Pardon, which way to Canada?

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Friday, September 19, 2008

Quebec government might as well have put up a border crossing between the states of Ontario and Quebec they are so different. The biggest difference you notice immediately, besides no one speaking any English, is that the Canadian flags we saw almost all over Ontario, hanging outside every house and big buildings seem to have disappeared. Smaller things like number plates were no longer required on the front of cars, all printed material was in French and if you were lucky there was English below always in a subscript format, two or three font sizes smaller. This reminded me of the Arab world where English could never be written above Arabic. Traffic lights were no longer vertical but now horizontal and all road signs, even Stop signs, were written in French.

There is clearly a relaxed atmosphere in Montreal and it can be seen in the traffic which moves slowly without much incident. All the police officers we saw wore jeans as part of their uniforms and even their shirts looked tailored. This truly was a miniature more chilled out version of Paris and many times I'd stop and notice a fountain or metro stop that looked like a Parisian replica. Over to Inge-Marie for a more detailed account of our visit to Montreal.

IMH: The province of Quebec is renowned for good food and socialising is high on the agenda. As we only spent two nights (i.e. one day) in Montreal, we cannot say we did the food and night scene justice, but luckily the apartment we rented was in Downtown Montreal where everything is 'going down' and we felt part of the buzz from our terrace with a delicious supermarket bought budget (but healthy) dinner and delicious wine we bought in Niagara. We had to catch-up on the blog as we were terribly far behind, even as far as Europe, thus the time spent on the terrace. It got quite cold (11 degrees Celsius), but as mentioned, we had good company - great wine and lively, noisy youngsters singing and chatting excitedly on the street on their way out. We were even treated to a lovely Pakistani dish by the apartment owner, Javed, who grew up in Dubai and now lives with his family in Montreal. He's am investment banker turned chef and we were fortunately enough to be spoilt to some of his delicious samosas and chaat

Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) boasts the 'mountain of Montreal' and is a leafy playground and we encountered many locals cycling, jogging or picnicking in the park. Apparently this park is great for cross-country skiing and tobogganing in the winter. We hiked-up, appreciating the beautiful lush trees changing colour on route to the look-out point with beautiful views of the city. As it is quite a big park there is two look-out points over the city, but we unfortunately could not find the second point as the directions was very poor and all in French.

Montreal hosts a world famous Jazz festival in June each year and I can just imagine how the city, especially the Downtown area buzzed during that time. We were told that the entire street we stayed in, St. Catherine - which is one of the main streets, are blocked-off to form the entertainment area. Our apartment's terrace must be great for rooftop views!

As it is absolutely freezing in winter, an underground mall has been built in Downtown Montreal. It contains everything most malls have and even feels like a normal mall. It is very big and locals tell us that you don't even have to surface from shopping in winter if you don't want to, everything is linked. Amazing!

Montreal's old city is filled with history, which I'm sure they would have preferred to be only French, with original cobbled streets in some areas. We decided to do a self-directed walking-tour of the historic sites, cathedrals and old harbour. Two churches stood out and was truly special, the Cathédrale Marie-Rue-du-Monde, which was modelled after St Peter's Bastilica in Rome, but much smaller and of course the hugely impressive Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. This Basilica is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture and was completed in 1829. This church, to me, has been the biggest surprise of Montreal. The rest of the walk was a great way to soak-up the vibrant Montreal ambiance.

Our last stop in Montreal before departing for Quebec City was a fresh food market, the Atwater Marche where we stocked-up on some local produce such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, pates and 100% maple syrup.
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