It took a few days of walking, cycling, and driving around Montréal before Leah and I found our bearings from atop Mont Royal.
We roamed the rues and parcs of the city in search of historic, cultural, and architectural significance–with an emphasis on good food…and we found it in many of the neighborhoods we visited.
We followed in the steps of 6 million annual tourists who stroll, bike, blade and run between Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (1771),
and the Sailors’ Memorial Clock (1922) at the Vieux-Port de Montréal (Old Port).
We shared a laugh after spotting yet another monster-sized Ferris wheel on the pier, but La Grande Roue de Montréal, erected in 2017 to celebrate Montréal’s 350th anniversary is one of several family attractions that appeal to tourists near and far.
In 1642, New France took root on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, where French traders and the Crown established a fort (Ville-Marie) in support of a flourishing fur trade. Roman Catholic missionaries followed, intending to establish a North American parish that could convert the Iroquois to Christianity, and build a cathedral that was worthy of a New World capital.
Notre-Dame Basilica was designed by James O’Donnell in a Gothic Revival style, and built behind the original parish church.
The sanctuary was completed in 1830,
and the towers followed in 1841 and 1843.
The interior’s intricate stone and wood carvings were completed in 1879.
The pipe organ dates to 1891. It comprises four keyboards, 92 stops, 7000 individual pipes and a pedal board.
Arson destroyed the more intimate Sacre-Coeur Chapel in 1978, but it was rebuilt from original drawings, and finished with an immense bronze altarpiece by Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin.
It’s a 5-minute Metro ride from downtown to Parc Jean-Drapeau, an island park surrounded by the Saint Lawrence River. Half the park is natural (Saint Helen’s Island) and the other half is artificial (Ile de Notre Dame), conceived with rock excavated from Montréal’s Metro tunnels.
The park is a fitting tribute and memorial for its namesake, Jean Drapeau. As mayor of Montréal (1954-1957, 1960-1986), he was instrumental in bringing Expo67 to his city. Drapeau is also remembered for securing the 1976 Summer Olympics for Montréal, as well as successfully lobbying Major League Baseball for a major league franchise during its 1969 expansion (Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Pilots).
Few pavilions from Expo67 remain on the island. Notably, the French pavilion has been repurposed as Canada’s largest casino.
And the United States pavilion, featuring Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome has also been preserved, despite a fire in1976 that burned through the structure’s acrylic bubble, leaving only the steel trusses.
Fortunately, the exhibition space within the dome was spared, and has been transformed into an interactive museum named Biosphere, that tells the story of our environment through several rooms of multimedia presentations,
and a wraparound theater space.
But its the iconic geodesic dome that most visitors have come to experience. The New York Times picked the dome as one of “the 25 Most Significant Works of Postwar Architecture.”
Geometry majors may discover 32 triangles from the center of each vertex to the next vertex.
Montréal is also a culinary haven for foodies. We sampled wood-oven-baked bagels from St-Viateur, and smoked meat from Chez Schwartz in the Jewish Quarter. For dinner, Leah and I migrated to Chinatown to sample the fare with Jennifer, a dear friend in town for business.
We settled on a tasty meal of soup dumplings at Mai Xiang Yuan Dumpling, but wondered out loud about the long queue out the the door for Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle Shop.
We made a mental note and returned to Gol’s the following evening, only to find another long line of future diners waiting patiently. I spent my wait time studying the noodle maker through the window…
and tasted his skillset in my meal when we were finally seated and served a tureen-sized portion of steaming heaven.
These were beef noodles to stand in line for, whenever I’m back in Montréal.