As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, Montreal and Quebec City transport you to a magical land of castles and crepes, French and food, history and hipsters.
Here are some of the highlights of our time in both cities.
Despite our request for a week of sunny weather in the 80s, on our first day in Montreal, it rained and rained. Luckily, Canada is equipped for bad weather. After checking in to our adorable boutique hotel and grabbing some lunch in our neighborhood, we headed to Montreal’s Underground City. The Underground City is mile upon mile (okay, kilometer upon kilometer) of malls connected to each other underneath (and above) the city. We used it as a way to experience the local culture, do some window shopping, and make our way from our hotel’s neighborhood to the Old Montreal neighborhood without stepping outside. Montreal’s Underground City seemed like it would be the Chicago Pedway system’s rich uncle who owns a house in the Cayman Islands.
Notre Dame Basilica
After walking through the cute Old Montreal, we concluded our rainy Tuesday with a sound and light show in the Notre Dame Basilica that described the history of both the church and Montreal.
Montreal is named for the mountain (well, it’s really a large hill) in the middle of the city. Designed by the same architect who did Central Park in New York, Mount Royal is full of beautiful tree-lined pathways and plenty of benches. You can take the long way to the top of the mountain (as we attempted) by walking the pathways that slowly angle upward; or you can take hundreds of stairs. On a cloudy (but clear!) Wednesday afternoon, after attending Shavuot services at a local synagogue, we put on our walking shoes and made the trek up the mountain. We were greeted by friendly passersby who were always willing to point us in the right direction. At the top of the mountain, we saw a beautiful view of Montreal, as well as a view of very interesting people. We saw a group of young adults holding an exercise class; we saw an eclectic group of people filming a cover of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”; and we saw a man playing the public piano who very well could have been Moses.
Olympic Stadium, Olympic Tower, the Botanic Garden, and the Biodome
Remember in 1976 when Montreal hosted the Olympics? Yeah, me neither. Well, they did, and now you can visit the Olympic Stadium. It’s next to their botanic garden, as well as a biodome, which is a bit of a combination of a zoo and a greenhouse. The Olympic Stadium features the Olympic Tower, which you can ride up and get a great view of the city.
Cirque du Soleil
This famous circus show began in Montreal, so when the traveling show happened to be in Montreal while we were there, we knew we had to take advantage. Cirque du Soleil is a show full of acrobatics, music, and tricks, loosely based around some kind of plot. Unfortunately, the speaking was all in French, so we didn’t quite understand the plot; but everyone speaks the language of balancing six chairs on top of each other and then doing a handstand on top of the tower.
We enjoyed touring two neighborhoods: 1) Old Montreal and 2) The Plateau. Old Montreal is the historic, touristy area full of food and souvenirs (if you like maple-flavored food, why aren’t you living in Canada?). We enjoyed walking around, sampling some sweets, and seeing the historic buildings. Our hotel was located in the neighborhood known as The Plateau because it’s near Mount Royal and thus on a higher level. This neighborhood is a bit hipster, a bit funky, and very colorful; and we happened to be touring the area while it held a summer festival.
Exploring Quebec City
Quebec City is the most picturesque, historic, adorable city I have ever seen, at least on this continent. We loved the cobblestone streets, uneven buildings, and storybook feel.
The walls of the city
Quebec City is the only fortified city north of Mexico, so we had a great time walking the walls of the city. Inside of the walls is the cute, storybook town; and outside is the modern world like any city.
It was a great trip, and we did so many other things not listed here. We did a lot of walking, a lot of eating, and even learned some French here and there. To get the full story, you can see more pictures when we post them to Facebook. But for now, when you’re thinking about your next vacation, think no further than two little French towns just to the north of Maine, where a two-hour flight will bring you to a magical world.