aged buildings in Quebec City. In all fairness to Montreal, if we have visited Montreal first and _then_ Quebec City we probably would have been more impressed with Montreal's heritage. As it was, visiting Montreal second downplayed the city's beauty and caused our group to be under whelmed by the city.
Here and there the older parts of the city shone through, but it was disappointing to see that much of the older buildings had been replaced by newer buildings as the city grew.
Still, the history was there to see if you took the time to walk around and sight see with open eyes.
This nondescript plaque told a story of one of the first gathering places in Montreal when the city was still young. More than likely the square was much larger before the street intruded but I can still imagine people 350 years ago meeting and discussing the events of the day, or haggle over local politics which never seems to go out of style.
The Notre-Dame Basilica and the fronting Place d'Armes Square was one of the major tourist draws in the city and we seen more tourists here than anywhere else. Those damn tourists are everywhere ! :)
Sad to say we passed up the opportunity to tour the church as there was a line up and to be honest, we had already seen enough churches on this East Coast tour.
Just a day or two before we had been in the Basilica of St-Anne-de-Beaupre on the outskirts of Quebec City, so seeing one more basilica got moved down the list.
We also toured Chinatown and were surprised to see that the area mainly comprised of 3-4 blocks of pedestrian-turned streets. I'm sure the area spread out in all directions to some extent, but it seemed like a very contained space. In our home town of Vancouver, Canada, the Chinatown extends outwards for blocks in all directions. Vancouver has the second largest Chinatown in North America, after San Francisco, so it was a bit of a surprise to see such a small part of the city dedicated as an Asian nighbourhood..
However, we also know the bakers in any Chinatown are first rate and we hopped into one of the local bakeries for a warm pork bun for lunch and a cute Angry Bird pastry as a decadent dessert.
On Day 2 or our Montreal exploring we ventured further afield and took the Metro to the prestigious area of Mont-Royal. This is west of downtown Montreal but at one time was one of the wealthy suburbs of young Montreal. The park pictured above is a nice expanse of greenery in an expensive part of the city, but you have to wonder why this green belt was not developed years ago.
A Historical placard advises that there was an exhibition grounds and a horse racing track here in the late 1800s. Seems like the city kept the historical land as a park rather than sell off the land. Good on them !
Mont-Royal is still a desired area of the city to live in but it looks like time is starting to take hold of the neighbourhood. For such a treasured part of the city, one that I have heard of for many years, the infrastructure of the area is suffering and takes away from the charm of the community. Sidewalks with big chunks missing making it a hazard to walk along, and streets that require TLC to once again become appealing to residents and tourists were evidence of a part of the city that needs more attention to live up to it's prestige.
On the plus side, many store windows boasted views like this, so it was easy to overlook the slow decay of the area. Except if you were walking and eating and twisted your ankle in one of those sidewalk pot holes. Grrrrr
Our last visit was to Montreal Olympic Park built for the 1976 Summer Olympics.
The park is smaller than I thought it would be but it still held a surprising number of stadiums designed for specific venues.
While many of the venues are closed and are only open for specific events, we still wanted to visit the park to see what it was like. One of the things I wanted to do was ascend the Observation Tower which provided a spectacular view of Metro Montreal. While the weather did not look bad, just slightly overcast, the admissions personnel advised us that there was fog cover over much of Montreal, including the downtown core. That meant even if we had paid for the fare to go up the tower, we wouldn't see anything. So .. sadly, we crossed that off our bucket list of things to do.
Also on our to-see list was the Biodome located in the Olympic Park. In the Biodome they have recreated 4 ecosystems found in North America. But alas, the Biodome was closed for renovations. not to re-open until late 2019.
We ran out of places to visit at the Olympic Park, still we were glad we took the time to come and visit the area as we had all watched the 1976 Summer Games on TV and cheered for our own Canadian teams. It was a bit of history relived for us.
This is the last picture of our East Coast Adventure - catching the Metro under the Olympic Village to head back to our hotel.
Tomorrow we would be up an some ungodly hour and on our way to the airport to hop on a plane and head back home to Vancouver.
This was an 18 day trip for us and while it seemed long, the time went fast and we packed a lot of travel and a lot of sight seeing into those 18 days.
We started in New York, hopped a cruise ship and visited Bar Harbor in Maine, Portland in Maine, then crossed over into Canadian waters and visited St. John, New Brunswick, then Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and ended our sea voyage in Quebec City.
A train ride to Montreal brought us to our last city on the itinerary.
Except for New York, which Ken and Linda had visited previously, this was new territory for us and I think we all enjoyed the easy pace of the trip. A few hectic days in New York, then a relaxing 11 day cruise with one city per day, then a brief spurt in Montreal at the end was a good way to stretch out the vacation.
For me, the takeaway was a chance to see and experience a lot of the name places which had only been in Social Study and geography books when we talked about the early days of North America and in particular Canada.
The West Coast of Canada is the youngest part of Canada, it was good to visit the older provinces where much of Canada's history resides.
Thanks for coming along on our East Coast Adventure, more adventures to come I'm sure !
The complete set of Montreal pictures can be seen here on my Flickr web site.
Do pay the web site a visit, all my complete sets of this and previous adventures reside there