Montréal, Québéc: Bijou Du Canada Français

With my 22nd birthday fast approaching I wanted to enjoy myself in French Canada's capital city, Montréal. Taking off to the beautiful French inspired streets of Vieux Montréal, I made the most of my time in this beautiful Canadian city. Montréal, Québéc pushed me to make some new friends and to try something different! Bien sûr, le Canada Français était prêt à servir! Canada! 

Touching down into Montréal's Trudeau Pierre International Airport I made my way to my hotel in Vieux Montréal, which translates to Old Montréal. L'hotel became my residence for two and a half days, I had made the perfect choice of accommodation for a great weekend. Being that this trip would begin on my 22nd birthday I decided to splash out on a nice hotel.  French Canada was looking very different to what I had seen in Ontario! What good is sitting alone in your room? It's not! getting on the metro I found the Gay Village, getting some drinks and some dinner I didn't exactly for it all! I knew what I wanted! Enoying the evening I went to a shady looking venue as the midnight hour neared. I made that birthday night count, those details don't need to be mentioned but what happened gave me a French flavour for certain! That's enough! Oui, le Canada sert la variété! J'ai adoré le Canada Français! O'Canada!

Montréal had such an amazing vibe, the fusion of old and new worked superbly. I must admit the French language that was spoken by the locals did sound quite familiar but had a different accent and pronunciation for certain words. I swear the history instilled within the buildings of Vieux Montréal transcended into the streets, seeing the street signs displaying the words 'Arret' instead of 'Stop' gave this part of the city a sense of individuality in my opinion. My birthday weekend was turning out to be amazing! Was I in Europe or North America? I lived to hear the Montreal folk speak their strand of French. It wasn't like the tone that I had learned at school. if truth be told I was glad to hear something that I couldn't quite understand. The mystery of the French Canadian chat impressed me much as I explored the winding streets of Vieux Montreal. I really need to get back to Canada in the future! If only I had the funds to enjoy the fine French Canadian food, I turned to the beverages!

Regardless of the time or day, I made sure that I spent some time beside the waters of the St. Lawerence River. The freezing cold temperatures felt fresh compared with the ice cold bite that Jersey is serving right now! Looking upstream it was crazy to think that the French Canadian province of Québec, most of Canada's colonial past can be traced back to the British but Québec had the French paid a visit after 1535. Back in the 15th Century I would have been standing within a place called 'New France'. I felt that the Old Port would have had seen many French vessels pass through its waters. My visit to the Old Port was short but it was sweet, looking back it's been great to look back into history to see how diverse Canada's past has been, no wanting to comment on its pre-colonial existent. 'New France' may not exist any more but Québec serves as a part of Canada's present French connection. Cette 'Nouvelle France!'

Did I see Quasimodo? Did I see Judge Claude Frollo? No! One thing that I did see was the outstanding, Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal. That cathedral commanded the attention and made the bitter cold look great! I swear the history instilled within the buildings of Vieux Montréal transcended into the streets, seeing the street signs displaying the words 'Arret' instead of 'Stop' gave this part of the city a sense of individuality in my opinion. My birthday weekend was turning out to be amazing! I made a champion decision to spend my 22nd Birthday in Québéc, Canada! My time management skills were shocking, I wasn't on my travelling game because my birthday had me messed up! I didn't go insider the Notre-Dame, the outside was enough for me. No Esmerelda either! Getting it back to the second day I got my hangover self sorted, I think a repeat visit without so much sauce needs to happen in the future! With all the twists and turns, Montréal had my birthday on another level! Oui, MT!

Keeping on my game I washed the hangover away, got myself out of bed and onto the Métro de Montréal! Getting out of the Old City, I had my sights set on Mont Royal because I had done some research about that normal looking French Canadian neighbourhood. Taking the 'Orange Line' from Place d' Armes to Mont-Royal. If truth be told it was great to walk along Mont-Royal Ave East. I didn't hear any English spoken as I walked along that normal Montréal shopping street, it was a comfort in many ways. The vast  majority of signage displayed along that road on the shops and restaurants made me feel as if the Atlantic Ocean had shifted that Canadian province back to France. Did I need or want to buy anything? No, I was happy with my window shopping during that French Canadian day of exploration. I definitely got lost but I found my way before the sunset. I need to revisit Mont-Royal with an iPhone for maps!

Le Stade Olympique de Montréal stood before me, I had been following the darken street signs with hope a metro station would appear. I had majorly messed my hours up, the stadium had closed to the public but it was easy enough for me to catch a few glimpses of the facilities. By that time I had been walking all day, the hangover was real but I needed to carry on. I really liked the 1970s concrete structure of the velodrome with its circular concrete design. L'observatoire olympique stood over me, it was like a skier who was poised to take on a huge mountain top course! After having a sly walk inside the Velodrome I found the metro, taking me back to Place d'Armes I found the Chinatown area that had been hiding before then. Ordering up a storm I took my food back to my L'hotel room in the heart Vieux Montréal. The day had been successful regardless my lack of technology nor forward planning. I rested well that night, there would be no alcohol or tricks turned!

Fresh from a good nights rest and a hearty Chinese takeaway, I packed my bags and headed for Montréal's Downtown area before my afternoon Air Canada Rouge flight back to Newark, NJ. Catching some of the 'park life' was much needed, within the open grounds of the magnificent Basilique Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde et Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur. Shamefully, I didn't pay any attention to that cathedral, although I did sense a royal presence in the form of Montreal's 'Queen Elizabeth Hotel' by Fairmont. How, I appreciated Montréal's bustling city centre, the department stores served a sense of European cool whilst the architecture looked positively French! I found a HMV store, I stuck with the Canadian theme! I bought two Canadian albums plus a Kate Bush album, sorry Céline! From the winding streets to the slanted French conversations both oozing Québécois cool! C'était tellement royal! Oui!

Montréal compact city centre had me on the 747 bus route that would take me back to the Aéroport International Montréal-Trudéau, that's how I found the downtown in the first place! My birthday trip to Canada's Québéc Montréal city gave me much to explore and to seek, from the charming French streets of Vieux Montréal to the delights of the Gay Village. My budget priced luxurious hotel room had me in the centre of the 'Old City' with the Notré-Dame on my doorstep! The Québécois French Canadian conversations and language had me feeling as if I had hopped over the Atlantic Ocean to Paris, France! This autumn has been a very Canadian time, it's definitely given me two sweet escapes! After my Toronto and Montréal visits, I know that Canada won't ever become a stranger! It will be a few years but I definitely have Québéc City, Ottawa and Vancouver set in my Canadian travel sights! Le Canada français m'a ouvert les yeux sur une nouvelle façon de vivre au Canada! Je reviendrai!

J'adore Montréal !

Joseph Harrison

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