Downtown Montreal

Just some final musings to finish up my Thanksgiving Montréal trip.

Montréal really did have a bit of everything to offer.  It was especially bizarre to not leave the continent, yet manage to experience a touch of something distinctly European – and it was more than just in the language. The appearance of the city, the people (they even “look” French – clearly those genes are not going away any time soon!), the history, the culture, trendy boutiques. Oh and the coffee too. There was something special about hanging out in a little boulangerie with freshly pressed coffee. Delightful!

But you only have to “look up” in the downtown area, and the skyscrapers remind you that you are indeed still in North America. Despite this, however, the downtown region is still dotted with numerous buildings with plenty of history and stories to tell. I spent some time one morning just hunting out some of the history that the downtown area has to offer.

I started out in Square Dorchester. This little green area is the official center of town, and you find a statue of Lord Strathcona in the middle. He was a philanthropist who helped to sponsor Canada’s efforts during the South African Boer War.

Also hanging out, looking over the square, is everyone’s favorite Scottish poet, Robbie Burns. One of my favorites, for sure.

One of Canada’s most respected Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier (1841-1919), also makes an appearance at one end of the square.

Laurier looks on across the road towards the impressive architecture of Cathédrale Marie Reine du Monde.

And alive and kicking in the square, I caught up with this little guy! He was chasing snacks all over the place! He seemed very concerned that I might be out to pilfer from him. Very untrusting.

Away from the square there were other interesting things to check out around the town. I especially enjoyed seeing the old Salvation Army’s Citadel – the most ornate Salvation Army I’ve ever seen! Very Romanesque. Actually it’s now part of Maison Alcan – it was bought by the aluminium company, Alcan, a few years ago. Beautiful though.

Rue Sherbrooke Ouest was formerly one of Montréal’s most prestigious residential streets in the early 20th century, and was the home to Maison Louis Joseph Forget, a Victorian mansion built for the first francophone chairman of the Montréal Stock Exchange.

One of my favorite buildings was Le Chateau, a fortress-like apartment complex with some impressive architectural detail in Scottish and French Renaissance.

Another building that was amazing to see was the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the only one in the city that survived the beaux-arts era intact. So ornate.

And then there was the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. “The Eye”, a striking bronze statue by David Altmejd, stands in front of the former Erskine and American Church, now the museum’s Bourgie Hall, a concert pavillion.

And that concludes your short tour of some of downtown Montréal’s architectural treats!

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle-bustle of downtown when everyone is on a shopping mission. But this city has wonderful things to see on every corner, each with its own little story to tell.

If you ever make it to Montréal, be sure to seek out the extraordinary that it has to offer.


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