Next stop on my Canada trip: Montreal! I took the train from Quebec to Montreal to get the railway experience. Curiously, it felt really slow, so I checked out how long it would take to get to Montreal by car: ~3.5 hours. The train ride? Also ~3.5 hours. I might as well have tried to use Bla Bla Car or some other rideshare platform! Nevertheless, it was a peaceful train ride to Montreal.
Number one activity I recommend is the Botanical Gardens, which includes the Insectarium. It comes with the Biodome as a package deal (I skipped the third package option of the Rio Tinto Planetarium).
I started out in the Biodome, an ultra version of a zoo. Think curated selection of mammals + birds + plants/foliage + temperature. The Amazon Forest was really hot and humid, while the Canadian Forest was cool and breezy. As animals don’t particularly interest me, I went through it pretty fast, although my favorite part was the Amazon Forest ambiance.
The Insectarium highlighted some neat information on insects (and also gave me a fright each time I spotted a photographed or real-live spider!). For example, there are iridescent moths that look like butterflies, but they still retain the moth shape, which is how you identify it as a moth. There was also a huge collection on beetles. In the photo below, they kinda look like buttons or something from afar. I found the ants most interesting. It covered the origins of a colony, and how ants help flowers grow by spreading around the soil. I’m not a botanist though, and that’s basically the extent of my understanding of ants and colonies.
My favorite part: Botanical Gardens! I took way too many photos for gardens that had yet to fully bloom. So summer in Montreal (and Quebec in general) begins when the first day of summer has passed (6/21). It makes a lot more sense now, since summer in Indiana tends to start by early June.
A special exhibition on display at the Montreal Fine Arts Museum, I learned all about Marc Chagall (20th C), a Jewish Russian-French artist with quite a diverse portfolio. He began in painting using Cubism and Fauvism works as his inspiration. Then he used his drawing skills to make sketches of set costumes for ballets (Aleko) and operas (Daphnis Et Chloe), experimented with stained glass (some of his local work exists in the Metro stop McGill), and made ceramics, sculptures, and tapestries.
Another special exhibition (“Love is Love”) on wedding dresses by Jean Paul Gaulthier. Dress highlights include a really long train, half snakeskin/half tulle, and Swarovski crystal decorations.
I checked out the Archaeology Museum which told the history of Montreal: struggles of founder Maissonneuve in growing Montreal, the establishment of hospitals from Jeanne Mance, and the peace Montreal encountered with the First Nations Indians with the Montreal Treaty in 1701. Really neat that I was able to stand on top of the foundations of Montreal.
Mount Royal is a small mountain in Montreal. There’s a theory that it gave its name to Montreal (Mont Réal). To get to the top, you have to walk in a winding road to get to multiple flights of stairs that lead up to the summit.
While walking to Mount Royal, I encountered the Mont-Royal Avenue street sale. Below, some of the fun structures I found.
And some graffiti I found around the corner of buildings.
The forecasted rain disappeared on Sunday, so I strolled around Old Port along the canal and around Old City.
192 steps later, view from Clocktower: 1) Victoria Bridge, Great Lakes, industrial heartland of North America; 2) harbor, city, and summit (Mt. Royal); 3) Ste-Hélene Island, Richelieu Valley, and U.S. I preferred these views over the views from Mount Royal.
Day and Night comparisons:
I spent a whole rainy day underground navigating Montreal’s “secret” tunnels, only surfacing to go check out Cafe Tommy. I made it my mission to take photos of all the cool art-sy wall art and structures (some pictured below).
If you only have one hour in Montreal, I’d recommend going to the Notre Dame Basilica. In all my travels of Europe, I’ve yet to encounter a blue/purple theme to the altar, setting Montreal’s Basilica apart from the rest. The architects were in part inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which I could definitely see in the Notre Dame Basilica.
Food & Alcohol
By far my favorite meal was at a cafe/restaurant called Lola Rosa. My fellow 4Ker Austin (currently cycling the Seattle ride) recommended it, and it did not disappoint. I got the hempburger, and knew it was freshly made by how it almost crumbled in my mouth as I ate it. Thanks for the rec! (left photo below)
Montreal is known for its smoked meat sandwiches, so I hauled myself to Schwartz’s, where the smoked meat tradition began and also a touristy landmark. It reminded me of a brisket, except drier. (right photo below)
Bar Le Lab had an incredible ginger beer & green strawberry drink. They update their menu every few months based on the seasons, and my trip coincidentally was the start of the summer edition. The other place I tried that I really liked was The Distillery, which I forgot to take a photo of. Whoops.
Of course, to end my Montreal trip, I had to get some yummy creme brûlée to finish on a sweet note.