I got a taste of the friendliness and politeness of Canada as soon as I entered the airport in Montreal on landing. As I had an air cast on my twisted leg and had difficulty in walking, an airport worker immediately rushed to guide me to an elevator and from thereon to take me to the immigration area. This was in great contrast to the treatment I got at the previous airport where we had a stopover.
Situated on the river St. Lawrence, the island of Montreal is a juxtaposition of the new and the old. My visit to this former French colony was an experience never to be forgotten.
This vibrant city is home today to 120 distinct communities. With vibrant people, restaurants, cafes, museums, churches and green spaces, it presents a moving canvas.
Old Montreal & Old Port
In these two neighbouring areas of Montreal, we can see the city’s centuries’ old history. One can walk down the cobbled streets of old Montreal and admire the historical buildings that line the streets.
If observed closely, one will notice French, English and Scottish influences in the architecture. After walking through the lanes, one can take a well-deserved break in one of the numerous restaurants or cafés along the streets.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
The Basilica in the old city is a testimony of the city’s catholic roots and the close relationship between art and religion. The Basilica’s interior consisting of beautiful wood carvings. Stained glass art with deep blue background presents an excellent piece of art by architect Victor Bougear.
The courtyard in front of the Basilica surrounded by historic buildings is a place one can spend some time admiring the surrounding and enjoying the street performances of classical, vocal or instrumental music that goes on during the day.
Mount Royal is an iconic natural feature of Montreal affectionately called ‘the Mountain’ by the locals. On the slopes of the mount are located two of the city’s oldest cemeteries. The slopes of the Mount are also a preferred spot for nature lovers, bird watchers and sports enthusiasts. At the top of the mount is the Mount Royal Chalet.
The walls of the interior of the Chalet are decorated with pictures tracing the history of Montreal. The Kandiaronk lookout in front of the Chalet offers a magnificent view of the downtown area and the mighty St. Lawrence.
It is one of the must-visit places of Montreal. Founded in 1931 by Brother Marie-Victoria, it has a very thoughtfully laid out garden with its green houses. The botanic is well known worldwide as one of the finest and largest of its kind.
The collection of plants species include several exotic and rare plants. A stroll through its various theme gardens such as the Japanese garden, the Chinese garden, Courtyard of Senses and many more, is worth taking. It is also a source of endless knowledge and beauty.
A day’s trip can be taken to Quebec City from Montreal. Several bus tours are available. But one can hire a cab for the day so as to move leisurely at one’s own pace. One day is sufficient to visit this picturesque historic old city. A walk around the old town through the cobblestone streets is a pleasure.
One can admire the beautiful old houses and cafes by the side of the street and live performances in the open spaces along the river front. A visit to the Montmorency Falls is a must too. It falls from a height of 83 meters, higher than the Niagara Falls. The falls can be approached in different ways and a few of them can be really adventurous and thrilling.
I could spend only three-four hours in Toronto but it was enough to get the vibe of friendliness and good nature of the people. Also, the harmonious co-existence of people from different parts of the world - different cultures, languages, races and colours could be realised in such a short time.
We could also squeeze in sometime to go up the CN Tower- which gives a magnificent view of the city and Lake Ontario, a visit to the vibrant Eaton Square and of course, a stroll along lake Ontario. I will remember my visit to Canada for the friendliness and politeness of the people. It has great respect for pedestrians.
Drivers stop the car and enquire if one is about to cross the roads (something much unexpected in India). The numerous cafes and restaurants are very inviting. Jardin Nelson, located in the heart of Old Montreal, is a true haven of foodies to relish the combined pleasures of good food, exceptional service and an impressive and breathtaking ambience and decor.
We left for Niagara Falls from Montreal by car. The journey, with two to three halts, took us 8 hours. The drive through the excellent roads lined with dense green forests is a different experience altogether. On the way we stopped to admire the scenic beauty of the ‘Thousand Islands’ - a marvel of nature.
It is an archipelago of 1864 islands on the St. Lawrence river. Once we reached Niagara, we became impatient to see the falls. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is awe inspiring.
With 3,160 tons of water cascading down the falls every second, it is a spectacle. A must is the Maid of the Mist cruise to the Horseshoe. As the boat enters the horseshoe, the mist and deafening sound of the falls is an out of the world experience.