We left for the six-hour drive to Montréal, also known as the Paris of Canada, on Sunday morning and after several stops on the way, reached the city late at night.
It takes its present name from Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill located in the heart of the city and is rated as one of the world’s most livable cities, in which the official language is French, which is also the language spoken at home by 60% of the population.
The French influence and lifestyle is visible everywhere, in the city’s architecture, restaurants, out door cafes, shops, fashion, etc. (http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/MontrealTV).
Our former PM, Shaukat Aziz, was scheduled to speak at the 18th Conference of Montreal, which I had mentioned in my last ST article, on Monday afternoon and Anwar had managed to arrange an invitation for me, as such, I was able to attend the event.
To Shaukat’s credit, he was the only Asian speaker at the conference and gave a very impressive presentation. Over the coffee break, we were able to talk to him and discussed the state of affairs back home. Like us, he too was saddened by the breakdown of law and order and could not see as to how things could be brought back to normal.
The next day, our very dear friend, Naushad, drove over from Ottawa and was kind enough to take us on a quick tour of the city, and showed us the famous landmarks of the cultural hub of Canada.
This included Montréal’s well known underground City (La ville souterraine), its Metro, which is a set of underground city complexes in and around downtown.
It spreads over 32 km of tunnels, over an area of 12 km, with 60 residential and commercial complexes, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal.
These include shopping malls, hotels, banks, offices, museums, seven metro and two commuter train stations, a bus terminal and the Bell Centre hockey arena. About 500,000 people use the underground city every day, especially to escape the traffic and Montreal’s harsh winter.
Then there is the well-known and popular Olympic Park, the Olympic Stadium in the city’s eastern section. The Olympic installations site is next to Metro Pie-IX and Metro Viau, 6 km from downtown in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district and consists of several buildings designed by French architect Roger Taillibert.
The Olympic Stadium is ovoid shaped, with a distinctive ‘ribbed’ look, and has the worlds tallest inclined tower at 175 m high and leans at 45 degrees.
The complex includes the Montreal Biodome, (originally a fully functional Velodrome) the municipal golf course and the Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, second only to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kewin England.
The Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics were successful, but construction problems and corruption created a massive financial burden for the citizens.
At the opening, the tower and the retractable roof were incomplete and were completed years later but the retractable roof was never completed, as originally planned by Taillibert.
The stadium was also home to the Expos from 1977 until the team moved to Washington, D.C. after the 2004 season and has sometimes been home for the Montreal Alouettes. Today, Montreal’s Olympic Park hosts limited professional sports events and is mainly a tourist and cultural attraction.
The Redpath Museum is the centre of Quebec and Canadian culture in general. It has many specialized museums such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), the Musée d’art, the Redpath, Srewart and the Museum of Canadian History and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
The Place des Arts cultural complex, houses the MAC and several theatres and is the seat of the Montreal Opera and Symphony Orchestra.
The Museum Quarter’s historical and architectural richness, spilling over into surrounding streets and creates a special ambiance that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
Montreal is also renowned for its churches and as Mark Twain had said, “This is the first time I was in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window”.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in Canada and is Nicknamed “la ville aux cent clochers” (the city of a hundred bell towers). Other well-known churches include the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, which is sometimes called the Sailors’ Church, the Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony, known for its Byzantine architecture and the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral.
Mount Royal is Montreal’s outstanding urban park, designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted and includes the Chalet and the Kondiaronk Belvedere overlooking downtown Montreal, the most famous view of the city. Mount Royal is topped by an illuminated cross that has become a Montreal landmark.
Every Sunday in the summer, hundreds of people gather at the statue of Confederation at the foot of Mount Royal for several hours of drumming, dancing, and juggling, in an event that has come to be known as the Tam-Tams.
Île Notre-Dame, The Floralies gardens are located at the centre of the island. It has a network of canals, and, further west at the lake, offers a beach and other water sports. The Casino de Montréal and a youth hostel are also located here. The Montreal Grand Prix takes place here at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which in winter, is used as a skating rink.
Saint Helen’s Island is dominated by the geodesic dome of the Biosphère and the roller coasters of Six Flags La Ronde, the island is also home to the Hélène de Champlain restaurant and the De Lévis tower.
Built in 1814, the Fort on Saint Helen’s Island houses the Stewart Museum, dedicated to the history of New France. The island also contains several large public works of art, such as the imposing “Man”, sculpted in steel by artist Alexander Calder.
We had planned to return to San Diego by the 15th, but have decided to extend our stay for two weeks and drive over to Ottawa and attend the famous Ottawa Jazz festival, but more on ‘All that Jazz, next week.
–Hamid Maker (email: email@example.com).