Day 65 – Sunday June 24, 2007 – Montreal, Quebec
Yes, since Montreal is still in the province Québec, French is the primary language here. Unlike Québec City though, English is definitely more prevalent. We spent the night in Laval, Québec, just outside the city of Montreal. I was excited when we were able to book the Radisson here for less than it cost for the uncomfortable hostel beds in Québec City. After a little research, I found out that the Montreal Metro (subway) had a station about a mile from our hotel. We decided to take the subway into the city in lieu of our car.
After a twenty-five minute ride, we exited the subway in the financial district of downtown Montreal. Without much planned, we quickly found a tourist information center in order to get more information. The tourist information centers here in Canada are among the best I have seen. They are very well organized and the people are incredibly friendly. After a few minutes of talking, the guide gave me a map and explained some of the places that we might want to see in our limited time. In following his advice, we would walk through the financial district, around Chinatown, into the Old City and eventually emerge at the Old Port.
One thing that we noticed right away, was that downtown Montreal has a Catholic Cathedral on almost every block. These buildings are all very elaborate and beautiful as well. The one we were most interested in seeing, was the Notre Dame Basilica, which is a replica of the one in Rome. In order to reach it, we would have to walk through the tall buildings of the abandoned (It was Sunday) financial district. The Notre Dame is stunning on the outside. Since admission would’ve set us back $10, we decided against going inside. What has the world come to when they start charging to see a church? Oh well!
After seeing the Notre Dame Basilica from the outside, we walked through the very busy outdoor market in Chinatown. We made quick work of it though, since most of the items on sale were junk and overpriced. When we emerged from Chinatown, the scenery changed quickly to the charming architecture of Old Town. The architecture is similar to that of Québec City, but the buildings seem to use much more brick.
At the end of the Old City is the river’s shore and the Old Port. Everyone in the city seemed to hang out at the port, as it was very crowded. With such beautiful weather, I can’t really blame them. The real reason that I said everyone must’ve been at the port, is that all of the retail stores in the city are closed on the weekends. It was eery to drive through the area by our hotel and see all of the retail establishments completely abandoned. Even Walmart was closed!
Back at the port now, we walked around for about 30 minutes before deciding to head back to the Metro in order to go out to St. Helen’s Island. When we arrived at St. Helen’s Island, it took a while to get our bearings straight. The island is made completely of land fill, as they used the dirt excavated during the initial construction of the Metro in the 1960’s. The island is perhaps most famous for hosting the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair. Much of the infrastructure from the World’s Fair still exists, including La Ronde, a theme park on the far north end of the island. Initially, we walked around the island for about thirty minutes and saw the biosphere (one of the World’s Fair Pavilions), a vibrantly colored rose garden and even a busy aquatic center. After a while, we decided to head to La Ronde, since it is now owned by Six Flags and thus is included with our season passes. Oh the joy! By the time we reached La Ronde (about a thirty minute walk from the Metro station) it was 4pm. The plan was to spend a few hours there before hopping on the subway back to the hotel.
La Ronde has seen better days, but it certainly provided a few hours of fun. (Especially since we didn’t have to pay admission.) After riding as many roller coasters as possible, we finally left the park at 10pm and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we are going to take a scenic drive through Vermont and upstate New York before crossing back into Canada and settling down in Toronto for the night. Tuesday, we will finally see the infamous Niagara Falls. Today turned out to be a long exhausting day. In the end, we walked about 6 or 7 (maybe more) miles and from door to door were gone about 14 hours. I think we will survive, as long as we don’t have to do it again for the next few days! Talk to you soon.
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The Coomer Family