Magnificent approach to the City

When approaching the city by rail, crossing the magnificent St Lawrence River I was fascinated with the various engineering skills required to build the many railway and road bridges both old and new and the modern skyline of Montreal. The mighty St Lawrence Seaway was also visible, built in the 1950s to allow shipping to access the Great Lakes further south avoiding the Lachine Rapids. The seaway is a watery staircase of huge locks which involves lowering and raising shipping to the height of a 60 storey building.

This modern city lies between the Parc Mont-Royal and the river, which itself is part of a 30 mile long island. The city is beautiful, both old and new, with its old churches. The city was founded by French Catholics in 1642. Old Government buildings contrast with modern buildings including the magnificent Place Des Arts Complex and Musee D’Art Contemporain.

19 miles of shops underground

The most interesting neighbourhoods sprawl along the southern sides of Mont-Royal, the 767ft hill from which the city draws its name. An underground city has been built that links two main railway stations and a shopping mall consisting of a network of 19 miles of shop-lined passages, including 1600 shops, 200 restaurants, film and concert halls. This of course was built to get people away from the extreme winter weather with temperatures as low as -15 to -20 F.

The Big Owe!

Nearby is the very modern Olympic Stadium built for the games in 1976, which includes the world’s tallest ‘inclined tower’. It is known locally as the ‘big owe’ relating to the 695 Million Canadian dollar cost which Montrealers have been paying for in tax since the event.

The old Port and Notre-Dam

The port area looked slightly run down when we visited but had its own charm; there is an ongoing restoration programme. The original port was abandoned when the St Lawrence Seaway was opened in the 1950s. Close by is the old city with some charming shops and the famous Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal, its design inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and its stunning interior – well worth taking the tour round or attending a concert there.

Riviera Du Nord by bike

For the energetic, we didn’t have time, you can cycle from Gare De Saint-Jerome (40 miles north of Montreal on Highway 15) and follow the former railway line, now a cycle trail, for 200 km to Gare De Mont-Laurier, the route offering 13 Gares (former stations) equipped with fresh water and bathrooms, and which follows the beautiful Riviera Du Nord. Bus transportation is available at any stage when your body breaks down.

Please contact me to learn more about Montreal and what I consider to be an excellent itinerary taking in Toronto and Niagara Falls, Montreal and Quebec (possibly Ottawa as well) – all can easily be done by VIA Rail’s excellent services. Or I can plan a Fly Drive itinerary for you. We stayed at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth at Montreal as it conveniently adjoins the main railway station for trains to Quebec and Toronto etc. See separate blog posts on these cities and several Canadian Fairmont Hotels.

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Photo: Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal (RG) 130915


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