“No.” We both responded – well I tried to say “non” but I’m pretty sure it came out as plain old American “no.” Dismay swept across his face.
With little choice in the matter, off we were to Old Montréal, despite my very strong desire to spend our entire last day at La Baie.
Lucky for us, we listened to the valet and we were treated to the European charm and character of Old Montreal, complete with cobblestone streets, cafés and 17th century architecture.
One of the most picturesque parts of Vieux-Montréal, and my favorite of the day, is Place d’Armes. “D’Armes” is a long-used French term for a place where a city’s defenders assemble, but in the case of Place d’Armes in Montreal it’s where history assembles.
At the center of the square is a monument to the city’s founder Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. It marks a place where a bloody battle was fought so de Maisonneuve would be proud.
Just off the square is the office building Edifice Aldred which will make you question where you are because it looks eerily like a New York City landmark, the Empire State Building. It’s not nearly as tall but the building, established in 1931, was the original home of a New York-based finance company, hence the similar look.
Another building that is impossible to miss is the Basilique Notre-Dame and all its Gothic Revival-style glory – think medieval architecture with a then-modern twist. The basilica is a must and the entrance fee is $5. What I really found striking about this church was the flood of color across the ceiling. It’s a beautiful cobalt blue and is complimented by stained glass windows depicting the city’s religious history. At night the basilica is illuminated and there is a light show, but we unfortunately weren’t able to see it. And if that’s not impressive enough, Céline Dion married her manager here in 1994…so there.
Another must-see church in Old Montreal is Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. The chapel is nowhere near as striking in appearance, but I love its story. As the seaport became a focal point of the city, the chapel became a favorite place of prayer and pilgrimage for sailors and was often referred to as the Sailors’ Church. It also overcame a severe fire with some items remaining unscathed. There’s an audio guide you can download before you head there which tells the chapel’s fascinating story. Fire and miracles, this chapel has it all.
For every step you take in Old Montreal there’s a café, so take a moment to indulge. We had just enough time for lunch before we had to head to the airport and bid adieu to all that Montreal has to offer. À bientôt!