Aside from my passion to travel, I love learning new things. Recently I have started taking French language classes online and I was so eager putting my (minimal) French to practice, such that I impulsively included a detour stop over at Montreal, Quebec, from my original Los Angeles to Chicago route. Aside from my (over)confidence that I will be able to talk fluently with the locals, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had enough air miles to cover my additional trip. I took it as a sign and next thing I know, I was already booking my accommodations too within that one sitting. I chose a room along Rue St. Denis, near the Jean-Talon Market.
And so one fine day, I bid adieu to my mom, who was vacationing to the US with me, and hopped on a Delta plane from LAX on what would be the start of my first ever solo travel in North America.
Efficient, Reliable Transportation
When I landed at the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, the first thing I looked for was the vending machine where I could purchase the 3-day STM pass for Montreal’s Metro. It cost me $19 and I thought it was such a cool deal because I was able to use it at the 747 bus that brought me from the airport to the AirBnB, and I was able to make full use of it going around exploring Montreal. The Montreal Metro was very easy to navigate, and their timetables were reliable. I also took the 747 bus going back to the airport.
Churches and Cathedrals
The first church on my list that I visited was the Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. From afar, the church was a sight to behold, situated on top of a hill. Though I was quite tired from my very early morning flight, I pushed myself to climb the hill and was able to get a good panoramic view of the neighborhood. I spent about an hour inside, and learned a lot about its history through the printed displays.
The next church I went to was the oldest Catholic church in Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica. I went here on my second day, as I timed it going to the Old Montreal Port. The entrance here was $16, and they only accepted cash. Now I didn’t have Canadian cash with me yet, and it was a relief that they accepted US currency (note that no exchange rates applied). One description I can think of when I think about the Notre Dame Basilica is – magnifique! I was astounded by the interior’s intricacies. The stained glass was a spectacular sight. There were guided tours that ran every 20 minutes or so. I thought the Sacre-Couer was very serene. Taking of photos was not allowed at the Sacre-Couer, and it’s kind of sad that some tourists still took photos anyway….
The Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde, in the heart of downtown, is the last church that I visited in Montreal. I was amazed by the interior of the church – it was vast and had a beautifully painted ceiling. Now, let me digress just a bit: as soon as I got to Montreal, I realized I still have A LOT to learn regarding the French language. I participated in the celebration of mass here, and it was in French. Though I did not understand anything at all during the mass, I’d say the service was very heartwarming and solemn.
A Walk Along the Old Montreal
A visit to Montreal won’t be complete without going to the Old Montreal. It was a lovely stretch of cobble-stoned streets, lined up with little shops, cafes, and historical landmarks. I had a quiet afternoon walk, stopping every once in a while cherishing the quaintness of the place.
One of the buildings that caught my eye because of its grandeur was the City Hall, also referred to as the Hotel de Ville. The first City Hall was built in 1878 and was destroyed by fire on March 3, 1922. The present building was erected on the same site and opened on February 15, 1926. Entrance was free and there were some literature about its history. I was also able to get a glimpse of a courthouse.
Parks and Squares
It was mostly sunny when I visited Montreal, and I loved the vibe and energy of the people around me. My landlady said people would go out and make the most out of sunny days. I would attest to this as I did see a lot of folks on a picnic or just hanging out when I took a stroll through La Fontaine Park. It was a big park with a lake.
Right across the Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde is the Place du Canada and Dorchester Park. I spent time relaxing here, after a day’s walk. It was calming watching squirrels and birds, and the people walk by during rush hour.
Another quaint square is the Phillips Square – perhaps my most favorite of all because of the beautiful flowers that surrounded the place. There were stalls in the square and close by was a Tourist Information centre.
Incredible Street Art
My eyes had a feast of street art which I found in all corners that I went to during my short stay in Montreal. I also saw a lot of the murals and street art along Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
Next time I go back to Canada, I’ll make sure to bring D with me so we can explore Montreal together. There is so much more of the city that I have yet to see for myself, and hopefully by then I would be more proficient on my French. Montreal – ville fantastique – à bientôt!