As a late birthday treat I drove up to Montreal with my sister and brother in law. I’ve been to Canada a few times and have visited two biggies Toronto and Ottawa but never had I been to the french district/area/part/palace/place/mountains/blah.
I guess first of all (if you’re close to the border) make the drive! I feel like nowadays people think the only way to get around is flying but although I do love airports and being on a plane – there is something magical about driving or train(ing). If it is within a decent distance I’d recommend driving to Montreal as the shock of everything around you turning first Canadian and then French is quite bizarre. One minute we were driving amongst these beautiful green mountains and the next we crossed the border and there were farms and little shacks with french advertisements.
Notre-Dame Basilica is a must see and is located in Old Montreal. From the outside it appears to be your average gothic church with a pretty outdoor square (complete with statues of Montreal’s elite and mighty and horse-drawn carriages). However it’s the inside that blew my mind and I’m sure will amaze yours. My photos do not do it justice but the interior is very grand and full of colour. There are purples, greens, blues, golds and silvers that overflow the walls all the way up to the ceiling and around the main altar and organs. They portray different patterns from lines to stars and more intricate pieces. It’s one of the most magnificent churches I’ve been in and it truly felt like I was walking into art. It has an almost gypsy and bohemian decor feel to it which I loved. Go check it out and let me know what you think/if you can put the experience into words better haha.
If you want to get outside and either go on a nice walk, bike ride or look over all of Montreal then head to Mont Royal. It’s basically a giant, grassy hill in the city haha. We took the metro (which is very easy to use and cheap) and then walked up Royal Street (which is full of cute shops, restaurants etc.) to the edge of the park. You can take a bus to the top of the hill but we opted to wiggle our way through the different paths and get up there. There is a risk of getting lost haha and there are a lot of stairs/tight hill paths but it’s definitely worth it! At the top there’s an indoor space with drinks and toilets and then the overlook is very nice and you can see most of Montreal. Another highlight up there would be the Cross that sits atop the mountain. From our hotel room we could see it lit up at night so to actually stand underneath it was awesome. I’m not sure of the significance but I guess that’s what Google is for!
(Little side note – if you do drive from New England to Montreal then you can probably go past the Ben and Jerries factory. We did and it was actually a little disappointing but maybe you’ll find it more interesting?). I was just expecting the tour to be more exciting and the sampling room to have every single flavour imaginable but nope just cookies and cream.