01 Oct Bonjour a la Montreal
Author: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos by: Joe Hilbers
5310 Dubois Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Bonjour a la Montreal
By: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos: Joe Hilbers
With a passionate past and the present vibrant and beguiling, Montreal is French Canada with a North American culture and European charm. An eclectic bilingual metropolis, it is mostly French, yet English is spoken everywhere. The traditions and ethnic cultures are an engaging blend that have influenced cuisines, fashion, and the arts.
The largest island in an archipelago on the St. Lawrence River, Montreal is synonymous with the mountains, water, and wonderful parks. An outdoor activity paradise can be found throughout the four very distinctive seasons that shape Montreal’s “soul.” Year round Montreal beckons with sights and attractions. In winter it is the ultimate playground with paths designed for cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, dog sledding, snow-mobiling and there are 164 outdoor ice skating rinks.
The history of Montreal dates back to the Iroquois settlement of Hochelaga, first sighted by French explorer Jacques Cartier when he sailed up the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in 1535. Founded a century later in 1642 by Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, the French settlement soon turned into the fur-trading capital of North America.
Montreal remained a French possession until the English captured the city in 1760. The country of Canada was created in 1867, and Montreal developed into an international city.
Set between Mont-Royal and historic Old Montreal, it is one of the most vibrant cosmopolitan areas of the city.
Underground City is virtually a city within the city with 22 miles of climate-controlled subterranean pedestrian malls. Along its corridors are boutiques, cinemas, restaurants, museums, and hotels all connected by The Metro, a sophisticated subway system. Place des art is Montreal’s main center for the performing arts home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Opera de Montreal, McGill Chamber Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets Canadians, Metropolitan Orchestra, and three theaters. Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal at the edge of Place des Arts, is a treasure trove of exhibits devoted exclusively to Contemporary Art .McGill University was founded by a bequest from James Mc Gill, a Montreal fur trader. McGill received its charter in 1821 from King George IV, and classes commenced in 1829. The downtown campus comprises more than 80 buildings on 80 acres of land.
Saint Catherine Street’s boutiques and stores on this main shopping artery, attest to Montreal’s reputation as a fashion capital. Montreal Botanical Gardens is one of the most important in the world, has 30 gardens with the largest bonsai and penjing collection outside Asia. Also on the grounds is the unique Insectarium with thousands of insects.
Old Montreal- “Vieux Montreal,” and the Old Port, is where the past, undeniably French, is preserved. Horse drawn carriages, “caleche”, clip-clop down narrow flower-bedecked cobblestone streets, as cast iron fleur-de-lis lamp-posts light the way.
City Hall, built between 1872 and 1878, reopened in 1926 after a fire destroyed the original building. The grandiose marble Hall of Honor is illuminated with bronze lights, and large copper photos of all the mayors line the walls. Place Jacques Cartier is an outdoor gallery center and entertainment site, featuring street artists, jugglers, and mimes. Saint Paul & Rue de la Commune Streets is the area where buildings and warehouses from the 19th century have been renovated to homes, boutiques and art studios. The street has inviting restaurants, busy nightclubs and jazz clubs. Notre Dame Bascilica a Gothic Revival masterpiece built between 1824 and 1829, calls the faithful to worship with a 12-ton bell. The basilica features a huge altar surrounded by woodcarvings, sculptures, rose stained-glass windows and paintings. It is the site of important religious ceremonies, and classical concerts.
Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History-Pointe-A-Calliere is a fabulous museum with a 17th century cemetery and an amazing walk through the city’s foundation. A multimedia show gives an overview of the city’s history, while conversations with 17th century Montrealers are made possible via holographs. Biodome crosses 4 eco systems, the subpolar region, the cool Laurentian forest, the hot, humid tropical forest and the depths of the St. Lawrence River.
Plateau Mount-Royal is the heart and soul of Montreal, comparable to the “hip” areas of other great cities. Boutiques with one of a kind fashion designers define Montreal. The area has many painted row houses with outside wrought-iron staircases.
Mont Royal Avenue is one of the three main arteries of the Plateau with boutiques and cafes, and a new public square. Young Canadian designer boutiques on Rue Crescent and Rue de la Montagne, near Rue Sherbrook (Montreal’s Fifth Avenue) are housed in elegant town houses.
Saint-Laurent Boulevard is the “meeting place” between the Anglophone community on the west and the Francophone community on the East. The avenue is famous as the in place for “night owls”.
Mount Royal set in the center of Montreal, and cherished by Montrealers, reigns above the city. The magnificent forested park was designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of New York’s Central Park). Winter activities include cross-country skiing and ice skating on Beaver Lake.
University of Montreal is Quebec’s largest university, home to 50,000 students. The main building replete in Art Deco was completed in 1943. Saint Joseph’s Oratory built in 1924 topped by a copper dome reaching 320 feet, is one of the world’s most visited shrines. The mountainside Bascilica is a place where miraculous cures have been attributed. There are 300 steps to the Bascilica entrance.
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Germain located at 2050 rue Mansfield has the subdued ambiance of luxury and tranquility that soothes and stimulates the senses. This boutique hotel in the heart of the city has loft type, double rooms and suites that are warm and well appointed, along with a perfect continental breakfast served each morning. For reservations phone +1-514-849-2959 or www.germainhotels.com
Montreal is the Gastronomic capital of the world with a superb variety of culinary specialties. Highlights include: Gibby’s 298 Place de Yorkville; La Rotonde 185 Sainte-Catherine Street W; and Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli, a Jewish landmark and popular hangout at 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
For more information contact:
Tourisme Montreal at 1-877-BONJOUR or visit their website at: www.mtl.org