Two Days in Montreal

Article and Photos by Paula Wheeler

Location is everything and that’s what you get at this chic apartment. One hundred seven steps out of the apartment building’s front door, across the Place d’ Armes Square, the Gothic Revival style Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal takes center stage with its twin towers that soar towards heaven, commanding attention. While exiting the building to the right, Old Montreal is just steps away the farther down Old Port. Turning left you are minutes from China Town, the Parliament building, shopping and the metro station.

Turning my attention to our abode, I took in the contemporary artwork, vogue furnishings, and the apartment’s layout. Upon entry, the bathroom and bedroom are to the left. The kitchen, dining and living room have an open floor plan. Anywhere in the apartment you are treated to a million-dollar view; whether you are lying in bed or busy in the kitchen. From the 14th floor, Montreal’s skyline welcomed us. The western exterior wall features a picture window, which made it impossible not to be compelled to gaze out. Minutes ago I was appreciating architecture from the 1800’s, then I was standin g in a modern room overlooking skyscrapers. Glass high-rises encompass the perimeter while below, breaking up the gray concrete rooftops, a restaurant’s vegetable garden contributed a splash of green. Anticipation built within me for the sunset.

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History Lessons Mingled with Fun
Traveling with my teenage son, my task was to keep us both happy during our time in the city. We started our two-day Montreal gala with a visit to the Notre Dame Basilica. Its exterior’s grandfaçade is a wonderful prelude to the glory of the inside. Instantly I was mesmerized by the sanctuary’s color palate. It was a combination of reds, purples, blues and golds. Sitting on a pew that exhibits a carved praying monk, I took in the intricately detailed wood carvings of the high altar – statues of Saints, Aaron sacrificing a lamb, Leonardo da Vinci’s last supper, scenes from the Old Testament and the crucifixion of Jesus. I gazed upward in awe at the arched royal blue ceiling with gold crosses that looked like stars and the massive Casavant organ above the choir loft. Then I turned to examine the embellished pulpit. The pulpit’s staircase coils behind statues of prophet’s Ezekiel and Jeremiah and up to the skirt that is adorned with sculptures of Jesus teaching. Four church fathers stand on top of the canopy. To finish the massive piece, a woman stands holding a
cross in one hand and a chalice in the other.

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The sanctuary seemed surreal and warranted silence. I took a few moments absorbing my surroundings, then the stained glass windows and paintings caught my attention. Surprisingly, the scenes were not the typical reflection of biblical stories, but rather were of Canada’s religious history. One painting displays the baby Jesus on Mary’s lap while she is holding a Canadian Maple leaf in her finger-tips. Next, strolling along the cobblestone streets in Old Montreal’s architectural design, we were transported to another era. Alluring alleyways drew us inward to hidden restaurants, ice cream parlors, candy stores and cupcake shops. This area is a magnet for tourists, but even though we were there during high season, the streets were not cramped.

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Then there’s Old Port, designed for kids of all ages to be entertained with zip-lines and carnival type attractions. The brick walkway along the St. Lawrence River is a great place to bike, jog, moseyalong or to claim a spot on the grass for a picnic. At the North end, the clock tower in the distance beckons to be climbed. Walking past the marina and Montreal’s Urban Beach Club brought us to the foot of the tower. The first step is stamped #192. The stairs are easily maneuverable, until the end where they turn into a tight spiral staircase. Ascend step #1 to en joy a spectacularview of the city, Saint Lawrence River, the Jacques Cartier Bridge and, off in the distance, La Ronde amusement park and Biosphere.

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Taking the subway’s orange line we set off for Parc du Mont-Royal. The park is 494 acres and features trails that lead to a lake, monuments, and St. Joseph Oratory. Adjacent to the park are the University of Montreal and four cemeteries – dating back to the mid-1800’s.

A wide dirt path curls the mountainside under the tree’s canopy making bike riding and walking easy. To cut the distance, for those who are on foot, stairs are provided. The châlet at the top of the hill offers food, drinks and tourist information. Push-cart ice cream vendors are located in the courtyard. The reward for the trek up is the view, since this is the highest point of the city.

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream
Cacao 70 is a ch ocoholic’s dream. With four  locations in Montreal, it’s easy to submerge your taste buds into chocolate heaven. We found this restaurant by chance while we were walking along Avenue Du Mont-Royal Est. Samples of waffles drizzled with white and dark chocolate were being offered.

One bite is all it took for us to be enticed inside.  The menu features chocolate drinks of various percentages. We ordered the 43.5% Venezuela with its hint of nut, vanilla, and caramel. Hardenedchocolate decorates the bottom of a brandy glass and along its rim. Piping hot chocolate is served separately. Fusing the two together, I felt like a kid again. This was hot chocolate at its finest – thick, rich, creamy – it was almost like drinking a melted candy bar. Fondue, crêpes, desserts and a brunch menu are also available. They serve the best grilled chicken salad sandwich that I’ve ever eaten.

Our SkyVenture
Asking my son what activity he wanted to do,  he chose SkyVenture for an indoor skydiving, simulated free-fall experience. Sessions start with a tutorial demonstrating body position as well as hand signals to orrect posture. Then it’s time to gear up and fly. Inside the flight chamber’s doorway, you lean forward into the 14-foot wide by 45-feet tall circu lar tube. The instructor then ushers you in and lets go as the 150 mph wind lifts your body airborne. The controller increases the wind speed. It’s hard not to smile, even with the wind force flapping your cheeks. Proper position keeps your body balanced, and the instructor stays near to lend a steadying hand when you wobble, using hand signals to direct you.

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Flights last for one-minute. Packages consist of two or four flights. On the last session, it’s tandem time with the trainer. The first thirty-seconds you float alone, perfecting arm and leg positions.Then the instructor takes hold, the wind gets cranked up to 175 mph and up th e cylinder you go, in a circular motion. Once at the top, you freefall downward and then soar back up again. To describe the experience in a single word would be cool.

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Departure Time
It was time to say au revoir to Montreal, a fact that saddened me. Two days in this stylish apartment and city was not enough, both deserve at least a week. As I closed the apartment’s front door, I bid farewell and vowed to return.

Discover Montreal’s fun and fancy while staying in this beautiful and conveniently located property.

PaulaPaula Wheeler is a part-time freelance travel writer from Boise, Idaho who writes about getting out of one’s comfort zone and discovering off the beaten-path locations. Her articles have been published in online magazines and she writes a blog

 

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