Thursday, 1 December 2016

Montréal, Canada

This is my third blog post about our recent trip to Canada. You can read about our first week in Toronto here and our visit to Ottawa here

After a very long and delayed train journey the day before, which ended up being over seven hours total, the two hour train journey from Ottawa to Montréal seemed to fly by! After our fleeting visit to Ottawa, we had a little longer in Montréal, as a few people had said there was more to see there. We had two days to explore Montréal and we booked ourselves another AirBnb apartment there, for the two nights. 

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VIA Rail train from Ottawa to Montréal

The apartment was loft style and in a swanky apartment block, very close to Place des Festivals, in the centre of Montréal. The apartment was really lovely and the guy who owned it sent us lots of good tips for things to see and places to eat in Montréal. Once we'd dropped our bags and had a quick coffee, we headed out and it was just a 20-minute walk to the Notre Dame Basilica, in the heart of the city.

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AirBnB loft style apartment in Montréal

This was the second replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral in France that Emily and I have visited. We've previously visited a replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which I wrote about here. This replica was of course similar, and didn't look quite so out of place as it did in Vietnam! There was a statue of Paul de Chomedey, the founder of Montréal outside the Basilica, who of course we needed to have a selfie with. 


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Emily, me and the guy who founded Montréal, outside the Notre Dame Basilica

After paying our $5 entry fee, the inside of the Basilica was a sight to behold, with the front of the Basilica and the ceiling being particularly impressive. We had a quick wander round and headed back out into the cold to check out the Montréal Old Town. The Old Town is made up of beautiful old buildings and cobble-stone streets. It's nice to wander round and there are loads of places to eat - including the nice restaurant we stopped at for dinner and wine.

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Inside the Notre Dame Basilica

We walked back to our apartment via Place des Festivals, which is an arty precinct in the city, surrounding by galleries and other arty type stuff. I stopped to take the photo below, which is a very cool homage to jazz music, which Montréal is well known for.

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Art installation in Place des Festivals, Montréal

On good recommendation, we headed to the Montreal Olympic Park, where there is a Biodome, Planetarium and Botanical Gardens. You can get combined passes for one, two or three of the sites and we opted for two, as we decided we didn't have time for the Planetarium. The Biodome was a wonderful collection of wildlife, and it was great to explore. We were wearing our thermals as it was so cold outside, so we were absolutely boiling when we went in, as the Biodome is kept warm and humid for the animals and plants that live there.

The Biodome was similar in some ways to the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK and also Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, which I wrote about here. The highlight of the Biodome was this cute beaver building a dam, which we stopped to watch for ages! 

After lunch at the Biodome, it was a ten minute walk through the Olympic Park to the Botanical Gardens. We thought it was shut at first, but it was so quiet in the off-season that we practically had the place to ourselves. The are outdoor gardens which were mostly frosted over. There are also a series of giant greenhouses connected together which different types of plants in each. We are big fan of cacti and succulents, so the 'arid' greenhouse was a highlight for sure.

We briefly visited the Insectarium, which is a part of the Botanical Gardens, but I must admit that this was only a very brief visit as we didn't find it hugely interesting!

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Cacti greenhouse at the Montréal Botanical Gardens

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Inside the Montréal Botanical Garden

After a quick photo opportunity outside the Olympic Stadium, we headed back on the Metro to go back to Montréal's Old Town for more exploring. 

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Montréal Olympic Stadium

We had a quick walk along the Old Port, but it was pretty deserted. There was a huge ice rink there which was not open yet, but it looks like it will be very popular closer to Christmas. 

Montréal has a wonderful feel about it and it really does feel as if you are in France, with the general feel of the place and of course the language. Although most people speak English, I hadn't realised that all the signage would only be in French and that it would be so dominant. I had thought it might be a lot like Wales in the UK, where the signage is in Welsh and English, but the Welsh language is not the most used language there.

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Montréal Old Town

We wanted a fancy dinner out, and researched good places to go. We had seen a nice looking sushi restaurant in the city when walking to the Basilica the day before and the menu looked good, with some nice looking vegetarian options. The restaurant was called Kyo and it fantastic. There was a really cool feel about the restaurant and the food, cocktails and beer were delicious and well presented.

sushi montreal
Kyo Sushi Restaurant in Montréal

After a lovely couple of days in Montréal, it was time for us to head back to Toronto on the train. I'll be writing about the last few days of our Canadian adventure in my next blog post.

Thanks for reading :)