Friday, August 9, 2013

The Metropolis of Montreal

The hot days we endured last week have given way to cool ones. Today is downright chilly, with temperatures in the low 60's and overcast skies making it seem even cooler. It was so uncomfortable in fact, that we couldn't make ourselves enjoy lunch at any of the outdoor eateries. It felt good, though, after all the heat.

We're staying in a large, comfortable campground just across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the St. Laurent (as it's called here) River from Vieux-Montreal.

Jacques Cartier Bridge - Built in 1930
Named for the French explorer 1491-1557
The Jacques Cartier Bridge crosses the island of St. Helene in the center of the river. There are off-ramps to Parc Jean-Drapeau on the island.  Originally named the Montreal Harbour Bridge, it was renamed in 1934 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jacques Cartier's first voyage up the St. Lawrence River.

Everything in Quebec (including Montreal),  is French only.  Yes, that includes road construction signs which is a nightmare for English only visitors but the Quebecers don't seem to care.  This is a topic of much discussion in Canada. With enough to worry 'bout in our own country, Wayne and I will leave this debate to the Canadian people but I will include a particularly thorny episode to this debate a little deeper in this post.

We've both been to Montreal previously, but this is our first visit since retirement. We're looking forward to a leisurely time in the old part of the city, particularly.

Lexie (looking this way) and Ozzie.  Silver Bonsecours Market Dome in the background
Bonsecours Market (in the picture above) is a huge complex that opened in 1847 and served as the city hall until 1878. It's all boutiques now.

We're stopped along Place Jacques-Cartier.
An early 19th century marketplace known as one of city's liveliest spots, with artists, street performers and outdoor cafes. 
Montreal's old sections are simply fascinating to me.  This part of the city has cobblestone streets and ancient-old buildings. The city does, in fact, boast itself as being one of the very few large cities in North America to have conserved its 350 year old city center. The first Frenchmen came here in 1642. Many streets are narrow and winding just like they were in the origins of the French colony.

Wayne with Lexie and Ozzie, enjoying a day out in the stroller with pop.

Lord Nelson

The Nelson Column - The oldest public monument in Montreal
Lord Nelson died at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805
 in which the English defeated Napoleon's forces.
It's 169 feet tall - some 14' shorter than it was suppose to have been.
Nearly invisible in the photo, Wayne and the pups are in front.
Look for the white dot (Ozzie's head) - Wayne is to the right.
It seems a bit odd to me that there is a monument to Admiral Lord Nelson here in Montreal. After all, the monument celebrates a British victory over France in a city that is so anti-English. The English did win the war though.  

The monument has indeed been the source of controversy. In 1890, a group plotted to blow it up but did not succeed. In 1930, another group erected a statue in another city square commemorating a French Naval officer who fought during the Seven Years' War. In fact, many Quebecers continue to object to the presence of Lord Nelson's column.  As recent as 1997, the City of Montreal proposed moving the monument to a distant location but public opposition kept it in place. 

I kinda got a kick out of seeing Lord Nelson's column.  After all, the English did win the war.

Oh, I said that already, didn't I?

The inscription on Lord Nelson's column: "In memory of the right honourable Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronte, who terminated his career of Naval glory in the memorable battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October, 1805, after inculcating by signal this sentiment: England Expects Every Man Will Do his Duty. This monument column was erected by the inhabitants of Montreal in the year 1808" 

Cobblestone streets closed to auto traffic.
Makes me think of New Orleans but cleaner.

"Vive le Quebec libre!"

Montreal City Hall
Built 1872-1878. It survived a disastrous fire in 1922.
It was from the balcony of the Old Montreal City Hall (left center of the photo) that French President, General Charles de Gaulle uttered "Vive le Quebec libre!" (Long live free Quebec!). The controversial statement was made in 1967 while he visited Canada under the pretext of attending the Expo taking place here.

The phrase shouted by de Gaulle is still used frequently by Quebecers who continue to favor Quebec sovereignty.

President de Gaulle's statement sparked a diplomatic incident between France and Canada and was condemned by Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who said "Canadians do not need to be liberated". Even in France, de Gaulle's speech was condemned in the French media. Over four decades later, it is still seen as a seminal moment in English and French Canadian relations and politics. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Notre Dame Basilica

Such an awe inspiring building: This church's Gothic revival architecture ranks high in the most dramatic anywhere.  Notre Dame Basicica's interior is painted dark blue and decorated with golden stars. The deep blue, azure, red, purple, silver and gold sanctuary is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and statues.

Unlike most churches (Catholic or otherwise), the stained glass windows do not depict scenes from the Bible. Instead, there are religious scenes from Montreal's past. 

Notre Dame Basilica

Old Port of Montreal

A close look at the photo below reveals two buildings with a monument in front of the one on the right. The monument, erected in 1908, is of John Young, the first Chairman of Montreal's Port Commission and was responsible for most of the development in the mid-1800's.  He is considered the "Father of the Port"

L: Harbour Commissioners Building - Completed in 1878
R: Allen Building and statue of Hon. John Young

Mount Royal

At the Mount Royal overlook
In addition to the oldest sections of Montreal, we wanted to explore nearby Mount Royal, a hill in the city of Montreal, immediately west of downtown. The hill is part of the Monteregian Hills situated between the Laurentians and the Appalachians. Near the summit, an overlook provides a spectacular view of Montreal.

The view from the roadside pull-out (without binoculars) in the photo below:

Montreal's Biodome and the Olympic Stadium

Saint Joseph Oratory

The St. Joseph Oratory and shrine are situated on the west slope of Mount Royal. The basilica is dedicated to Saint Joseph, who so inspired a young Alfred Bessette (whose religious name became Brother Andre in 1874), that he seemed to perform miracles in the name of Saint Joseph, mainly in areas of healing the sick.  Brother Andre never would accept credit for the miracles but gave all credit to Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph's Oratory
Largest church in Canada, third largest dome (of it's kind) in the world.
Construction began in 1924
Like Ottawa last week, Montreal this week was a joy.  Next week we'll return to one of my favorite places: Quebec City.  Join us if you'd like.


  1. You have certainly captured some great photos!! The nice part also is that there doesn't seem to be too many people around! You have hit these places just right and the dialogue is perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh, Oh! I forgot to sign my comment, didn't I? Well, ole forgetful me - MS from Ohio.

    1. Yeah, you're getting senile. Me too. That guy in the center of the last photo is not Wayne, by the way. Don't know who he was but he sure was positioned in just the right spot to ruin that photo, eh?

  3. You were surprised at the sight of Nelson's column in Montreal. You really must read its history.Montreal became English after 1760.