A visitor information centre is usually the right place to start, when planning to explore a new city.
And that was our first stop. We looked around for guide maps and detailed brochures for our visit and picked up a few. Though we had the information in our hand, we spoke to one of the experts there – who really helped us in understanding the rough layout of the historical Old Montreal.
The information centre is on the corner of Rue Notre-Dame East and Place Jacques Cartier. And that’s a good point to begin the tour after seeing the famous Notre Dame Basilica. We had already visited the Basilica day before, so it was time to see more of Old Montreal.
From here, we tiptoed our way onto the enchanting streets of France.
‘Montreal was established on May 17, 1642’, as per the Official Map of Old Montreal, 2015.
And this historic centre of Montreal is still frozen in time. The uneven Cobble stone streets, bare brick buildings, exquisite architecture and centuries worth of history – it is truly an extraordinary treasure-trove.
One of the most beautifully preserved historic districts in North America. We were taken by the monumental beauty of this city. Following the directions on the map, we walked across the Rue Notre-Dame East towards the ‘Edifice Lucien Saulnier’, a beautiful historical building. It used to be the Old Courthouse of the city but now houses Municipal offices.
Next to this building is ‘Champ de Mars’, which also includes the area behind the Old Courthouse and City Hall. It is here, that the stone wall foundations are still visible which was built in 1700’s as protection from British colonists. Can’t imagine how this walled city must have been in those times.
Just adjacent to Champ de Mars is the Montreal City Hall. It was first built in 1878, and was destroyed in a fire in 1922 and rebuilt again. And it is here ‘the French President Général de Gaulle uttered his famous “Vive le Québec Libre’ (Long Live Free Quebec) in 1967′, quoted from the Official map of Old Montreal Brochure. This created quite a controversy in Canada and France at that time.
From here, we crossed the street again to Chateau Ramezay – Historic site and Museum of Montreal. It was built in 18th century and was a residence for French & English Governers over the years. One of the first historical monuments in Quebec – it now has exhibits showcasing the history of the city. And behind the Chateau, there is a magnificent French Garden with pretty plants and flowers arranged in a pattern. Definitely, perfect for the French nobility of that time.
Kept moving further on Rue Notre-Dame Est and there we were at Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site. Its an elegant home with Victorian style interiors, providing a look into the décor of 1860’s and also exhibits the achievements of Sir George-Etienne Cartier.
Down the block from here, we took a turn towards Rue Saint-Paul East and the first stop was Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum. The Museum exhibits the life of an extraordinary woman Marguerite-Bourgeoys, also considered the first social worker of Montreal. And the Notre-Dame-de-Secours Chapel, first built in 1675 and later rebuilt in 1771 after a fire. It showcases many works of art and history of this place.
Next on, was the Marché Bonsecours, this neoclassical structure with a magnificent dome – is one of the Canada’s 10 Finest Heritage buildings. A great place with boutiques, restaurants and cafes. We enjoyed our time here browsing through the designer boutiques and after a light snack, exited the building from the rear door to the Old Port.
Old Port along the St Lawrence River, was a trading port since 1600’s and is now a historical and recreational area. We walked by and spend some time there enjoying the summer sun in this gorgeous city.
Then, we were back at Place Jacques Cartier, this lively square was teeming with tourists and locals alike. And it was quite hard to pick a place for lunch there, as we were spoilt-for-choice. But did end up going for a street side café with a lovely view and relished some French fare.
With a big part of Old Montreal covered, we moved on to finish the rest of the tour. Dropped the map in the bag and went around exploring the city. It was so much fun to walk by the art galleries, restaurants, historical buildings, heritage homes and ancient streets. The entire tour was an extraordinary experience.
Totally, fell in love with this splendid city. Am already planning my second trip to Montreal.
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