Our Therapeutic Winter Trip To Montreal, Canada

A rather unsettling news broke in the first week of December last year. Since then,  I have not managed to live a completely normal life. All the positive things that have happened in the last two months have been overshadowed by massive disappointments and frustrations. This is the reason why I haven't written anything since the first of January. But today, I was reminded of our trip to Canada so I decided to write about it before the winter ends. It was actually J's company trip, but I asked if I could tag along as I have never been to Canada before. 

And so we flew out of Heathrow at 1300 on a Monday and arrived in Montreal at 1500 on the same day. It was already dark when we arrived at our hotel, and I was tired so I decided to stay locally whilst J went out to dinner with his colleagues. 

As this trip was work for J, I was left to explore Montreal on my own. My first destination was the Old Town as recommended by J's boss. I only explored places that I could walk to and luckily, most of the historical landmarks in Montreal are within walking distance from our hotel. 

My first impression of Montreal however was not a positive one at all. It seemed like to me, a very big construction site. Walking from our hotel, I saw ongoing construction works left and right. It wasn't until I hit Rue McGill that I started to appreciate Montreal. I finally saw limestone buildings. I didn't have any itinerary as such so I walked towards St Jacques. At 0900, the streets were quiet. It was not the typical rush hour that I am used to. The streets however, were lined with cars. I wandered aimlessly until I saw the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Its unassuming facade did not give me a hint of what was to be expected inside. It's basically the most beautiful church interior I have ever seen. The intricate design of the altar, with its magnificent wood carvings, religious themed statues, exquisite columns and the calming blue lighting make the Basilica so breathtakingly beautiful. Add to that the imposing Pulpit, the Great Casavant Organs and the stained glass windows. There are also two prayer rooms in the church- the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur. I visited the church three times whilst I was in Montreal, and each experience was unique, and definitely worth the $8 entrance fee. Basilique Notre-Dame De Montreal is a true definition of sheer grandeur.

From the Basilica, I walked towards Rue Saint-Paul, the oldest street in Montreal. The street is lined with charming boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and cafes.  Perhaps because it was winter when we visited Montreal, there was not many tourists in sight. In fact, there were more cars parked on the streets than people walking. On top of the street, I found Marche Bonsecours which is basically a public market. Nearby, I also found the Nelson's Column (similar to that of Trafalgar Square in London) and the Montreal City Hall. I also went back to this part of Montreal at least three times during our stay.

One day during this trip, my friend Claire kindly took me around, so I was able to see more of Montreal. We walked to the Old Port where their own version of the Big Ben and the London Eye are found. The Montreal Clock Tower serves as a memorial to the Canadian sailors who died during the First World War (wikipedia). Behind the tower is Jacques Cartier Bridge which is even more beautiful when lit at night. The Montreal Observation Wheel (La Grade Roue de Montreal) is apparently the tallest observation wheel in Canada. 

Since we were both up for a long walk, we decided to walk from the Old Port to Downtown Montreal. The almost half an hour walk took us to another church which is a smaller version of St Peter's Basilica in Rome- the Cathedral of Mary Queen of the World (Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde). This church is oozing with so much charm and delicate design, so it shouldn't be missed when visiting Montreal.

Then it was time to walk up to Mount Royal Lookout (Parc du Mont-Royal)for the most talked about panoramic view of Montreal. The incline and more or less than 250 steps of the grand stairs of Mount Royal was absolutely worth it. The view is truly stunning from up there.

On our way down from the lookout, it started to snow much to my excitement. I really prayed that it would snow during our stay in Montreal, and it did. By the time we reached our final destination of the day, it was dark and snowing rather hard. But the snow made the experience even more beautiful. So, we took a shuttle bus to Saint Joseph's Oratory - the largest church in Canada. The church gave an impression of Sacre Coeur in Paris. What I really loved about Saint Joseph's Oratory is its history. There is a shrine inside the church where lies the heart of Saint Brother Andre- the founder of the church. Apparently, Brother Andre requested his heart to be kept inside the Basilica for its protection. Brother Andre was believed to have healing powers. Inside the church, I saw hundreds of walking sticks displayed on the walls that belonged to people who were apparently healed. If you have been to the church and have forgotten to say your prayer intentions, don't worry because you can still do it here.

Of course, there are many other places to see and enjoy in Montreal. It all depends on what you are looking for really. 

Where I ate:

1. Crew Collective and Cafe- 360 St Jacques St
Located in an old Royal Bank, this cafe is one of the most elegant cafes I have seen with its grand stairs, beautifully carved high ceilings, expensive looking furniture and classy office spaces.I really loved the worker-friendly atmosphere. I wished they had something like this in London (or perhaps there is one I just haven't found it yet). Anyway, their coffee was very good, too. So yes, visit this cafe when in Montreal.

2. Le Petit Dep- 179 Saint-Paul St W
At one point during this trip, I needed to revise my CV, so I looked for a cafe where I could sit quietly and do this. I found Le Petit Dep along Saint Paul St. It is a very charming cafe and I loved the fact that it was very quiet when I went there. This is where I decided to have my almond croissant.

3. Cafe Tommy- 200 Notre-Dame St W
I definitely went to Cafe Tommy to eat and have a good food experience in Montreal. I say this because I saw people sleeping in the cafe. I mean, they have a drink on their table but yes, sleeping. The place is quite relaxing and the food is great, so perhaps this is why people fall asleep there. Really though, this cafe is pretty. I went there twice during my stay and both times, I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. It can be quite busy though.

4. Zibo - 90 Peel St
Whilst J was out to dinner with his colleagues, I dated myself and had dinner at the restaurant next door to our hotel- Zibo. I ordered the grilled beef bavette plus 3 grilled shrimps ($33) to satisfy my cravings for meat and some seafood. The food didn't disappoint to say the least.

5. Holder- 407 Rue McGill
It has become my habit to treat myself to a fancy restaurant whenever I am tagging along with J. This is so I can experience this kind of dining in different places. For Montreal, I chose Holder because it was the closest restaurant I could find from where I was at that time. The restaurant was very noisy (which they don't deny on their website) and I went their for early lunch. What more in the evening? Anyway, the food was tasty and rich,  and the service was professional. I had the heartwarming French onion soup ($12.25) for starter, and the perfectly cooked and seasoned duck confit ($23.25) for mains. 

6. Sammi and Soupe Dumpling - 1909 Saint-Catherine St W
My friend took me to this Chinese restaurant and perhaps, it's one of the best soup dumplings I've ever tasted. The restaurant is non-pretentious and the food tasted very authentic. The service was efficient and friendly. We ordered their classic juicy pork dumplings ($11.70 for 10 pcs) and  shrimp coriander dumplings ($19.50 for 10 pcs). Really delicious.

So there. I was really glad I went with J because Montreal took my worries away, albeit temporarily. I truly enjoyed wandering around the cobblestone streets of the Old Town and admiring the grey limestone historical buildings and quaint cafes and shops. 

What I realised is that Montreal has its own unique beauty which lies within its Old Town and churches. I liked Montreal because despite all the wonderful things that it offers, it is modest and friendly.

Tin x


Popular posts from this blog

2018, Thank You For The Roller Coaster Ride!

The Southern Clifftop Track and Whitireia Walkways in Porirua

Afternoon Tea in London: My Experiences in 2022