Tag Archive | Montreal

Two Buildings in One Day

Canada #43 Montréal

Two buildings – one we plan to visit, one we find by chance; one religious, the other administrative; both located in Old Montréal.

Notre-Dame Basilica, with its twin towers named Perseverance and Temperance, dominates Place d’Armes square. It’s only mid-morning but already there’s a noisy crowd outside, indicative of the 11 million people who visit every year.

Once inside, everyone is silenced by their surroundings, their gaze drawn upwards. The vaulted ceilings and sanctuary glow, richly ornamented in jewel colours and gold leaf.

Wooden carvings, paintings and statues fill every space. The stained glass windows portray people and events from Montréal’s religious history.

Not far away on Notre-Dame Street is Montréal City Hall.

Here there is no crowd. The doors are open and visitors are warmly welcomed. A free guided tour starts in the Hall of Honour where portraits of the city’s Mayors are proudly hung. In the Council Chambers, walnut panels line the walls and more stained glass windows depict scenes of Montréal.

Outside, on the sunny deck where staffers gather in their lunch break, there are raised garden beds. Meant to provide a relaxing pastime for council workers and also to encourage bees and insects, they’re overflowing with summer crops ready to be donated to food banks.

Two buildings – both designated National Historic Sites of Canada; both keepers of stories of the city and people they serve; both worth a visit.

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Built on Faith

Canada #42 Montréal

By definition, an oratory is a small roadside chapel open to travellers for private worship. Brother André Bessette and his colleagues founded an oratory fitting this description on Mount Royal in Montréal in 1904. The chapel still stands today and the small rooms occupied by Brother André have been left as they were when he lived there as caretaker.

Nearby is a much larger building, also called an oratory and founded by Brother André. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is a Roman Catholic basilica and the largest church in Canada.

Brother André was well-known as a healer and, as stories of miraculous recovery spread, devotees flocked to his chapel. He attributed these miracles to Saint Joseph and a larger crypt church dedicated to the saint was completed in 1917.  Construction then began on the basilica in 1924 and it opened in 1967. Today Saint Joseph’s Oratory is visited each year by more than two million people.

After Brother André died in 1937 at the age of 91 the miracles continued. In 2010, he was formally canonised as Saint André of Montréal. A display in the entrance to the church depicts the story of his life of dedication, while his black marble tomb stands in the Votive Chapel where pilgrims and visitors may pay their respects.

Outside the basilica, the Garden of the Way of the Cross provides another opportunity for quiet contemplation. The 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the last day of Jesus Christ are represented by beautiful sculptures located throughout the garden.

While the oratory has become much more than that simple wayside chapel, its purpose as a peaceful place of worship remains the same.

 

Into the Blue

Canada #41 Montréal

A ferris wheel is always a fun way to get a different perspective on a city and La Grande Roue de Montréal is no exception. At a height of 60 metres it is the tallest observation wheel in Canada, with 360° views – on a clear day up to a distance of 28 kilometres.

Centrally located in the Old Port of Montréal on Bonsecours Basin, the wheel is perfectly positioned. On one side passengers see the mighty St Lawrence River flowing towards the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.

On the opposite side, they look down on playgrounds for both children and adults at Voiles en Voiles, a pirate themed high ropes course, and the Tyrolienne zipline, where adventurers soar over the calm waters of the basin.

The Bonsecours Market building, surrounded by the stately buildings of the old city, is distinguished by its tall silver dome. Beyond it, the city of Montréal is a seamless blend of old and modern architecture.

On a warm summer’s day, a ride on La Grande Roue is the perfect way to see the city of Montréal.

 

Joining in Becky’s Blue Squares in July

Over, Under and Back Again

Canada #40 Montréal

As we explored the streets of downtown Montréal, we often caught glimpses of the elegant curves and contrasting geometric patterns of Jacques-Cartier bridge.

Built in 1930, the bridge spans the St Lawrence River and is 3,425.6 metres long. Originally named the Harbour Bridge, it was renamed in 1934 in honour of the French explorer Jacques Cartier, commemorating his first voyage along the St Lawrence River 400 years before.

With more than 35.8 million vehicles using the bridge every year, it is the third busiest in Canada and it’s not restricted to cars and buses. A sidewalk on one side of the bridge caters for pedestrians and cyclists while on the opposite side there’s a pedestrian only walkway. With amazing views of the river and the city, we knew this was going to be a walk with a difference.

Our walk began on the approach viaduct, where only a low cement wall separated us from five lanes of traffic. At the start, the sidewalk seemed as busy as the road. We had to be careful to stay on the right and listen for the warning bells as cyclists came up behind us.

Further along it became less busy, as those on bicycles hurtled past and regular walkers hurried on their way. We dawdled, admiring the views of the city, picking out familiar landmarks and watching as ferries and boats passed far below.

The views above us, of the huge steel trusses crosshatched against the blue sky, were equally as impressive.

Around the halfway mark where the bridge passes over St Helen’s Island, we came to a doorway leading to a staircase. We assumed the steps would take us down to ground level where we expected to find a corresponding staircase in the opposite pylon.

Instead, the steps went down just one level. An enclosed walkway one floor below the road was decorated with a colourful timeline of the bridge’s construction. Again we took our time, learning more about the history of the bridge.

At the far end, we climbed up the stairs to the pedestrian only sidewalk. With no need to keep an eye out for cyclists, we could stop at any time to enjoy more views of the river and the city. From our elevated position we heard the screams of people on the rollercoasters at a nearby fun park.

As we left the bridge and walked once more along the approach viaduct, we stopped and turned back for one last look. Luckily, with an pedestrian underpass nearby, we didn’t have to brave the traffic to cross the road!

 

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Let’s Go Shopping!

Canada #39 Montréal

With fresh produce of all sorts in bountiful supply in Canada, it’s no surprise to find wonderful markets everywhere. While St Lawrence Market in Toronto has been declared the world’s best food market, Jean-Talon Market in Montréal lays claim to being one of North America’s largest open air food markets.

Located since 1933 in the Little Italy district of Montréal, this market is open all year round. In summer the stalls are filled to capacity by more than 300 vendors. Fresh seasonal produce sold by local farmers is complemented by delicious treats from bakers, butchers and fishmongers and stallholders selling cheeses, spices and international foods.

With such a wide selection shoppers take their time, sometimes seeming almost perplexed by the choices on offer.

There is even a book shop dedicated to recipe books; when the decisions are finally made, there’s a good chance of enjoying a delicious meal later in the day.

Competition can be fierce among the vendors and samples of food are on offer at most stalls. Visitors can easily eat their way around the market, tasting everything from freshly harvested berries to aged salami.

At one stall, the farmer is happy to discuss the difference in sweetness in his two varieties of corn and shares a piece of each, hot and steaming straight from the pot.

Along with all the food sellers there are stalls packed with cut flowers and potted plants.

Flowers of all varieties are ready to take home to decorate the table or the garden, while other plants offer more edible options.

Some even boast of their ability to repel unwanted visitors. Mosquitos, squirrels and cats beware!

With an abundance of wonderful food at Jean-Talon Market, there’s no need to leave hungry.

 

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Behind the Walls

Canada #38 Montréal

What was behind those high white walls on Rue Saint-Catherine? With no signs to indicate what was inside and more people entering than leaving, we were curious to find out what the walls were hiding.

A few steps inside revealed a diverse display of art works in a unique minimalist setting. Galerie Blanc is an outdoor exhibition space, free and accessible all year round and open both day and night. The exhibition we saw included traditional paintings and sculpture, pop art and intriguing digital designs.

By day, the collection was wonderful. When we returned after dark the illuminated artwork glowed with an added vibrancy.

The characters in the old masters looked ready to walk out of their settings and the modern geometric patterns had an almost kaleidoscopic feel.

The detail in some works demanded close attention while others were better viewed from a distance.

On a warm summer evening and with the gallery open to the night sky we lingered inside the walls. Like the other visitors, we wanted to take our time at this wonderful exhibition.

Seeing Double

Canada #37 Montréal

As we walked through the centre of Montréal on our first afternoon, we met a small green creature with a very broad smile. He was everywhere, on flags and banners, street corners and pedestals. Who was this cute little guy?

We’d arrived in Montréal in time for the last weekend of the annual Just for laughs Festival and our new green friend was Victor, the festival mascot.

We wandered through the Quartier des spectacles where comedians, acrobats, magicians and musicians, surrounded by appreciative audiences, caught our attention.

Later we joined the crowd on Rue St Catherine for the 21st annual Twin Parade. The theme of the parade was A Voyage through Space and we were soon seeing double, with pairs of aliens, astronauts and outer space creatures filling the street.

The parade wasn’t limited to twins. Triplets and even quadruplets were there, and age was no barrier as little ones joined much older participants, all wearing elaborate space age costumes.

With this as our introduction to Montréal, we knew we were going to have a lot of fun.