“Let me, Oh let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset & drink the rainbow.”
– Kahlil Gibran
A visit to Montréal was a longstanding desire, a place we wanted to vacation the moment we set foot on Canadian soil. ” It’s almost like Paris.”, someone said. Apparently, that’s all I needed to hear. History says, the English and the French fought the Americans for Canada and the predominant French influence is not an unknown fact.No complaints here though, the European experience was exactly what we were after.
A 5 hour drive from Toronto lead us to Old Montréal where we happened to be welcomed by a soft downpour of drizzles. The misty rain caused the underlying cobblestones to glisten like a sea of mirrors.The irony lay in the fact that despite the grey & gloom , there existed an impalpable seething joy in the atmosphere. I come after all, from the world of Bollywood and the husband was happy to capture all the energy & excitement as I danced around swirling my umbrella. Old Montréal is a historic district, carrying with it an old world charm that at an instant can beguile you into being in the European continent. An open square called the Place d’Armes at the far end is home to musicians stringing violins & playing harmonicas, tourists engrossed in selfies, benches providing respite to seniors and a towering statue, the Maisonneuve Monument, constructed in memory of the founder of Montreal. Opposite, another sky high architectural structure, with a light grey facade & towering spires, the Notre Dame Basilica. The real magic is in the grandiose interiors though, dramatic & glimmering in blues & golds. I let my curiosity guide me as I silently walked to the altar, only to be stumped at the intricacies in carving that lay in it’s structure. With a myriad of stained glass paintings, gilded leaves in the vaulting, this place certainly hums with architectural pride. Speaking of humming, an added feather in the cap is the Great Casavant Organ with 7000 pipes, that plays on Sundays, echoing not just music but a rich, historic tradition & past.
Place Jacques Cartier is a square, rather a long slope in Old Montréal, brimming with throngs of energetic tourists, watercolour artists and little shops selling knick knacks. But, I can say without doubt that without the many, many musicians who relentlessly charm with their song & melody, it’s hard to achieve a full experience. Both sides of this square are laced by countless restaurants and if you’re bored of eating then there’s always the rhapsodizing performances by street artists. Midnight dinners at Jardin Nelson, shows that involve fire & magic and a little board that says Ben & Jerry’s….yeah that’s right! That gave me more than enough reason to spend long hours here.
Old Montréal boasts of a startling number of Art Galleries and it was almost imperative to visit one. Strolling past masterpieces in oil, mixed media & modern sculptures, I was tempted to dig out my paints from the attic. But arrays of colours aren’t restricted to galleries here in Montréal. Take a short drive to the Prince Arthur Road & you will spot rows of houses, colored like a child would a painting, purple, pink, vermillion, mustard, blue & green….it looked like this portion of Montréal landed from a comic book, magical & cheerful.
Art speaks a different language in the Sculpture Garden at the Musee Ave, part of the Montreal Museum of Arts. The reason I say this is, in drastic contrast to the antique charm in Old Montreal, this place screams of abstract, modern designs & sculptures. “The Labyrinth”, a maze painted on an empty road, a grand depiction of the sun using glass in shades of ochre & orange are just a couple of them among the 22 that stand there.
Mount Royal Park , atop the Mount Royal, a hill, can either be climbed to via steps OR if you’re heat sensitive( like us), it’s a 5 minute drive. Either way, you will be treated to a jaw dropping view of downtown Montréal. ( Be sure to check for pics below). While the blue, sky above is speckled with stars, the ground below shimmers in the city lights as the evening grows.
It’s almost wrong to define a “complete French experience” without desserts and Montreal is definitely not short of Patisseries. It’s plausible we went a little overboard but oh well! Macarons at Maison Christian Faure, Phish Food at Ben & Jerry’s, Chocolate Croissants at a breakfast joint & more.
Maison Christian Faure at Place Royale is festooned in the most decadent of desserts and if you don’t have a sweet tooth, go anyways. Owned by a renowned chef, Christian Faure, a genius in his craft, a connoisseur who has made waves in the pastry world, this is a dainty little place, lavishly adorned in white…white walls, little white tables & chairs. Availing themselves unremittingly are Cafe Lattes, Eclairs, a rainbow of Macarons, Mille Feuille & Panna cottas….sprinkled, frosted & garnished to perfection. Calorie intake for some, a divine experience for others. Merci Beaucoup Montreal!
Do take a look at the pictures!
The Notre Dame Basilica
The Great Casavant Organ
More glimpses of old Montreal
Place Jacques Cartier
Mount Royal Park
Prince Arthur Street
Random burst of color in Old Montreal