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Ed Boitano: Montreal

My Own Private Montréal
Going to France without French Prices

By Ed Boitano

first visited Montréal over ten years ago, and from the second I arrived in this culturally vibrant and international city, I knew I would return often. On each visit to the city, there were always new sights and pleasures to discover, but there were also certain attractions and experiences that became almost mandatory pilgrimages for me. There is much to see and do in Montréal, and these are among my favorite things to do each visit.

Montreal skyline
Montreal – Old & New
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal

Mount Royal and Montréal
In 1535, French explorer, Jacques Cartier, climbed a small mountain, which overlooked the St. Lawrence River in Upper Canada and gave it the name, Le Mont Royal. As the small trading post grew due to its strategic setting on the river, the mountain became the symbol of the city and eventually its name. A wooden cross --- now made of steel grinders and 158 spotlights --- was erected. The slopes of the mountain were gradually incorporated into residential properties, but city fathers established a park on the very top for the world to enjoy.  This is where my journey begins each arrival, with an easy climb to the top of the mountain for sweeping views of this bilingual city of 3.4 million people --- the second-largest French-speaking city the world. The hike is also a good way to get your metabolism going for some serious eating later.

Old Montréal
Located between the St. Lawrence River and the downtown center, the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal is a must-see attraction when visiting the city. Established in 1642, the French settlement was once a fortified town and the birthplace of the city.  Best explored on foot, this area of graceful stone buildings is worth visiting any season, but the real secret is to plan a trip the last weekend in August when the Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, recreates an 18th-century public market. You will see locals dressed in folkloric Quebecois costumes, stalls with regional food items, demonstrations by craftspeople, musicians and even a military camp and marching band.

Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal

Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel
Montréal is a city of cathedrals, and for my first trip to the city my plan was to walk from one church to the next, never knowing what experience awaited me around each corner. While wandering on the edge of Old Montréal, I stumbled upon Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel, known as The Sailor's Church due to its proximity to the Old Port. I was quite moved by the statue of a woman atop its dome, which seemed to reach out to the river. Upon closer inspection I could see that the statue was Our Lady of the Harbour, made famous by Leonard Cohen in his song, Suzanne. The church also features an observation tower with remarkable views of Old Montréal and the St. Lawrence, and a museum, which includes artifacts pre-dating the arrival of the New France colonists in 1642. Admission to the chapel is free.

Little Italy
Coming from a Northern Italian ancestry, I’m always drawn to Italian communities, and Montréal’s Little Italy is one of the best in North America. With almost 225,000 inhabitants, Italian Montrealers are the third largest language group in the city. The community is filled with Italian cafés, restaurants and bars, specialty food shops, cultural landmarks and Jean-Talon Market, probably Montréal’s most vibrant open-air food area. Also located there is Madonna della Difesa church, one of the most important landmarks in the area. An insider secret is the fresco situated above the High Altar, which still shows a virile Benito Mussolini astride a horse. You see, in Montréal, all history is preserved.

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal

Mount Royal Cemetery
I’ve never been one attracted to the morbid, but these 165 acres, located on the north slope of Mount Royal, are worth exploring both for their beauty and sense of history. Founded in 1852, and now a National Historic Site, the setting is almost romantic with its large green spaces, monumental headstones and crosses from the Victorian era.  Buried at the cemetery include John Molson, Molson Beer industrialist and benefactor of numerous Montréal institutions, John Abbott, 3rd Canadian Prime Minister, other Confederation Fathers, iconic hockey players --- remember, hockey was invented in Canada --- and even victims of the Titanic. Historical guided tours are available to learn about the life of some of the other famous figures that are buried in the cemetery.

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral with skating rink in the foreground
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal

Underground Montreal
Yes, the winter months are long and cold, but for native Montréalers there is an 18.5 miles underground city of malls, food courts, office complexes, hotels, apartments and Metro stops. It’s not even necessary to wear a coat. It is unique for a city that so proudly preserves it past to have something so modern, and I’ve always enjoyed strolling its maze of tunnels, corridors, escalators and concourses.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite 1742
Located in the famous Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, this one bedroom suite was the site of the legendary 1969 'Bed-in for Peace' in Montréal, where John and Yoko recorded the song ‘Give Peace a Chance’.  Guests singing along included Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Tommy Smothers and whoever happened to be present in the room. The living room and bedroom feature memorabilia composed of press articles, framed gold records and pictures of the famous couple. The suite is available for lodging and can also be rented for parties.  Sometimes I will only make a pilgrimage to the room’s exterior, just to see the plaque on the door.

Montréal Bagels
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal

Montréal Bagels
 In Montréal you will you hear it pronounced “bah- gal’ and yes, they are different.  Larger and flatter than their U.S. counterpart, they are made with eggs and baked in a wood-burning oven. You will also hear from locals that they are the best and most authentic bagels in world.  For a sampling, try historic St.-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel.

Montréal Smoked Meat
We all know pastrami and corned beef, but what is smoked meat? Well, it is basically beef brisket that has been cured, spiced and smoked --- and the rest is apparently a secret, for no one will divulge anything else other than it makes the most delicious sandwich on the planet. Schwartz’s Deli is considered the best venue, though others will make a case for Reubens or Ben’s Deli.

Other attractions
Touring Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal and Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, Strolling trendy St-Catherine and St Laurent Boulevards, exploring the Downtown Museum Quarter and wandering the Quartier Latin, the main Francophone district.

How to get there
Virtually all major airlines offer flights to Montréal --- but if you have the time, why not do the distance and travel from Vancouver in luxury aboard VIA Rail Canada. From the comfort of your armchair you will cross six provinces, experiencing everything from towering mountain peaks and sweeping forest to pristine lakes and wide-open prairies.  It’s even better with a Caesar --- a Canadian version of the Bloody Mary --- in your hand.  

For further information about VIA Rail Canada, contact via-rail.com

Where to stay
There is no hotel more conveniently situated than the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. Located above the train station (Via Rail & AMTRAK) and connected to the underground city, this legendary hotel is within walking distance of downtown’s numerous attraction as well as Old Montréal. Offering 1,039 rooms, of which 100 are suites, this landmark property has played host to Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev and, if it was a surprise, Queen Elizabeth ll. (514) 861-3511 or Fairmont.com/QueenElizabeth.
For further information about travel to Montréal, contact (877) BONJOUR or Tourisme-Montreal.org.

Let Ed know what you think about his traveling adventure.
* * * * *

Feedback for "Spokane, Pullman and the Palouse"

Loved the Spokane article – my mom was born there and my grandparents are interred there. Haven't been back in decades.

--- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for "Norway's Fjords"

Hi Ed. I was just reading your great story about traveling through the Norwegian countryside and the voyage along the coast - sounds amazing. I’ve been to Oslo, but definitely would like to return to Norway one day to explore exactly what you wrote about.

Cheers,

--- Sasha H.

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Feedback for "In Search of Movie Locations In the Land of Aloha"

Mahalo for your article on Hawaii film locations. You should check out our new "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" at: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/

--- Ed Rampell (Co-Author), Los Angeles, CA

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Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

--- Christian Louboutin, U.K.

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Cool site.

--- Donna Namaste', San Francisco, CA

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Great work as always.

--- S. Wyatt, Seattle, WA

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Hr. (Danish for sir) Ed,

Thanks so much for your article on Copenhagen, DK...loved it! Very well done actually I used to live in Christianshavn (just next to Christania) and Danish is my second language.

You really did a quite grand job and pulled me ALL of the way into your analogy and experience from my other home.

Just one detail that I thought might have been included.....the bakeries & cheese shops in the mornings in nearly every 5 or so blocks as they waft the incredible hypnotizing aromas of those amazing Danish specialties.

I most especially and absolutely love the fact that you included the "hyggeligt" element...wonderful!!

Another aspect of the Danish language that I have found interesting is that we only cuss to devil rather than the more typically religious icons and that love (elsker) is only very rarely used.

All-in-all you have me totally on your team and I will always look forward to your future writing.

Med venlig hilsen...(with kind regards).

--- Breeze

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Hi Ed,

Thank you for your article on the Cherokee Nation. I really appreciate the historical perspective and recognition of their contribution to American culture.

--- Nora Weber, British Columbia

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Another cool issue. You da' man. One question: Is that Mark Lindsay on the front page?

--- Brent, Seattle, WA

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This would be a fascinating place to visit. There is so much history within our reach that we don't often acknowledge in more than a token way. I am wondering if any individual or group has ever gone on a vision quest, or perhaps a memorial march, by retracing the path of the Trail of Tears? This would be a painful journey, for most, I imagine.

--- Sandra, Seattle, WA

Osiyo! From Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism: What a great description of Kauai! The pictures are awesome and I loved reading your travel report! Keep pushin' on!

--- Lisa Long, Tulsa, OK

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I'm getting hungry again just reading your article! It's hot today and I could really use a shave ice right now.

Hope you're having a great day!

--- Melissa, Honolulu, HI

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Thanks so much for sharing! Wow. The beauty even from the few pictures here and your descriptions is breathtaking... I can't even imagine being there for real! The food looks and sounds exquisite, I'm not sure my kind of exquisite, but I do like to be adventurous on occasion :).Quite the story there.

--- Emily, Boise, ID

Great pictures!

--- Anna Harrison, Palmdale, CA

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Tough job, Ed! Thanks for sharing.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

Ed, Tim from the team of Jack and Tim - Star Clipper. Great trip. Always enjoy your postings.

--- Tim & Jack, Washington DC

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Hi Ed,

I really enjoyed your story on the Empress of the North. I was an Assistant Cruise Director aboard her in 2004, and you gave me a treasured walk down memory lane with her.You might know this, but if not .... you can cruise the Columbia again late this summer and early fall. The Empress' sister boat, the Queen of the West, was purchased by American Cruise lines and will offer a Columbia River itinerary which almost mirrors the one my Empress used to travel. Just thought you'd like to know.

--- Paul Penta, 2004 Assistant Cruise Director, Empress of the North, Copperas Cove, TX

Ed, you are by far the most interesting of all the Boitanos. Your coverage is extensive and captivating. It's a real treat to read your blogs. Your article on the Baltic Sea Nations is no exception. But don't get me wrong, the other Boitanos have their own charm and perspective. Thanks for all your articles. I can see it's a work of art. I just now noticed your Dog Quotes --- what a great collection! Keep up the good work. Keep on sharing your travels! This is better than the more popular travelogues.

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hi Ed,

How's life? Hope all's well in sunny Cal.

Having just received the latest issue of the Traveling Boy newsletter I popped back over to your site to take a look around and came across this article which I had not previously read: www.travelingboy.com/archive-travel-ed-baltic.html

Loved it! First of all, this is a part of the world that I absolutely adore so reading about it is always a pleasure. Secondly, I'm happy to see you crossing things off your Buck with such gusto! Myself, I have already been to Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Moscow are all on my Buck. After reading through the article I reminded once again why!

One of my favourite lines in the piece is:

"Granted, eight to twenty-fours in world-class cities like Helsinki and Tallinn hardly does them justice, but a sketch is always better than a blank canvas."

So very true. I'll take a sketch over a blank canvas any day! Besides, sketches often lead to full-blown paintings anyway.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. Hope there are many more fun adventures awaiting you soon!

Cheers,

--- Ashley, Toronto

Thanks for a great trip, Ed - such a comfortable way to travel, particularly to several cities i knew very little about. I've had only one sea voyage - crossed to G.B. on the United States in the early 60s - no balconies, etc. on that ship, as she was prepared to be stripped down to carry troops in event of WWIII, but still luxurious in her own way.

Bumped into a documentary recently on PBS re the old lady who is now docked in Philadelphia, I believe with peeling paint on her sides and funnels and of course the interior stripped and auctioned off of everything...periodic moves to rehabilitate her, but so costly people back off. She was the largest and fastest - still is. Her record was 3 days crossing - we did it in a little over 5 (cruise speed I guess!). They showed regular passengers like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who happened to be on board when I was, as well as gazillions of stars who traveled on her. Charles Boyer was the only one on my crossing - we were alone in the library one time, but I didn't say anything. He looked immersed in his pursuit of a book. The Windsors were tiny little people, as was M. Boyer (and this comment from a 5'2" observer!). How's that for an ancient history lesson? Anyhow seeing the ship like she is now made me almost teary - surprised myself somehow.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

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I loved this article!! Kept me in rapt attention, felt like I explored part of the world myself ;) nice way to start my day, sounds altogether amazing and unforgettable!

--- Emily, Boise, ID

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Great writing!! Reading, education and fabulous locations! All around WOWS!

--- E Dava, Burbank, CA

What a wonderful assortment of travel destinations. I have always been drawn to islands, and as a Pacific Northwesterner, dream from time to time about settling in the San Juans someday (like a lot of us here visualize for ourselves). Hopefully, travel will occur before this particular dream comes to pass. I enjoy reading about the connections you have with the places you write about. I will visit that fishing village in Norway, someday, just because of the photograph. Who wouldn't, after seeing it. Thanks, Ed

--- Sandee, Seattle, WA

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Another great edition!

--- CG, Central California Coast

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Hi Ed,

I sailed into Sooke on my way to port Ludlow from Portland, Oregon in my sailboat few years back. It was interesting port. The entry is snake like channel with local fisherman's local markers only to guide you into the port.

--- Larry, Portland, OR

Wow. I want to go to Vietnam! It's beautiful! Those are amazing pictures!

--- Archie, Pasadena, CA

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Kudos to Mark Twain. He knows how to honor a dog, and kudos to Cedric for all he was and still is and kudos to you for another edition of www.traveling boy.com. Peace and Love,

--- Joel, Pasadena, CA

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Ed, I really enjoy your traveling adventures. Your stories are so well written and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for letting us in on your adventures. You bring the adventure to those of us who aren't able to go. Thank you.

--- Cheryl, Pismo Beach, CA

Amazing story and pictures. To think that 40 years ago we were all terrified at the prospect of going there... what a difference a few decades makes. Fantastic article!

--- Roger, Puyallup, WA

Thanks for your expert insight, Jeremy. Have you ever lived in New York? Don't tell me you are one of those tourists or former transplants. It's a very different experience when one lives here. Unlike Los Angeles, there really is a sense of community. New Yorkers love and care about their city... and, yes, their neighbors too.

--- Lisa - New York, NY

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NY sucks. It's now nothing more than a Disneyland version of its former glory. It city filled with tourists and transplants, and no longer the center of the universe. The WEST is the best. Everyone is moivng to the Coast. Even NY fashion designers check out the LA street scene before launching their new designs. Plus no one in NY knows real pizza. Take a trip to Naples sometime and try the real thing.

--- Jeremy - Los Angeles, CA

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The economic boom is what drove all the changes in New York. The mayors were in the right place at the right time, and to their credit, handled things well. It's easier to clean up the city and cut crime when you have more money to spend. The economic outlook for New York is bleak now with unemployment going up. Bloomberg already is short money and will be cutting services across the board. If things don't turn around, people may not be as friendly in a few years.The idea that New Yorkers are not nice is just a myth; people in L.A. are much more distant and shut-off.

--- Michael, Native New Yorker

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I think that overall, Manhattan has become friendlier in the last few years, not sure why but don't think Giuliani or Dinkins can take credit. There was definitely a surge of NYC solidarity following 9/11, and Giuliani was extremely popular during that period. When he supported Bush so strongly in the election that followed, his popularity plummeted, though. Bloomberg has definitely done a good job with making a lot of bike lanes, blocking off large areas of what was previously street and putting tables and chairs for pedestrian use. Not sure how this economic downturn will affect local attitudes, though....

--- Sue, New York

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This is the best. Keep them coming.--- Paul Ash

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Ed, thanks for putting the Holland button on your site.

By the way, your images really work! I opened the newsletter and was immediately tempted to click on an article. Love it. And also love the fact I can click on images in the articles to enlarge them. The short headline on the image makes me curious. Well done.

--- Bianca Helderman

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Thanks Ed, for this delightful view of this wondrous city! The first time I traveled with a husband to NYC years ago, it was for an Orchestral Conductor's conference. We lived in Newfoundland at that time, so you can imagine my shock of coming from isolation to the big apple!My heart began beating as I looked out of my hotel window at the figures of humans below, scurrying like ants, I was up so high. It wasn't the height, rather, the invisible buzz, that urgently beckoned me to go outside! But when I reached the sidewalk, the rush of pedestrians made me wonder "where's the party?" Friendly? Yes! I lived in NYC for 5 years with a later husband and loved every minute! Being an artist, I could not relax enough to paint, so I took up acting and worked with "Children In Need" a charity, instead and partook of everything NY had to offer from opera and Off Broadway plays and such to ballet and wholistic healings....a city full of everything one could imagine! I truly love NYC and years later am grateful to live in a quieter area of California so I may relax and paint and do my healing work...going back only to visit my delightful haunts. There is nothing like NYC!.

--- Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Ed,

Great issue. Well done. They keep getting better! --- Grace Conlee Micetich, San Diego, CA

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I loved all of the traveling news! It’s good to know you are still out there in the world. --- Judy Vincent

Ed,

Thanks for getting me back on the Traveling Boy newsletter mailing list- I have missed it!

I do believe we need contributions of the ‘road less traveled’ in the US for those of us whose feet never leave the ground… Ahhhh… the Badlands... Two Medicine in Glacier… the Lava tubes in central Oregon… my next destination wish: Monument Valley.

--- Lorrie Sjoquist

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The photos and descriptions of this trip are wonderful. I love the idea of the slowed down pace of the train. Kind of a throwback to the "good old days." --- Larry Lombard, Puyallup, WA

I think you outdid yourself with the "Two Cities" article. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew so little about these two cities. I learned so much. Your article was jampacked with very interesting trivia. Surprised the Jazz greats and Walt Disney came from practically the same area. And those pictures --- especially the WWI museum --- what an incredible shot --- almost like out of somebody's Satyricon dream. Bravo!

--- Rod, Glendale, CA

What a great article! --- Michelle, Torrance, California

Ed,

The photos are spectacular. I can envision many a romantic novel inspired by these majestic sceneries. Makes me want to do a little more research on Norway. John Lenon must have been one of the converts when he wrote "Norwegian Woods."
--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena CA

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Peter,

Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. Indeed, Norway was paradise on earth, and I dream of returning again and again. You had a funny line about John Lennon being so inspired by the beauty of Norway that he composed the song, "Norwegian Wood." If I'm not mistaken, his reference to "Norwegian Wood" is just that: an inexpensive pine wood from Norway that was becoming popular in the UK. I did read somewhere, though, that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was inspired by Norwegian fjord trek.

Thanks again… and please keep writing.

Ed

Ed,

Reading Peter's implication that "Norwegian Wood" was based on a trip that John Lennon took to Norway led me to do some research.

According to Paul McCartney at a press conference in Los Angeles: 'Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher] had just done his room out in wood, and a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine, really, just cheap pine. But it's not as good a title, is it, "Cheap Pine"? It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down....'

Of course, just cause it's on the 'net doesn't mean it's true.

--- Jeff M, Tacoma, WA

Weird piece on Copenhagen (Cosy in Copenhaggen). Do you think now that Keefer’s in the slammer in Glendale for DWI he’s experiencing any hygge? I bet some of those jailbirds would like to see how touch he is.

--- Adam S., Glendale CA

I loved your intro and the way you set up the article. It immediately set the tone of an action-paced adventure. I imagined Annette as a spy in a trenchcoat feeding you top secret information. I'm surprised you didn't get lost. Do they speak English over there? Are the street signs in English? Does a GPS work over there?

I never heard of "hygge" but, like you, I think I've felt that sensation everytime the cold wind blows here in South Pasadena, CA. When I sit beside a warm fire, sipping my hot chocolate, I will remember this article. Thanks!

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA



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