- Posted December 4, 2010 by
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Just back from ...
Visiting Montreal, Quebec
We just visited Montreal in Quebec, Canada and this is truly a wonderful place to visit. A large, gorgeous, very historical city with many different neighborhoods, each of which is delineated by different shaped lamp posts - a clever and easy way to tell when you have moved from one neighborhood to another – you can easily spend several days in Montreal. There is a lot to see and do in this lovely city so the first thing I suggest is precisely what we did - take a tour of the city. We were lucky enough to work with Tourisme Montreal for our tour but there are several excellent tour companies available. This will help you understand the way Montreal is laid out and will give you some ideas about what else you want to see.
We drove all around the city, then stopped in a neighborhood restaurant called Valois to have some lunch. These neighborhood restaurants are where the locals go to have great fresh and delicious food, hang out and have long conversations. We had burgers and our very first frites, which are basically french fries but much, much, MUCH better. They are smaller, crispier and quite delicious. Another day, we had lunch at Eggspectation, an interesting restaurant where you can get a delicious breakfast any time of the day.
After lunch, our guide dropped us off at the Montreal Botanical Garden where we saw gorgeous orchids, teeny tiny bonsai trees and the largest cactus I have ever seen. The Botanical Garden covers 180 acres and has 10 exhibition greenhouses and over 30 outdoor gardens. It should be on the must-see list for everyone who visits Montreal.
From there, it's an easy walk to the Montreal Tower. The Olympic Stadium and Tower were built for the 1976 Olympic Games and are quite spectacular. A tram or "funicular" takes you up to the top of the Tower, which is the tallest inclined tower in the world and has a fantastic view of the city.
The Montreal Museum of History and Archaeology was our next stop and if you don't visit one other museum while you are in Montreal, you MUST visit this one. That show was the most incredible thing we have ever experienced in a museum. We sat down in our seats with what looked like an archaeological dig sunk down in front of us. We were instructed to put on our headphones and tune to whatever number corresponded to our language. We were glad to hear this, since we were afraid we would be completely lost if everything was in French. And the show began. For a few seconds, the light show was so realistic, I actually thought the stones were moving but, of course, it was an illusion. Using lights, music, narration and pictures projected onto several screens, they told the story of the city. Seriously, it was incredible. You have to see it.
The Notre Dame Basilica is also a place you can’t miss. We had visited some cathedrals when we were in Ireland, but this gorgeous place was their equal and then some. We actually just stood in awe for a few minutes at the design at the back of cathedral. With candles flickering and the tourists murmuring quietly and respectfully, it was truly a breath-taking place.
Probably the most fabulous meal we had while we were in Montreal was at the Nuances restaurant at the Casino de Montreal. Located on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, this fabulous building was originally the French Pavilion for the Expo'67, but was inaugurated as the Casino de Montréal on October 9, 1993. At the time, it housed 65 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines. The casino opened its doors on October 9, 1993 and was an instant success, with average daily visitor numbers reaching the 12,000 mark. It has expanded several times and major renovations began in the fall of 2009. The Casino de Montreal is one of the world's largest casinos, provides five floors of gaming and is one of the city's star attractions. It now has more than 2,900 slot machines, 130 gaming tables and it never closes. That's right - it's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some gamblers will be dismayed to hear that the rules at this casino are a little different - no smoking at all and no drinking while you are playing.
We wandered through the gaming rooms where bright lights and colors combined with hundreds of visitors enjoying themselves to create an exciting panorama. But we weren't here to gamble. We were here to eat.
We had dinner at Nuances, the only 5 Diamond CAA-AAA restaurant in Montreal and one which is maintained this lofty status since 2000. The contemporary beauty of the small restaurant located on the 5th floor of the Casino is set off by the huge windows which overlook the St. Lawrence River and the reflected lights of Montreal. We were seated at a small table by the windows and marveled at the incredible view before we were presented with our menus.
I can't even begin to tell you about all the wonderful food we had, all in tiny portions beautifully arranged on the plate so they were just the right amount. I remember creamy asparagus soup with a crab-stuffed spring roll perched on top; halibut that had been pan-fried to a golden brown and covered with some creamy sauce that was the best thing I have ever tasted; mushroom ravioli; and thin strips of venison which I was leery about but she assured us would be delicious. And they were. By this point, we were completely full but, somehow, we managed to eat some sort of delicious, warm chocolate cake with a hot fudge center.
Wonderful sights and wonderful food – Montreal had them all!