Cities, Culture & Cuisine – Montreal

Montreal – a little taste of France on this side of the pond

Montreal happened in a spontaneous fashion. I was packed to go with my parents to Johannesburg (my dad was flying the plane) and another flight cancelled so my mom and I couldn’t get a ticket. Disappointment sank in as we waved goodbye to my dad as the plane backed away from the gate. We were all packed up with no place to go! We were bound and determined to go exploring so we looked at the departures for the next morning and there was a 9 a.m. to Montreal, Quebec. Bingo. (I know that sounds way too easy but when you’re flying non-rev you just need an open seat!) Neither of us had been to that part of Canada and it wouldn’t be too daunting of a destination since most people speak English. We didn’t know where to stay or what attractions to visit, but that’s what Google is for, right?

Despite a bumpy start, the last minute girl’s trip with my mom ended up being a blast. It was absolutely gorgeous, the locals were exceptionally friendly (they have a bad rep for being rude to visitors) and there was more than plenty to do and see!

A snapshot of Montreal while we're riding in on the bus.

The whole time we were there a gigantic international jazz festival was happening. Apparently Montreal is the festival capital of the world in the summer. We took a big bus tour that hit all of the main sights: Mount Royal Park, Montreal Science Center, Chinatown, an underground city full lined with shops and St. Joseph’s Oratory. The Oratory is a famous basilica in the Catholic faith and is also the highest point in Montreal. I even ran across a sand volleyball court, made friends with some locals and played a few pick-up games of sand volleyball!

International Jazz Fest

St. Joseph's Oratory

My favorite day was when we ventured around Old Montreal. It is a section of Montreal that hasn’t changed much since it was settled by the French. It really felt like I was walking around the streets of a quaint, French town. Everything about it was French: the language, architecture, boutiques, food and overall atmosphere. My mom and I treated ourselves to chicken crepes, desert crepes and French wine for lunch. It was scrumptious!

My mom and I enjoying lunch at an outdoor cafe in the heart of Old Montreal.

The gem of Old Montreal is the Basilica Notre Dame. It was originally built in the late 1600s but was added onto until late 1800s. The massive church took my breath away. The rich colors of blue, purple and red were intertwined with gold and intricate wood carvings. A fun fact is that Notre Dame is where Celine Dion was married.

The Splendid Notre Dame Basilica

If you want a taste of France without taking the time and money to go there, cheat a little bit and visit our northern neighbor. Montreal is a unique blend of Canada, France and the United States. It’s a charming city with natural beauty and a vibrant culture.

The exterior of Notre Dame Basilica. It's massive!