Canada: Montréal

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Michele Moricci

MONTRÉAL It’s  the end of August and we’re ready to go. We fly over the ocean again, but this time not heading the States, Canada instead!

Once in the city, after passing through a 4th grade at the border, we take refuge in the small flat rented on AirBnb very close to Petite Italie and Mile-End. The decor makes us immediately feel at home and after the long travel, we lay on the bed to fall into a daylong nap. The day after the alarm rings at dawn and the Jet-lag takes its course.

Walking towards Petite Italie, full of old-fashioned Italian-style Bars, we  have breakfast in the neighborhood. Although we are in the italian-inspired area it seems right to start with the same Tall Cappuccino and Muffins. Temperatures twist at any moment, the sun peeping through the thick clouds and the wind plays with them. The result is a constant feverish feeling. We run through the Church of the Madonna of Defense where there are masses in Italian language.

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Not far from here is there the delicious Marché Jean Talon, a vegetable market where locals do their shopping and get together for breakfast, lunch or just to relax. The fruits and vegetables are carefully arranged in colorful buckets, so stand to stand form vegetarians rainbows. On the shelves do not miss the famous maple syrup in all its shades of taste. Smells come together in a mix of European and North American cultures. The streets are full of wooden houses and ancient churches. At each corner there is a cafe and people seem suspended in a film set.

In Montreal there is a green lung and is called Parc du Mont Royal, the fir trees are giants and along the path you can reach two Lookouts from there you can view the city from above. Not far from the park stands the Saint Joseph Oratory, built between 1904 and 1967, rising from street level to 150 meters. Its aquamarine dome stands in the blue sky, and as we approach its 300 steps, the sunset brights through the stained glass. Finally we find relaxation on the steps to observe the vegetation that creeps between downtown buildings. Although we are in the city for a few hours everything seems new yet familiar. A big American city with an intensive French touch, but without the charm of neo-modern one nor the other’s extreme elegance.

The heart of the city beats in Vieux Montréal and Vieux Port. A short walk from Chinatown, full of tourists and noodle bar, Place D’Armes is overlooked by the beautiful Basilique of Notre Dame, elegant in its Gothic style and full of medieval references. The bright altar dated 1880 carved in wood by local artists and the bell of the Grosse Bourdon, whose chimes can be heard up to 30 km, are the true showpieces.

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In a few steps we run into the Hotel de Ville and the Chateau Ramezay Museum, once mansion occupied by Governor de Ramezay and his 16 children during his tenure between 1659 and 1724. The brick road leads us to the greystone neoclassical building Marché Bonsecours that over the centuries has been a city hall, a theater and today is a Shopping Center. Its unique beauty lies in an unusual and luminescent silver dome. Before us the port. A large white clock marks the chimes while the seagulls flying over the Saint Laurent river in search of food. The sun, the quiet and a little farther – on a small square – stands stalls and bistros following the unraveling of the central streets. Among street musicians and historic buildings it is hard not to be charmed by this foray into French North American land.

The rain catches us unprepared as we visit The Village, a colorful district where there are bars, nightclubs and gay themed shops. We take refuge in the subway to return to the Jean Talon Market and taste a delicious bagel from O’Bagel. In the evening we go to Mile-end, a small relaxed and elegant area with its many boutiques and restaurants, in company of Canadian friends.

The next day we get on the bus back to Mile-end to enjoy it with the sun. In addition to numerous cafes and shops is obligatory stop – when you are in the area – the famous Fairmount Bagel Boulangerie, that since 1919 produces tons of sweet and savory bagels every day. We fully load and proceed in the direction of Outremont, the residential district. Gardens and houses – with cars parked in the driveway – one after another along the elegant and quite streets. The next destination is Rue St. Denis shopping area where there are stores, bookstores and shops. Before a tour of American Apparel and Urban Oufitters, we enjoy a delicious  bio-lunch with a retro touch at Soup & Soup.

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Though the Olympic Park in Montreal is not the pride of the inhabitants, it is an interesting tourist destination. In fact, not far away there is the Botanical Garden that is home to many types of plants and flowers. The Chinese gardens, the Sukiya Japanese Tea Pavillion and Insettarium worth a visit despite the high cost of the ticket. In no time it seems to make a real foray into Asia. Inside you can even find a “pseudo-route” to relive the life and times of the Native.

Saturday afternoon is cultural mood-on. We visit the Musée d’Art Contemporain hosting the visionary works of David Altmejd – investigating the man through biology and the sci-fy universe. A highly evocative visual game of breakdown, decomposition and recomposition.  Downtown is crowded with many art galleries and so we step in some of them, then we take a break for coffee and brownies at  TOMMY Cafe + Apéro.

The last day in town we decide to spend it in total relax and enjoying calmly what remains of the time. Stroll, dine and laze! A jump to the Village to see “the rainbow” shine with the sun, including a flea market and a really 90’s atmosphere, lying on the grass with a lunch-box eating tasty sandwiches from the Marché de La Villette restaurant and the last shopping in search of souvenirs and numerous bottles of maple syrup for everyone. In the evening we return to Outremont to celebrate Silvia’s Birthday and to eat Napolitan pizza, in a trendy atmosphere,  at No900 before returning home and prepare our backpack for the flight to Québec City.

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Michele Moricci