Category Archives: Montreal

Spring and everything that came with it

As you have no doubt noticed, I have been quiet for a while. That’s because life has been quite busy and complicated here lately. We have known for quite a while that we might be in for a bit of a rocky ride, but let me start at the beginning:

I bought my home about three years ago, as I have mentioned before. It is a beautiful, rambling old upper duplex in NDG and as with most of these properties, it is an undivided co-property, meaning that when you buy one of these places, you are essentially entering into an unofficial marriage with the folks living either above or below you. You therefore would do well to figure out who the nosy neighbor in the area is and get all the information you can about the people you are going to be sharing your duplex with before you decide to buy, because if you end up in this type of ownership with the wrong sort of people, you are in for a very bumpy ride. The lady who lived below me when I bought was everybody’s dream in this type of situation. She was a very kind, deaf, elderly lady. She never caused me a moment’s worry (well, except for that one time when she set her oven on fire…), handed over a year’s worth of post-dated cheques for her half of the monthly insurance premiums and was delighted when I offered to take over the care of our front garden and bring it back to life by planting things in it. Unfortunately, her health got a bit iffy in the Winter of 2014-15 and she and her family decided that it would be best to move her into assisted living. My Darling and I were devastated and concerned about who would end up living downstairs, especially when it took months for the unit to sell, a phenomenon that is pretty much unheard of in our area. The longer the home was on the market, the more nervous my darling and I became because we knew our nightmare scenario was getting closer to becoming reality: people who were waiting for a bargain price before snapping the place up in order to tear it apart and put us through months of renovation Hell and then move in and not want to spend another penny on the building for years. Or worse still, these same people trying to flip the house and not know what they were getting into, running out of money and then abandoning it or try to sell it half renovated.We ended up with scenario number one. A couple our age had been watching the unit’s price drop for months and bought it so they could customize the heck out of it. Since our new downstairs neighbors have started their renovations, all Hell has broken lose. First off, we are dealing with the usual inconvenience of work going on downstairs: infernal racket from 8:00 A.M. to anywhere between 4:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. (although on Good Friday it was really bad and we had a plumber in and out of our place and theirs cutting pipes etc. from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. who was unable to get his job done due to complications and left us without heat for 32 hours), dust, noisy workers, debris piling up in front of the neighbors garage and as often happens when the ceilings are torn down, a few minor issues have been found with our place which meant some unplanned spending. Plus, with the ceilings down and all the soundproofing gone, we feel like we have unwanted guests in our house who just keep coming back day after day. When these guys are talking and drilling and hammering away, it feels as though they are working in our own house and not downstairs. In the first three weeks of work, I had three separate meltdowns over the fact that I felt like my home was no longer my own.

The last meltdown was on Good Friday when I had spent all day cleaning a ton of dust that had come up from downstairs through undetected and therefore unprotected gaps between our unit and the lower one to make our home presentable for my in-laws who were coming over for Easter-even lunch the next day only to be informed at 10:00 P.M. that my guests would be eating in a cold, unheated house to the sound of plumbing work being done downstairs. My poor Darling scooped me up and comforted me as best he could before counselling me to spend more time outside the house and away from all the racket, which I have been doing. It has helped, as has the fact that we have been having one of my father’s good friends put the finishing touches on our house so that it finally feels like it is all ours. We had 85% of the house painted last year, so this year all that needed doing was the living room and our main staircase. My dad’s friend is an extremely talented painter and has worked in a lot of homes in our neighborhood restoring them to their former glory. Ours has a lot of its original features, but its beautiful oak beams had been painted over twice in the home’s 89 year history including once in, God help me,  red, and again in beige. See?

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So my dad’s friend stripped them for us and painted our living room in two different shades of my favorite color, purple! We chose purple because it compliments the red we have in the office next door and the paler of the two shades fits in very well with the pale, buttery yellow we have in our main hallway and kitchen. The oak beams though, my goodness! Who in the heck would ever want to paint over such beautiful beams?

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So, finally having our house the way we want it has perked me up quite a bit, as did a seriously healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine last week, part of it taken in during a vigorous 10km run. I also spent quite a bit of time cuddling our cats in the evening once all the noise was over for the day. As you can see, Quinn and Magique have not been nearly as bothered by all the noise as I am. All they need is the couch and some sunshine and they’re all set.

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Quinn soaking up the sunshine
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Magique has a different approach to sunbathing from Quinn’s.

Before we had the painting done, I also cheered myself up by putting some cheerful Spring flowers in the living room.

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Beautiful Spring blooms from Westmount Florist

Also, we enjoyed a lovely Easter Vigil at the Oratory, like we do every year. If you are ever in Montreal over the Easter weekend, I cannot recommend this service highly enough. It is filled with candle light, music and hope. Plus, nothing beats the view of the Oratory lit up at night.

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St.Joseph’s Oratory after Easter Vigil.

I also got seriously excited when I saw that the buds on our Maple tree were opening up. This, if memory serves me, is happening much earlier than last year which wouldn’t be surprising since our Winter this year has been a lot milder. I’ll have a better idea of the time frame later in the season though, because I know that our Maple didn’t have full-sized leaves when we left for Vegas and the Grand Canyon last year and that was in early May.

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Buds on our Maple tree!

So there you have it, my life lately has not been very conducive to creativity, but I think I’m back on track, especially since I took the initiative of purchasing a keyboard for my iPad. I will now be able to write posts away from home and since the neighbors plan to be renovating until at least June 30th, I will be spending a lot of times in Montreal’s many cafes and will therefore more than likely have a lot of time to write and read and take pictures. I will not hide the fact that I would much rather be spending time in my beautiful purple living room though.

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My grandfather’s tree and some favorites

Good news everyone: my darling and I walked past my Grandfather’s maple tree (that’s how I’ve come to think of it) yesterday and it is still standing! I’m hoping this means that the arborist who was supposed to give a second opinion declared that the old fellow is well enough to be saved, because another very large, old, Silver Maple around the corner from my grandfather’s tree was cut down just a few days ago and Grandpa’s tree is still standing. At least when the city must take down such ancient, stately trees, they leave posters tacked to the trunk of the tree explaining why the tree had to be cut down and evidence of the tree’s illness so locals aren’t left wondering why their much loved trees have been felled. and at least if my Grandfather’s tree does end up being cut down in the near future, I was able to take a series of photos of it, of which I am happy to chare a few.

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The bottom of Old Orchard Avenue with my Grandfather’s tree on the right.
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A closeup of my Grandfather’s tree that give you an idea of just how wide its trunk is.

On another note, it has been ages since I’ve shared any of my favorites with you. I just haven’t felt up to it and haven’t had the time, but I have a few gems for you today, name this adorable counter vacuum which can be found at Zone stores here in Montreal.

Isn’t he just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen??? My brother and his wife had one just like him and I had been coveting one for at least a year but my Darling felt that ia counter vacuum was a useless gadget that would do nothing but take up valuable counter space. First of all, he clearly has no concept of how many little crumbs can be created while cooking and second of all, we have such a massive kitchen counter that we would need dozens of these little vacuums to fill it up. After my Darling was forced to go into the office for the second Saturday in a row last weeked I was feeling pretty down, so I detoured by Zone after buying some groceries and picked up my very own little mouse vacuum. He is quiet, efficient and elicited some grumbling from my Darling. I told him that if he really hadn’t wanted to end up with a kitchen counter vacuum, he simply should not have gotten himself called into work so that I would not have needed cheering up. I named my little mouse friend Brie and he has already made himself more than useful. If you’re like me and love cooking but hate having to sponge down your counter after spilling a bit of flour or other miscellaneous kitchen crumbs on it every time you cook, you should really look into getting one of these little guys. They also come in ladybug format and are about the size of a standard computer mouse.

Another one of my current favorites is a wonderful classical music album which is perfect for chasing away the Winter Blues: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter.

 

Richter takes the much-loved favourite and tweaks it just enough to give it a contemporary feel but best of all, there are long recordings of bees, blowing wind, bubbling brooks and birdsong so that you can very easily imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful, lush, green field surrounded by early Spring wildlfowers. Absolute, pure bliss when you are in the dead of Winter and I find that it is an even more effective pick-me-up in February when I begin to feel that Spring is getting close but is still annoyingly out of reach.

And finally, if you are looking for a nice, light read that will have you giggling out loud, I just started reading the absolutely delightful ‘A Night In with Audrey Hepburn’ by Lucy Holliday.

The link above will send you to the Chapters/Indigo Books website for my Canadian readers,  but the book can be found at any bookshop and is so worth it if you are looking for some very easy laughs, but be aware that you will laugh out loud while reading this book. I kept having to relate the funny bits to my Darling yesterday while we were reading on the couch together, so be prepared to explain your fits of giggles to anyone you are reading around!

On living in the neighborhood your family has been in for four generations

OMG you guys, I am so sorry for being such an absentee blogger over the past few weeks, but I was hit with a nasty bug at the end of December which left me completely wiped out. I only started getting back to normal last Friday. The moral of this story is: if your house is way too dry (below 30% humidity), any chest and throat infection you contract will potentially be way worse than it normally would. I kept getting worse until we went out and invested in a good quality humidifier and got our numbers back over 40%. Yup, old houses dry out fast in winter!

Now, on a more cheerful note, I am, as I have mentioned before, seriously in love with the neighborhood we live in. My Darling and I have been in and out of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce all our lives and from the time I was in my late teens, I knew without a doubt that the day I got my own place, it was going to be in N.D.G. What I did not know until far more recently was just how deeply rooted in this part of Montreal my family’s history was. That sort of family history is not the kind of thing a kid is typically interested in. All I really cared about when I came into this neck of the woods for dinner with my paternal grandparents when I was little was how many sweets my grandmother was going to slip me when my mom wasn’t looking, the bouquet of flowers my grandfather would give me from his flower pots in the Summer and the huge (to my brother and I) hill we would drive down in Montreal West on our way home. Since I have moved out here though, my grandmother has loved telling me stories about what the neighborhood was like when she and my grandfather grew up here, because it turns out that out of her 84 years, my grandmother spent 79 of them living in NDG and my grandfather spent 84 of his 89 years here. They moved out to the suburbs to be closer to my aunt a few years ago and while my grandfather was perfectly happy with the change, my grandmother felt completely uprooted and it took her over a year to get used to her new neighborhood.

To put things into perspective, my grandparents remember what NDG looked like before a chunk of it was torn down to make room for the Décarie Expressway. They remember where the old streetcar routes ran (there have been no streetcars in Montreal since 1959) and they saw the Basilica of St-Joseph’s Oratory be built and its dome rise into the skyline of the neighborhood in 1937. My grandmother’s parents arrived here as immigrants from Slovakia in the 1920s and my great-grandfather delivered coal in the neighborhood. My grandfather’s parents were the first owners of a house down on the corner of Old Orchard Avenue and Côte-Saint-Antoine. They moved in in 1932 when my grandfather was six years old and the family kept the house for nearly 50 years.

I love the feeling of living in a neighborhood where my family has so much history. I love knowing that I am walking the same streets that my great-grandparents, grandparents and father walked. I love being able to talk to my grandmother about how little the area has changed since her childhood. She actually grew up in the same ten block radius  that I have called home since 2008. However, having so much history in the neighborhood can also be very bittersweet, like when a venerable old tree reaches the end of its life:

Montreal plans to fell 165-year-old tree in N.D.G. | Montreal Gazette

You know a tree is old and much-loved when news of its upcoming demise makes the news in all the English outlets in town. Everyone who lives in my area knows this tree and I spent well over a half-hour talking about it with my grandmother earlier today when she called to ask me if I had read the story I linked to above. The tree is right across the street from the house my grandfather grew up in and he couldn’t bare to talk about the tree being cut down when my aunt gave him the news earlier this week. I know the tree well, because I can barely stay on the sidewalk when I jog by it and I give it pat and say hello to it every time I go by. A tree this old merits some form of deference when you cross its path. The tree means so much to locals that the borough is bringing in a second team of experts to make sure that nothing can be done to save it before making a final decision about its fate, but it is fairly certain the poor old fella will have to come down since the entire center section of his trunk is rotten. I am planning on walking down to visit him, say goodbye and take some pictures of him in the next few days…and hopefully he won’t fall on me if he really is in as bad a way as they say he is. I will probably cry. This tree has been in the neighborhood long enough to see it grow from a tiny farming community to one of Montreal’s first suburbs and four generations of my family have walked past it, watched it grow and admired it. How can I not be touched by its demise when I think of that?

If you would like to learn more about the history Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, you can check out this site.

 

St.Joseph’s Oratory

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you just can’t write and that’s what has been going on with me lately, largely because of the events in Paris last week. I had a pretty strong post coming along in my head, but after the attacks, it just seemed so trivial. I’m normally a very happy, positive, fun-loving person and I strive to reflect that here on my blog, so I suppose that’s why I got writers block. I just wasn’t feeling like myself, but I think I’ve started to work that out of my system. That and after a visit to St.Joseph’s Oratory on Monday, I knew that the Oratory was just what I needed to write about. I have always had a thing for churches and although I have visited many stunning churches in Europe, the United States and at home here in Canada, the Oratory is still my favorite. It may not be a jaw dropper in terms of its interior, but in my mind that only adds to its charm. Also, its impressive size and the number of steps there are from street level up to the Basilica on the top floor makes the competition look silly ”You’re flamboyant neo-gothic? Well, I have 283 steps up to my front porch, so there!”. And fear not, if stairs are not your thing, there’s a shuttle bus to replace the first 99 stairs. It gets you to the main entrance level and then there are escalators and elevators inside, or more staircases. They just want to make sure there’s something for everyone, you know?

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St. Joseph’s Oratory seen from street level in early Spring.

So, how did we end up with this beautiful shrine in Montreal? It all started with this fella, Brother André.

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This bronze statue of St. Brother André can be found beside what is left of the original Oratory.

He came to Montreal in 1870 to join the Catholic order of Holy Cross brothers, whose novitiate was housed in Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur College (that’s a private high school, we call them colleges here in Québec), just across the street from where the Oratory is now.

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A partial view of Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur college all decked out for Christmas. The school has existed on its present site since 1869.

The brothers almost didn’t keep Brother André past his novitiate because of his frail health, but the bishop of Montreal at the time, Mgr. Bourget, intervened on his behalf after being impressed by André’s piousness and his strong desire to remain with the order and he took his perpetual vows in 1874. Lucky for the Order that the Bishop intervened, because Brother André turned out to be more than just your average Brother! His health was delicate (he was born with an undiagnosed stomach ailment that stayed with him throughout his life and prevented him from eating normally) and he didn’t have the necesary education to teach like the other brothers, so he was made the porter of the school and its Jack-of-all-trades. His tasks included helping out in the infirmary and one day a rumor started going around that a seriously ill student had been inexplicably and suddenly cured after Brother André had sat with him and they had prayed to St. Joseph together. St.Joseph, that’s a statue of him in the picture below, is a Saint of the Catholic church who is known for curing the sick and infirm, among other things.

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The Statue of St-Joseph that stands in the Oratory’s Votive chapel. The chapel holds 10 000 votive lamps and this stand alone contains 3500. Each candle that is lit in the chapel represents the prayer of a pilgrim.

Now, St.Joseph is a pretty popular guy and yes, that’s the same Joseph as the one made famous for marrying the virgin Mary and raising Jesus, so when word started getting around that Brother André seemed to have some sort of a direct line to him, people started showing up at Notre-Dame College asking for him. When he was at his doorkeeper’s post that wasn’t too much of a problem, especially at first when there weren’t too many pilgrims (people who travel somewhere specifically for prayer), but French Canadians in the late 19th Century were a pretty pious lot and soon the parents of the boys living at the school began complaining to Brother André’s superiors about the pilgrims who were taking the liberty of wandering around the school in order to look for Brother André when he was not in his porter’s cell. The issue was that a lot of these people were suffering from, or had been in close contact with people who were suffering from infectious diseases which were very difficult to treat at the time, such as influenza, diphtheria, scarlet fever, polio and tuberculosis and there was legitimate fear of the boys who boarded at the school being contaminated by germs. The Holy Cross order and Brother André knew that turning Pilgrims away not an option, so the order eventually gave Brother André permission to build a small oratory in honor of St.Joseph on a piece of land they owned across the street from Notre-Dame College. And voilà! we have the beginning of what was one day to become the largest shrine in the world dedicated to St.Joseph!

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The 1904 (behind the steeple) and 1910 (from the steeple frontwards) sections of the original oratory.

Cute, isn’t it? There was a problem though, Brother André only had 200$, which us equivalent to about 5o00$ nowadays, with which to build his Oratory. He put every last penny he had saved giving 5 cent haircuts at the College over a 34 year period to get the chapel built and it was too small. The oratory opened its doors for the first time on October 19th of 1904 and by Winter the pilgrims were showing up to see Brother at Notre-Dame again because there was only room for 8 people at a time in the chapel and even if they could get inside the building, it was unheated. Brother André and a few of his most loyal friends began collecting donations and in under six years they were able to not only install a wood burning stove but also to enlarge the Oratory twice, first to seat 50 people and then 200. The building was still prone to chronic overcrowding however, so Brother André and his friends continued to raise funds and in 1914, work began on the Crypt-Church, which opened in 1917 and could seat 750 people. To this day, it is the busiest church on the site and the busiest Catholic church I know of anywhere in Canada. There are 7 to 8 masses a day said at the Oratory and all of them except for two on Sundays are said in the Crypt-Church.

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The choir section of the Crypt-Church seen during a concert. The Crypt-Church gets its name from the fact that the Basilica was originally planned to be built directly on top of it, so it has a low ceiling supported by flattened steel arches.

Brother André knew that the Crypt-Church wouldn’t be able to hold all the masses of Pilgrims flocking to the shrine to pray St-Joseph for long though, so in 1924 work began on the Basilica, a huge church that could originally, before seats were put in and crowd regulation laws were put into place, hold 10 000 pilgrims. The Basilica took 43 years to complete because, as with the rest of the enlargements to the original shrine, it was built with donations and it was first a victim of the Great Depression and then of shifting values. It was opened for its first service in 1955 and Brother André, who passed away in 1937 at the age of 91, never got to see it completed. The interior of the Basilica was completed in 1967 in a Medieval inspired Art Deco style.

Nowadays, the Basilica seats 1 750 pilgrims on a regular Sunday, or 1 870 when chairs are added in for special occasions. Mass is said in the Basilica on Sunday mornings at 11:00 A.M. with music provided by its impressive 5811 pipe, 78 stop Beckerath organ and its boys’ choir the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal and again at 12:30 P.M. It is also used for major feast days such as Christmas, Easter and St-Joseph’s feast day on March 19th. Otherwise, seeing as regular weekday masses are attended by anywhere between 50 to 200 pilgrims at a time, the Crypt-Church is used.

All this talk of overflow may make the Oratory sound like a very busy place, it is actually very, very peaceful and there is a beautiful energy that surrounds it as soon as you set foot inside the grounds. I’m very, very fortunate to have such a beautiful place in my neighborhood and I have been to it many, many times when I was in need of comfort and peace. If ever you are in Montreal, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to visit the Oratory, even though it is a bit off the beaten tourist trail. It is quite easy to reach by public transit since two bus lines stop right in front of it (the 51 and 166) and a very major bus line stops just one corner away (the 165-435 line, the second number is the express number for rush hour). Don’t pass up a chance to visit this unique place, because believe me, you will be sorry! And yes, as with the rest of the city, it is beautiful year-round!

Now, a note about the photos in this post: you will have noticed that they are watermarked with my real name. The reason for this is that I have put some of my photos up for sale on a decorative print producer’s site that is local to Quebec photographers, but ships all over the world. When doing this, I was strongly encouraged to create a photography website, which I did. Please, feel free to visit it here and follow it! Having to watermark my photos twice was such a major hassle that I decided to bite the bullet and put my name on here. I refrained from doing this before because while I don’t care if my family knows that I have a photography blog, there are a very, very few members of my family who have been quite nasty to me on social media before, so nasty that I blocked them from my Facebook account. I don’t need that sort of grief on here when it comes to my writing and opinions. If it’s from some random reader I won’t ever have to meet face to face, I don’t care, but nastiness from family is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you occasionally have to sit down at the same dinner table as them, hence the pseudonym. I’m keeping it on my Gravatar account and have a seperate Gravatar and e-mail address for the photography blog, so I should be good, but I just wanted to clarify the change with you folks!

 

Fall beauties

Our Maple Tree is putting its Fall show on.
Our Maple Tree is putting its Fall show on.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Fall finally got its foot in the door here in Montreal last week. The leaves started changing gradually in the first week of October, which is quite late for us. At the same date last year, they were past peak and almost all gone. Our lovely Maple was nothing but green until Friday and then all of sudden started turning, which is usually how it goes! We had such a lovely, perfectly balanced Summer here that aside form a bumper crop of massive, juicy apples all over Quebec, the Fall colors are stunning to say the least. Also, this is still going on with our organic Strawberry plant:

Our crazy strawberry plant is still giving us berries.
Our crazy strawberry plant is still giving us berries.

Is that nuts, or what? I ate that berry this morning and it was just as juicy and sweet as the ones this plant was giving us in June and July! Has anyone else ever had a strawberry plant grow berries right into October? I’ve never heard of it and there have been no fresh local berries at the grocery store for weeks now! We’re delighted about this of course and I’ve decided to let the plant spend the Winter out on our balcony and see if it comes back again in the Spring.

Along with the beauties of changing leaves and the pleasures of being able to put on nice, cozy sweaters and scarves comes a change in the outdoor decor of our home! My darling and I both love our Fall wreath which I purchased from Michael’s craft and hobby shop two years ago and while we’re always a bit sad to have to put away our shorts and sandals in September, it always puts a smile on our faces when I pull this wreath out of storage and hang it on our front door.

Our Fall wreath hanging on our front door.
Our Fall wreath hanging on our front door.

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All of our door ornaments come from Michael’s and I have to say that I have been nothing but pleased with the quality of their decorations. Only one of them has not resisted the elements, but I realized pretty quickly that it was never meant to be hung outside, so its demise was totally my fault. This Fall wreath however looks just as fresh as it did the first time I hung it on our door. If you have a Michael’s in your area, I strongly encourage you to go and check them out, their Fall and Halloween decorations are up to 60% off right now and That means that their Christmas stuff will be in as well if you like to buy your decorations early.

As for me, I’m going to keep admiring the beauties of Fall before I start getting serious about Christmas.

This little guy wouldn't look out of place on a Canadian flag!
This little guy wouldn’t look out-of-place on a Canadian flag!
The changing leaves of our Maple Tree.
The changing leaves of our Maple Tree.

Some of my Fall favorites in no particular order:

1- Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING

2- Homemade mulled apple cider, we use Williams Sonoma mulling spices.

3- Getting to wear scarves again! I’m a scarf fiend and have so many that I’m running out of places to store them properly.

4- The beautifully colored leaves and the crisp air.

5- Curling up in front the television under a blanket with my Darling in the evening.

What not to miss in Montreal

Downtown Montreal by night.
Downtown Montreal by night.

We had two house guests back-to-back last month, one before my brother’s wedding and then my grandmother who was here for the wedding. My grandmother was born in Quebec City, but lived in Montreal for nearly 20 years before she and my grandfather moved to California for four years when he was transferred there just before he retired. Once they got a taste of life without Winter, my grandparents decided to continue to live in a warm climate rather than move back to Canada and go back to shoveling snow and wearing more layers than an onion for five months a year. My grandmother still comes to Montreal at least twice a year though grandmother and knows the ropes well enough that she is still totally comfortable riding the metro, even at 10:00 P.M. Our out-of-town guest, however, had never been to Montreal before and it was therefore my job to show her around on her first day in town.

Being a lifelong Montrealer, I know a lot of places in town that are amazing, but most of them are off the beaten track since, as anyone who lives in a touristy city knows, the touristy parts of town can be loathsome during the Summer months. So what did I do? I took our out-of-town guest to the most touristy part of town, Old Montreal, but I skirted around the tourist traps. Our first stop was Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel

A stained glass window and a model ship holding votive candles in Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel
A stained glass window and a model ship holding votive candles in Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel

As I mentioned in my brother’s wedding post, a lot of fuss is made about Notre-Dame-Basilica, with reason. It is a beautiful church, inside and out, but because the Basilica is so beautiful and so nearby, a lot of people overlook Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. It is a much smaller, much more peaceful church and I have always been touched by the history it has as being a place of prayer and hope for sailors and their families because it is so close to the Old Port.

After our visit to Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, my guest and I visited some art galleries before stopping for lunch at one of my absolute favorite cafés: Olive et Gourmando!

Olive et Gourmando
Olive et Gourmando
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Two more large blackboards like this one can be found in the café.

I love this place for its laid-back atmosphere, fun décor (I love blackboards and have two in my house!) and naturally, its amazing food and coffee! My favorite sandwich of theirs is the Poached Egg on Your Face, but I also love the Cubain. Watch out for the Poached Egg on Your Face though, it is quite spicy since there is sriracha in the sauce! As far as O & G’s  coffee goes, I am addicted to their latte! It is a perfect blend of smooth and strong and I never have to add any sugar to it. One very important note about dining at Olive et Gourmando though: I highly recommend you make a reservation if you want to eat there at any time between 9:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., especially during the Summer months because it is always chock-a-block full and at lunchtime people are often lined up out the door. Also, since they make all of their sandwiches fresh, they can run out of some of their more popular selections around the end of the day. They do have a to-go counter though if you don’t like eating in crowded places.

After lunch, we made our way up to, you guessed it, Notre-Dame Basilica! I could not neglect to take our guest there and I also wanted to get some pictures of the Basilica and Chapel for my brother’s wedding post. Off we went and I was not sorry we made the stop since it turned out that my new Canon EOS 6D and EF 24-105mm lens made for some serious photography fun, the most fun I’ve had in Notre-Dame Basilica ever, except when I’ve been there for concerts or my little brother’s wedding. I’ve been used to frustration while trying to take pictures in Notre-Dame because of the low light conditions, but it turns out that all I needed was a bit more practice and a kick-ass lens and camera duo. Oh, and our guest loved the Basilica too. Go figure, I’ve never left there with a disappointed visitor!

This sculpture of the prophets Isaiah and Ezechiel sits below the pulpit on the left had side of the Basilica near the main altar
This sculpture of the prophets Isaiah and Ezechiel sits below the pulpit on the left had side of the Basilica near the main altar.
The pulpit.
The pulpit.
A view of the choir section of the Basilica behind the altar.
A view of the choir section of the Basilica behind the altar.
A view of the Basilica's crucifix behind the sanctuary lamp.
A view of the Basilica’s crucifix behind the sanctuary lamp.

Our last stop before heading home for some dinner was St-Louis Square, a park that was recently given a face-lift by the city after they had let it run down for a few years. The Square is one of the most easily recognizable places in Montreal for people who have never been here, because the colorful houses that surround it are printed on postcards just about as frequently as Notre-Dame-Basilica is, but when people actually come to Montreal, they very rarely make it to the square because it is not near any other tourist attractions. This is a shame because it is a very beautiful park with a lovely fountain in its center with benches around it that are screened from view by a beautiful garden. It is a wonderful place to sit with a book and a cup of coffee or tea or for a nice long chat with a friend. It is also right next to the pedestrian stretch of Prince Arthur street which is filled with wonderful cafés and on the day I was there with our guest, there was a farmer’s market going on, which was a lovely surprise.

The fountain that stands in the center of the square.
The fountain that stands in the center of St-Louis Square.
Some of thec colorlful Victorian houses that surround St-Louis Square
Some of the colorful Victorian houses that surround the Square
A closeup of a few of the houses.
A closeup of a few of the houses.
Another closeup of one of the houses.
Another closeup of one of the houses.

After dinner in the evening, my Darling and I had one last place we wanted to take our guest to make her first full day in Montreal complete: The Belvedere in Mount Royal Park that overlooks Downtown Montreal. The Kondiaronk Belvedere offers one of the most famous views of Montreal there is, but once again, a lot of tourists don’t make it there unless they are visiting with family or friends. In this case, it is because you can only reach the Belvedere by going for a bit of a hike through the park from a parking lot, or by climbing a whole lot of stairs and then going for a hike in the park. We Canadians are pretty health conscious, so we don’t mind having to walk a way to get someplace nice! And the view from the Belvedere is definitely worth the workout in the daytime, at night (as seen at the top of this post), in Summer or in Winter.

The View form Kondiaronk Belvedere in Winter.
The View form Kondiaronk Belvedere in Winter.

There are a lot more places in Montreal that you should not miss, namely the awe-inspiring St-Joseph’s Oratory, which attracts a steady two million visitors per year, but I’ll save that for another post since the Oratory is definitely worth of a post all its own! For now, I hope you enjoyed these few highlights of my lovely hometown!