I found Montreal to be an interesting and culturally diverse city. More French is spoken there than in Toronto but once they realise you are a tourist they speak in English and seem to appreciate even the smattering of GCSE French that you can remember. We only had one day there but were able to squeeze in a lot of the sights, including Mount Royal, with its stunning views over the city. Later that evening we caught the firework display from the Portugal team competing in the World Fireworks Competition. It gave a real sense of holiday to our trip. The next day we took a wander round and spent an hour or two at the Musee de Beaux Arts, which had many exhibitions. My favourite was the contemporary arts portion. I think it’s because I don’t understand it and I enjoy struggling with the notion of what art is and why it works so well. I didn’t enjoy the religious exhibition because I pretty much have no interest in religion, painted or otherwise. The Napoleon portion was interesting, especially the death mask of the man himself. He appeared to have a Doherty nose and I’d be interested to see if we are at all related way back down the line. (www.mbam.qc.ca)
There was a family fun day further down Saint Catherine and we enjoyed wandering through the stalls and marquees. We caught the end of a jazz brass band, who were very good and held the audience in the palm of their hands. The songs were in French but this mattered little to me as I could enjoy the tunes and the atmosphere that the five musicians created.
I found Montreal easy to get around in, even with the language barrier. The Metro pass we bought for $16 saved us a fortune and made things a lot easier. (http://www.stm.info/english/tarification/a-1a3jours.htm) We were able to hop on and off busses to get to the top of Mount Royal, a journey that would have taken over and hour on foot. (www.montreal.com/parks/mtroyal.html)
We were lucky enough to have our cousin as a guide. She is at college there and has her finger on the pulse of cool places to go and interesting things to see. We had pre dinner desert in Juliette & Chocolate, (www.julietteetchocolat.com) we wandered down some interesting streets and sat and people watched from balconies during happy hour. She also made suggestions for places to eat the next day and things we absolutely must do during our very short stay in her city. As always though there wasn’t time to do everything and I do hope to be able to visit again some day.
I feel this way about every place I visit. There is never enough time to soak up the atmosphere of a place. I spent three days in Toronto and could seriously have spent months there. I enjoyed the vibe of the city so much and man do those Toronto ladies wear good shoes! I feel Toronto is a city I could easily function in and I did think about work opportunities there. I found it easy to get around and there was so much to see and do.
The CN Tower was quite close to my youth hostel, I didn’t walk up it because I had other things I wanted to focus on getting to see but I did walk down to appreciate the size and scope of the building. I also enjoyed the Rodgers centre and the interesting sculptures that are hanging out the side of the building. On my last night there I sat in a coffee shop, watching a storm roll in as dusk settled and the CN Tower light up in gentle waves of pretty colours. I think the view from the top that night would have been quite astounding. And yes, it’s another one that goes on the list of places that I MUST visit again. (www.cntower.ca)
I took a day out to go and visit Niagara Falls. I couldn’t come all this way and not see and experience the roar of the falls. I decided not to take the tour organised by my youth hostel but to use the MegaBus so I could be a wee bit more flexible with my day. It worked out cheaper also which is a bonus when it comes to travelling on a budget. (www.megabus.ca)
I took a trip on the Maid of the Mist (www.maidofthemist.com) which was an amazing experience. The first Maid of the Mist was launched in 1846 as a ferry service but by 1854 had become the tourist service that we know and love. I was so excited to have this experience, not just because of a long running gag between me and my brother involving Jim Carrey’s epic meltdown aboard in the film Bruce Almighty, but because it I was pretty sure at some point the experience would scare the shit out of me..…..which it did. The boat sails up into the curve of the Horseshoe Falls and rests there for some time. I was lucky enough to be right at the front of the boat on the upper level. The roar of the falls is almost deafening and the spray is flung all around. Those little blue Dory fish ponchos do a good job of protecting you though. Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming sense of panic I got while standing there. I was looking into the water, at it churning, watching it violently crash and fight with every other drop there, and thought if this boat goes down there’s not much hope for us. I had a real powerful sense of awareness, about my own mortality; about my hopes and dreams for the future and how lucky I was that I had the kind of life where I could experience this. If you ever get the chance you should visit the Falls and take the boat tour and see what it does to you. Let me know, ok?