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Published: April 22nd 2019
Mont Royal I
View of the skyline of Montreal from the terrace of Chalet Mont-Royal.
In late June, a conference trip took me to Montreal. I arrived there on a Saturday afternoon, caught the shuttle bus into town, and walked to my hotel. It was screaming hot, which I absolutely had not expected. I had checked the weather forecast, so I had been prepared for temperatures above 30° Centigrade. However, what I had not expected was the humidity in the air. It was almost as humid as in Singapore! So I definitely needed a quick shower once I had checked into my room, then walked into town to meet my colleagues (the gang of cuties 😉 who had arrived just shortly before me) for dinner. It was great to catch up with Achim, Richie, Mats, and Alina. The food was nice, but we did not stay for too long because all of us were tired and wanted to go to bed.
The next morning, I went for an early morning run. The temperature was still bearable, and I made my way towards Mont Royal, the mountain very close to the city centre, not far from my hotel. I found it to be rather steep, and there were wooden stairs leading all the way up to
Mont Royal II
a terrace with a wonderful view of the city, the port, and St. Lawrence Stream. Adjacent to the terrace there is Chalet Mont-Royal, a little palace that nowadays is a café. Behind the Chalet there are meadows with tables and benches, surrounded by trees, that people use for picnics. A little further to the east there is Croix du Mont-Royal, a cross on top of the mountain made of metal that is illuminated by night. On top and around the mountain there are many gravel roads and trails, so the place is really inviting for everyone who likes hiking, running, or biking.
I found the stairs very steep, so I could not run up, but rather walked in brisk speed, constantly being overtaken by really fit people who would run up and down the stairs. Anyway, once I had arrived at the top, I took some time to enjoy the view, went for a little run along one of the tracks on top of the mountain, and then descended the stairs again. I instantly fell in love with the mountain, so I went for a morning run there every second day during my stay in Montreal, and additionally I
Mont Royal III
Morning atmosphere on the hill.
walked up a couple of times to explore the tracks there.
But of course Montreal has a lot more to offer than the (definitely wonderful) mountain in its city centre. We had arrived there two days before the conference, so there was time for exploring the city a little more. I met my colleague Mats for a tasty breakfast (Mats is just amazing at finding restaurants with great food), and then we met with Alina, Achim, and Richard for a hop on hop off bus tour. These tours usually don’t provide vast amounts of information on the place you are at, but I always see them as a good way for getting a first idea of what a city that I have not been to before is like. We hopped onto the bus not far from Vieux Montreal, the old part of the city. There is Notre Dame Basilica, a Roman Catholic church in gothic style situated on a hill with a square in front of it. The first church in the area was built in the 17th century, but eventually it became too small, and in the early 19th century, a new church was erected close to where
Mont Royal IV
Croix du Mont-Royal overlooking the city.
the old one had been. The bus then took us past the former town hall and out of the old part of the city. Next, we went to the Old port, Montreal’s old harbour that looks to me as if it was declining. There are a few storage buildings that don’t seem to be in use any more, and consequently are not in good conditions. Then we went past the Museum of Fine Arts and along Crescent Street with its many restaurants. From there, the bus took us up Mont Royal, and from the other side of the mountain, the one that is not facing the harbour, we could get a glimpse of the former Olympic Stadium. Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976, and the stadium is part of the Olympic Park. Somehow it reminded me of a space ship with its disc-like shape and the tower above it. We also had a stop over at St. Joseph’s Oratory, a basilica southwest of Mont Royal that is apparently the most elevated spot in the city. It was built in the 20th century and is Canada’s largest church and one of the largest churches in the world. It has a
Notre Dame Basilica
... in Vieux Montréal.
capacity of 10,000 people! Since it was another day of screaming heat, we could not be bothered to get off the bus and walk all the stairs (279 steps) up to the church. Rather, we stayed on the bus that took us past the large Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery that is located on the Western side of Mont Royal (a beautiful spot in terms of nature and peace) back into town.
It was 1st of July, Canada Day, so we decided to get off the bus and watch the parade. There were all kinds of different clubs and organizations marching in the parade, wearing colourful costumes, waving flags, giving little performances. What I found very remarkable was that the country really seems to be proud of their diverse people. All the groups were from different origins: there were Scots playing their bagpipes; Indians wearing colourful saris; Chinese who had made a large plush ice bear that was sitting on a car – just to name a few. There were cheers and clapping for all the groups passing the spectators, and there were very few policemen, which I interpreted as a sign that they were not expecting violence. In
... in Vieux Montréal.
general, the city seems to be very open and tolerant. For example, there are balls in rainbow colours suspended above Ste-Catherine Street East, a street at the centre of Gay Village. They were first put up by artist Claude Cormier in 2011 and were supposed to be taken down already, but it was decided to leave them there until September 2019. These colours are such a nice symbol of a really colourful city. And one can see that there are really people from various nations, with all kinds of attitudes and life styles. The city has a number of universities as well, amongst them the University of Montreal and McGill University, that are quite well-known, and I am sure this contributes to the diverse mix of people that live in the city.
Later in the afternoon, we spent a bit of time at the harbour before going back to the hotel for a shower and then meeting again for dinner.
The next day, the conference started, so we only had the morning of the congress opening for a bit of walking around the city. We started off in Vieux Montreal, the old part of the city. We walked
St. Joseph’s Oratory
One of the largest churches in the world.
past Notre Dame Basilica and Town Hall, down to St. Lawrence Stream again, and from there along the river to Pointe-à-Callière, a national historic and archaeological site. There are excavations from the early days of the city, including an old wastewater tunnel that is illuminated in a most fascinating manner, and thus the museum showcases the city’s history from the first settlement. The museum is named after Louis Hector de Callière, the third governor of Montreal who took residence there in the late 17th century.
The city had been founded in the mid-17th century by the French. Before their arrival, the area had been populated indigenous people who had been living in the area for centuries, but who had had more of a nomadic lifestyle. There were, for example, the Iroquois. The Europeans started a mission and wanted to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity, and also established trade links with them. The city’s history becomes alive in the museum because it also tells the life stories of several of the settlers there. It is a rather interesting exhibition, and it was the right place to be for sightseeing – under the earth where it was nice and cool,
... located in the Olympic Park. Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976.
compared to the tropical temperatures outside. I enjoyed the weather, however, it is just that sightseeing becomes very effortful, and one would rather sit in the shade and have some cool ice-cream.
We did not have too much time left, though, since the conference was about to open. There was just enough time to take a quick shower and then proceed to the conference venue. I won’t bore you with the conference itself. If you are interested: It was the bi-annual Conference of the International Test Commission (ITC), and we talked a little bit about the topics of Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, and Gamification in the area of psychometric assessment. I wrote something on the conference itself on our university of applied sciences website
Of course, when cuties are conferencing, we always go to fancy dinner places. And this is what we did this time. All my readers will know that I am quite a foodie, so I enjoyed Mats’ picks of restaurants, and I have to say that Richard is getting quite good at finding great places to eat as well. One evening, we went to a steak house called Bouillon Bilk
. Here I did not have so much to choose
At the port I
Old decaying storage building.
from, but the meat eaters’ steaks did look as good as a steak can look to a vegetarian. I had some risotto that was okay. We also went to a steak and sushi place called Vargas
, where I got a great four-course vegetarian meal. What was better for me in terms of having more to choose from was the Venezuelan dinner we had at Arepera
. The name of the restaurant comes from “Arepa”, a type of corn bread that one has with meat, fish, or (in my case) veggies. In a Thai restaurant called Pamika
, we had a funny conversation with our waiter. He explained to us that the idea of the restaurant was to share everything. We said, okay, one of us is allergic to gluten, one is a vegetarian, and one cannot take spicy food. So that was that and we all had our own dishes – very tasty ones, though, just not in line with the concept of the restaurant! My favourite place, though, was Le Filet
. You might not think that this could be a great place for a vegetarian to eat. However, they conjured a vegetarian four-course meal that was just superb.
On the last
At the port II
... in a little park, with Notre Dame Basilica in the background.
day, I went for a final morning run on Mont Royal, met Mats for a superb breakfast once more, and then left the city at around lunchtime together with my colleague Tim who was on the same flight back home as I was. I like Montreal, it is a great city to visit, and I think it would be worthwhile having more time there and not only exploring the city, but also the beautiful nature in its surroundings.
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