The Beauty of Montreal

I love Montreal. Over the years, I’ve visited many times, and last week, I visited again. There’s no shortage of things to do or see. It is truly one of Canada’s greatest cities.

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ABOVE: The sanctuary of the Notre-Dame Basilica.

BELOW: The Montreal skyline as seen from Mont Royal.

From the Museum of Fine Arts, to the Biodome and the Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal has a ton to offer. Over the course of three days last week, I attempted to see as much as possible. To my credit, I saw a lot.

My first stop was the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. While the temporary Rodin exhibition was quite good, the most impressive part of the gallery was its contemporary holdings. It’s worth visiting for that alone, but when you throw in the work of Québécois artists such as Marc-Aurèle Fortin, it’s a must see.

That same day, I climbed Mont Royal. It’s a total bitch to do – and people in far better shape than me were struggling – but when you reach the top, the panoramic views of the city are impressive. If you can swing it, do it. If you can’t, take a cab. Either way, it’s worth checking out.

On my second day, I took the Metro (old and loud, but still more efficient than the Toronto Transit Commission) to see the Biodome, Olympic Stadium and Planetarium. The Biodome was cool (at times literally), and its penguins stole the show – so cute. The stadium looked cool (even though IT’s old and inefficient), and the planetarium was a special treat – as the one in Toronto shut down in 1995.

On my third and final day, I visited the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, took a cruise along the St Lawrence River, and hung out in Old Montreal. The art museum was really good, but the contemporary collection at the Museum of Fine Arts was better. The cruise was a great way to spend an hour (I love being out on the water), and Old Montreal was beautiful – few cities in Canada have as much history.

The highlight of the trip: The Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal. While the building’s exterior is nothing special, its sanctuary is spectacular. So much has been thrown into its design – and everything is incredibly intricate – yet it’s not at all gaudy. I haven’t visited many churches, but I just can’t imagine one more stunning.

A few observations:

Montreal is arguably Canada’s most bilingual city. Just about everyone in the downtown core speaks English fluently. The rest of Canada could do better.

Montrealers are warm and welcoming. Most Canadians are though – even in Toronto.

There are no recycling bins on the city’s streets. Really Montreal? That’s just plain weird.

The city is known for its smoked meat. Make sure you try some. It’s delicious.

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