O Canada, Terre de nos aïeux
Early Tuesday morning, June 20 we left our fifth wheel home at Lake Carmi, Vermont and headed for the Quebec Canadian border. The border crossing was less than five miles from the campground with Montreal an hour and twenty minutes away. The Canadian border agent asked if we had any weapons, which we had none, and the purpose of our trip. I explained we wanted to visit Montreal for the day and return the same day back to the U.S. After a brief five minute stop we proceeded on our way navigating the back roads of Southern Quebec reading the French Canadian signage.
Our navigation system was working but we had no idea where we wanted to park the truck once we arrived in the city. Fortunately we spotted a ? Highway sign (Canadian for an Information office) so we stopped before Montreal and met two lovely and helpful young ladies who spoke English. They provided us with all the maps, brochures and information we needed to get to the downtown Montreal information office. We sighed a collective "Hallelujah and Praise the Lord" before hitting the road again.
Downtown Montreal was a mess with road and building construction everywhere. I dropped Karen off at the Montreal (?) Tourism office and drove around looking for a place to park. Downtown parking for a big truck is impossible. I picked Karen up and headed towards the waterfront on a lark and we managed to find a parking lot on the St. Lawrence River near the marina facility and science museum that could accommodate our one ton pick-up truck. From there it was a short walk to the nearest GrayLine ON/OFF double-decker red tour bus stop to start our initial city visit.
The bus tour covered the city well and took over two hours. We like this service because it gives us the geographic and historic overview of the city. Montreal is home to over one hundred ethnicities. The largest European ancestries in Montreal include French (26%), Italian (7%), Irish (6%), English (4%), Scottish (3%) and Spanish (2%). About 31% of the Montreal population belong to a visible minority, up dramatically from just 5% in 1981.
Montreal is the second most populous city in Canada and the most populous city in the province of Quebec. Founded in 1642 as Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill around which the early city of Ville-Marie is built. The city is centered on the Island of Montreal, which obtained its name from the same origin as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. The city is 122 miles east of the national capital Ottawa, and 160 miles southwest of the provincial capital, Quebec City.
As of 2021, the city had a population of 1,762,949, and a metropolitan population of 4,291,732, making it the second-largest city, and second-largest metropolitan area in Canada. French, of course, is the city's official language.
We started looking for a restaurant not far from Notre-Dame Basilica in the historic district of Old Montreal, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The church is located at 110 Notre-Dame Street West, at the corner of Saint Sulpice Street.
We walked to the Place Jacques-Cartier, a square just south of Nelson's Column (French: Colonne Nelson), a monument designed by Scottish architect Robert Mitchell and erected in 1809 in Place Jacques-Cartier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which is dedicated to the memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Montreal's pillar now stands as the second-oldest "Nelson's Column" in the world, after the Nelson Monument in Glasgow. It is also the city's oldest monument and is the oldest war monument in Canada. I found it ironic; a British Admiral monument in a French speaking Canadian Province? I found out later that the monument is controversial among some French Canadians in Montreal, who perceive it as offensive due to lingering tensions between English Canada and French Canada.
We found a restaurant at Le Senatur on the rue Saint-Paul just two blocks west of Bonsecours Market (French: Marché Bonsecours), at 350 rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal. It is a two-story domed public market that for more than 100 years was the main public market in the Montreal area. It also briefly accommodated the Parliament of United Canada for one session in 1849.
We had a great meal and perfect ending to a beautiful day in Montreal. We walked back to the truck and drove a different route back to the USA by way of New York. No problem getting back into "the States".
We are looking forward to another venture into Canada later in the month to the provincial capital, Quebec City on the Saint Lawrence River. Dating to 1608, it has a fortified colonial core, Vieux-Québec and Place Royale, with stone buildings and narrow streets. This area is the site of the towering Château Frontenac Hotel and imposing Citadelle of Québec. The Petit Champlain district’s cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques. It is the cradle of French America and the only fortified city on the continent north of Mexico. We're looking forward to strolling through the cobblestone streets, visiting the best historic sites, soaking in the region's magnificent heritage, storied past, and European charm.