Wednesday - Gastronomical Tour of Montreal!


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North America » Canada » Quebec » Montréal » Old Montréal
May 16th 2018
Published: June 27th 2018
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Today's tour was led by Michel who was assisted by Mario. It was mostly walking, with a few short bus hops. Mario was only with us part of the time; the rest of the time was running ahead to get our tasty-tastings set up at the next locale. What a variety of offerings! We started in the Portuguese section of Montreal (who knew there was a Portuguese neighborhood there!?) and ended up at the farmer's market, which was (to me) very similar to Cleveland's West Side Market.

On our way to the first stop at Padaria Portuguesia Cafe, Michel talked about the early settlers in the area. Young girls (some native, some French, aged 12-15) would choose from the available male suitors. These young girls (especially the natives) taught the men to survive. The commitment was for a 3-month trial, and the girls were welcome to try again with another man if the first washed out! Also, in an effort to ensure the continuation of the Catholic influence in the new society, the French Bishops would send young orphaned girls to Montreal to find a husband and start a family. After a month-and-a-half journey across the ocean, the girls had 2-3 months to get married or become a nun! As new settlers arrived, the more established groups (the ones who had started a business, made some money, created families) moved farther from the raucous port area to larger lots, bigger houses, and a quieter existence. Their "starter-homes" turned over to the newest settlers in a 16th-century version of gentrification. One of the floods of immigrants that came to Montreal was Chinese, and Mandarin became (and still is) most spoken unofficial language in Montreal.

Along the way, Michel pointed out that the neighborhood of St Jean Baptiste, central to Old Montreal was once a limestone quarry, the source of the ubiquitous gray stones in the buildings. When we arrived at Padaria Portuguesia Cafe, our treat was waiting: a Portuguese version of Canadian Butter Tarts! So smooth and creamy - I may have to try my hand at these one day. On other stops, we enjoyed Montreal smoked meat (and I think at least one other stop!). In one of the eatery storefronts, we watched rotisserie meat dripping grease onto cut up potato pieces! - we didn't get a chance to sample that, but it looked awesome! As for the bagels - there is a long-standing debate locally whether St. Viateur or Fairmount makes the best ones. We sampled Fairmount and I found nothing to complain about - even eaten plain, they were a chewy but outside-crispy delight. I think Michel must have favored Fairmount - he said their secret was honey in the water to boil the bagels...But if HE knew of it, it must not really be a secret!

At the end of the tour, Michel took us around the Plateau Mount Royal neighborhood to show us the fantastic murals created in various street art/hip hop festivals. I didn't take photos of many of the creations, but this one was pretty cool, done just with black and white. I know there are other cities with street art, but these were pretty fantastic! On our way to the Farmers Market, we passed many outdoor cafes. I don't know if this is common elsewhere, but Michel said that the sidewalk cafes rent sidewalk space from the city, even if the space is in front of their own establishment. Our final stop together was the Marche Jean Talon, commonly referred to as the Farmer's Market. It was a riot of flowers,
Chapelle du Notre Dame du Bon SecoursChapelle du Notre Dame du Bon SecoursChapelle du Notre Dame du Bon Secours

Known as "The Sailors' Church"
rresh fruits, vegetables, and delicacies of many kinds.

In the afternoon, as other days, we were on our own, and there were a few things I had wanted to do that I had not yet gotten to. The first on my list was the Chapelle Notre Dame de Bon Secours (Our Lady of Good Comfort) close to the Vieux (Old) Port. This church was where sailors came to pray for safe journey before departing for Europe, and to give thanks for a safe delivery to Montreal. The church was spectacular, and had about a dozen boats hanging above the pews. The small boats were offerings to the Virgin Mary. Over the years many people had give boats, and I don't know what happened to the surplus! The oldest boat was near the center aisle, and was made of sterling silver.

The church still has masses several times a week, scheduled in French and in English; I didn't ask if they still use the beautiful pipe organ in the loft at the back of the church. There is a museum honoring Marguerite Bourgeoys, who started the chapel in 1657. The original building burned in 1754, and was replaced by the stone building that is still standing today. I climbed to the top of one of the towers (100 steps!), and the spiral stairs got narrower as I ascended. There is also a lower level where you can view the foundations of the original chapel.

From the Sailors' Church, I headed to the City Hall to view a rare exhibit (our guides said there were only infrequent public displays there). We had tried to see the exhibit yesterday, but the Hotel deVille was surrounded by police due to a protest of some wort, and they did not admit anyone. Today I learned that the exhibit was over, so I had to scrap that plan! Instead, I visited Chateau Ramezay, just across from the City Hall.

This is an interesting building with some interesting history, which our tour guide gave us on Monday, so I won't go into it here, other than to say it was built in 1705 as the residence for the Governors General. But on Monday, we didn't go INTO the building, and there were many exhibits and artifacts that I got to see today on the main floor of the house. The lower floor was set up as an example of the living quarters would have been like, including a kitchen area with adjacent area with a "dog-powered turn spit." It was an interesting way to keep from having to manually turn meat on a spit, because as the dog walked in the circular wooden cage, the action would turn the spit. They said it was not uncommon at the end of the 17th century, but they didn't mention how they got the dog to walk!

Our Farewell to Montreal dinner was held at Le Bonaparte; wonderful food and a fun evening to cap our Montreal adventure. Tomorrow we have on last half-day here, then on to Quebec City!


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Virgin Mary in the Highest PointVirgin Mary in the Highest Point
Virgin Mary in the Highest Point

With Arms Outstretched Toward the River


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