Montreal Old Town

Montreal, the capital city of French speaking Quebec seems to have a nice mixture of North American culture, along with a clear European feeling. Its coat of arms features a red cross on a white background with an English Rose, Scottish Thistle, Irish Shamrock and a French Fleur de Lis in each of the quadrants. These are the four main nationalities from which the city has developed.

The city area was inhabited for thousands of years by Canadian First Nations people and the first European to arrive was the French fur trader, Samuel de Champlain who established a fur trading post here in 1611. That’s fifty years before the Pilgrim Fathers arrived on the Mayflower in New Plymouth! In 1639, Jérôme le Royer de la Dauversière established a Jesuit mission there and that was the start of the city. The city was incorporated in 1832 (about the same time as Melbourne was founded), however with its history as a trading centre, and a series of Indian conflicts, colonial wars and massacres, it has a much longer history.

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We spent our first day here roaming around the old town which was the area of first settlement and the original walled town on the St Lawrence Waterway.

There are some interesting points about Montreal. It is a modern city with a number of clearly different neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character. As the winters are significantly cold, over 32 kms of underground shops streets and shops have been constructed to allow people to move from buildings to subway stations without having to brave snow and blizzards on the surface. Montreal has a modern transportation system and great facilities for its almost 4 million inhabitants.

However, for tourists, it is a little underwhelming. I had anticipated a network of narrow lanes and interesting streets in the old centre,but while it has some nice cobblestoned streets and some classic buildings, there are no real ‘stand-out’ feature with much of a ‘Wow’ factor.

Two of these classic buildings are the Town Hall and the Bon Secours Market building which is now full of boutique shops.

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Like Adelaide, this seems to be a city of churches. There seems to be one on every second bock. Just next door to our hotel is the very large Cathédrale Marie-Reine-Du-Monde with its large copper dome. It also seems to the home of at least one homeless man who we can see from our hotel room window. He very nimbly shimmies up a drainpipe to reach his sleeping place in the recess of an arched window on the low roof of the nave on the side of the church. Tomorrow we will visit the major church of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

I think that we have caught up with our jet lag now and we are looking forward to the fist day of our tour which starts tomorrow.