Exploring Montreal

July 16, 2015

MontrealSo, I spent the weekend exploring Montreal, Canada, which isn’t as mad as it sounds, because it’s only around five hours to fly there and six hours back, and the time difference is the same as for New York. Although admittedly my cankles had cankles when I got home ūüėČ

Fairmont Gold lounge Fairmont Queen Elizabeth








Although I’ve been to Toronto many times it was my first time in Montreal. I was very lucky to be staying at the five star Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel. Fairmont is one of my favourite luxury hotel brands and I was on the ‘gold’ floor, which gives you access to an exclusive lounge…

Fairmont Gold breakfast Fairmont Queen Elizabeth








…plus gorgeous breakfasts and evening snacks.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono bed-in







The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel has a wonderful charm – although some of the public areas could definitely do with updating, I rather liked its retro style. In fact it’s the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their famous bed-in. Very cool.

Bed at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth








This was my bed, although I didn’t have a bed-in…

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral Montreal







…and this was the fabulous view, which is the the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral; it’s supposed to be a smaller version of the Vatican, and¬†it is rather special.

So, after doing that annoying waking up at 3am, 4am then 5am, I decided to just go with it, get up and start exploring Montreal.

Now as you’re probably¬†aware Montreal is in Quebec, and they speak French first, then English. My French is passable in France, but I couldn’t really understand very much in Montreal; it’s a slightly surreal experience, knowing you’re in Canada, but everyone around you is speaking French.

squirrel Montreal







I went for a little stroll around a park near the hotel and encountered the biggest squirrels I’ve ever seen in my life, honestly, they were like dogs…

Statue of Robert Burns Montreal







and a statue of Robert Burns – the Scots played a big part in the growth of Montreal and he’s revered here…

Montreal skyline







…and then it was time for my tour of the city. My guide took me up to the Park¬†Mont Royal which has fantastic views of the skyline…

vinaigrier tree








…and the most beautiful trees – this is a vinaigrier….

Chihuly glass Montreal








…along the way we spotted some wonderful works of art, including this brilliant Chihuly piece…

art Montreal







…and this one (I’m afraid I don’t know who it’s by, but I think it looks a bit Picasso-ish.)

Houses St Louis Square Montreal







We also had a good look round the Le Plateau district¬†and Square St Louis, which is where you find glorious¬†old gabled houses painted in different colours¬†like this…

houses st Louis square Montreal







…and this.

I absolutely fell in love with them. The bad news is they are VERY expensive.

market stall Little Burgundy Montreal








As you might expect with such a big French influence gastronomy¬†is massively important in Montreal, in fact the city has an incredible 5,000 restaurants. So I’m going to do a separate post on the food we ate while exploring Montreal. But the following day we wound up at the market at Little Burgundy, which as you can see looks very like a French market…

Havre aux Glaces








…and I loved this ice-cream sign, isn’t it cute? Apparently it’s the best ice-cream in Montreal, so now you know.

canal Montreal








We went for a walk along the canal, where we saw these fabulous daisies…

…and then headed into the Old Town, which is much more touristy than Le Plateau, but lively and buzzing. It reminded me of Covent Garden.

Bride Notre Dame Cathedral Montreal







Outside the Notre Dame Cathedral we saw THREE wedding parties – one of the hazards of getting married on a Saturday, I guess.

The Illuminated Crowd








One of the things Montreal insists on is that any developers putting up new buildings (and they’re not allowed to build skyscrapers) has to donate some money to art, so you see art everywhere you look. This is The Illuminated Crowd¬†by a British artist, Raymond Mason¬†– it’s a bit weird, isn’t it?

Les chuchoteuses by Rose-Aimee Belanger








But I rather liked these ladies, they look like they’re having a good time…

moose sculpture Montreal







…and this moose sculpture is rather striking.

sculpture Montreal








So, my overall impression from exploring¬†Montreal was of a compact and dynamic city, easy to get around and friendly, with a French heartbeat¬†and lots of culture. Tomorrow I’ll share my foodie highlights ūüėČ

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  • Stuart Forster October 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I like the look of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel as a base for exploring Montreal. I enjoyed your other post on dining out in the city. Is there a particular time of year or season you’d recommend as being best for seeing the Montreal at its most picturesque?

  • Trish Burgess July 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Brings back happy memories of our Eastern Canada fly-drive some years ago. We loved Montreal and, being Scottish, my husband was very popular!
    I recognise the Picasso-like sculptor – it’s Joan Miro, from Barcelona.

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  • Cathy (MummyTravels) July 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    What a great taste – Montreal is somewhere I’ve always fancied going to. I’ve seen shamefully little of Canada so far, with the exception of Toronto. And it would be good to practise my French (although I suspect the Canadian version is a bit different).