Oh Canada: Reflections on Montreal


As I journey from Montreal to Quebec City by train I’m caught between reading and gazing out the window at the scenery. The leaves are the beautiful yellows, oranges and reds which make me love fall. Quaint farmhouses dot the landscape; no two are alike. I take this time to reflect on Montreal and what I’m going to write.

My experience was overwhelmingly a good one and it’s hard for me to settle  on just one major theme, so here are some of the highlights.

I don’t know how I’m ever gonna stand at a bus stop in Barbados for more than five minutes again. Yes, I quickly got accustomed to the high level of efficiency that is the metro. I got a three-day pass and it made getting around really easy. It was also a good opportunity to people watch and overhear the conversations of students, grandparents and businesspeople. When they were in English that is.

Ah yes,the French influence. I was a little nervous since I dropped French in third form at school. I can recognise common words but anything beyond basic conversation would’ve been a challenge. However, most people readily switched to English and they were generally very helpful.

Whenever I got out the metro station and my directionally challenged nature kicked in (despite Google Maps), they were more than happy to point me the right way or send me to someone who could. Like when I went in search of a restaurant called La Banquise for poutine. Fries, gravy and cheese doesn’t sound appetizing and when I tried it last year I didn’t love it but this? This was amazing. It had pulled pork, coleslaw and sour cream.

Like many people who have visited Montreal before, I loved the European vibe of the sidewalk cafes, the cobblestone streets of the old town and the abundance of flowers. Also the weather was nice, not at all like what was to come in Quebec City.

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Jacques-Cartier Place

Montreal caleche ride, carriage ride

flowers in old montreal

old montreal
Jacques-Cartier Place

It’s interesting how Catholic churches are such a big attraction in Quebec even though organised religion isn’t popular there at all now. I think I went to about four or five churches, cathedrals and basilicas between Montreal and Quebec City. Most were part of organised tours but I went to St Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal on my own.

St Joseph's Oratory
St Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal

Founded in 1904, it’s the largest shrine in the world dedicated to the saint of “everyday life”. There are 99 steps reserved for pilgrims who climb them on their knees, an exercise done to share the pain of Jesus Christ on the cross. While I was there, only one man was doing it.

St Joseph oratory pilgrim
A pilgrim climbing the steps of St Joseph’s Oratory on his knees.

The grounds were lovely and the Votive Chapel was very serene at least until some loud visitors came in.

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St Joseph’s Oratory gardens
st joseph's oratory candles
The Votive Chapel

There are several walking sticks and crutches reportedly left behind by people who were healed by the Oratory’s founder Brother Andre during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

brother andre miracles
Crutches and walking sticks left behind by those healed.

Of course I did a museum visit and I chose Pointe-à-Callière which is an archaeology museum situated on the very site where Montreal was born.  Several archaeological remains have been left intact and incorporated with modern displays.

pointe a calliere museum
Pointe-à-Callière

Overall, Montreal was a mix of things for me. I loved the buzz I picked up which wasn’t present in Ottawa. The food options were endless and the shopping was good. Speaking of shopping, I was in XXII (as Forever 21 is branded there) and a Vybz Kartel song suddenly came on amid all the random R&B. Needless to say, I was the only shopper visibly amused.

Next stop: Quebec City.

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