Thursday 22 September 2022 – The only thing we had to do today was to get ourselves from Québec to Montréal; all else would be (a) bunce and (b) unplanned. It involved a rather early start, since our train departed at 0810; however, we were business class, obvs, and would thus get breakfast on the train, which gave us back a little time. Québec Station’s main entrance is rather grander in appearance than the windswept construction site that houses the taxi rank of unhappy memory from our arrival.
Nonetheless, if you look closely, you can see that the whole place is suffering from not having been well looked after recently. It’s sadly in need of a lick of paint; also, the coffee machine in the business class lounge wasn’t able to dispense actual coffee. However, we were only there for about five minutes before it was time to board the train, so our souls didn’t suffer too badly. Our carriage was similar to the one in which we travelled to Ottawa – indeed, we had the same seat allocation. It also meant that our baggage travelled with us (so often the case in life) and there was room in the overhead locker for all our bits including my ludicrously heavy backpack.
The journey was unremarkable and quite short – enough to serve us a palatable breakfast and some coffee – and so we arrived in Montréal before midday. Jane had done her research and so we knew that Montréal has an underground city similar to, although not so tightly networked as, that of Toronto; Montréal’s is called RÉSO and it looked like we could get from the station to our hotel, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, using its network. So it proved. Of course, arriving that early meant that our room wasn’t ready and we spurned the chance to spend an extra 100 dollars a night (minimum) on getting an upgraded room that was available.
The weather outlook was for heavy showers so we decided to use the time until our room became available to go back into the RÉSO and explore a bit, on the basis that this carried the minimum risk of getting soaked. Back underground we went, and found, to no real surprise, that it was very similar to Toronto’s PATH: corridors and walkways;
eateries in profusion;
occasional glimpses of the outside world;
shops and shopping centres;
some interesting architecture;
and some quirky touches.
These two escalators were unusual in that they were both working. In many other cases, one of the escalators was not. This seems so systematic across the bits of the city we’ve passed through that I can only assume it’s because of routine maintenance in preparation for the forthcoming winter, rather than the kind of tight-fisted neglect which leaves so many UK escalators nonfunctional.
Having found ourselves in the Eaton Centre, a temple to consumerism that was of no interest to us, we realised that we were quite close to the city’s Christ Church cathedral, so we popped in for a look.
There’s a nice almost-cloister round the back, too.
We decided to walk back towards the hotel – not one of Fairmont’s more sumptuous establishments –
and mooch around near it until we were alerted that our room was available. Our friend Ian Burley, whose Canadian recommendations have been very helpful as we work our way across the country, describes the area around the hotel as “charmless”. He’s right; but that doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting. Opposite the hotel, for example, is the newly installed 30m diameter steel Ring at the entrance to downtown’s Place Ville Marie
(sorry about the C2 crap in the way of a decent image); and next door to the hotel is the huge Basilica of Mary Queen of the World,
so we popped in there, too. It’s rather different from Christ Church….
…one can easily tell which is the Protestant and which is the Catholic church. Outside, this cathedral is architecturally complex in a similar manner to that of Sainte Anne de Beaupré.
Whilst walking around, we also saw this extraordinary building.
which looks like a bastion but is actually the Gare Windsor,
formerly the city’s Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station, and which served as the headquarters of CPR from 1889 to 1996. It’s now mainly office space, and has a wonderful atrium.
We walked out into the courtyard outside, and spotted what we thought was our first piece of street art (something that’s very big in Montréal). Actually it wasn’t really; this was the Place des Canadiens who are
Montréal’s hockey team. There’s a kind of Hall of Fame by this big billboard.
Our room was by this time available, so we put our bags into it and then almost immediately headed out to see another of Ian’s recommendations and something that Jane particularly wanted to see –
the Leonard Cohen mural. I should point out that this takes up 13 storeys on the side of a 21-storey building. I have used image manipulation to straighten the photo above. To give you an idea of the context, this is how it looked:
The route we walked there took us through streets that weren’t all that pleasant, with many homeless and/or otherwise troubled people in evidence, and there was a powerful whiff of weed almost everywhere. We walked back a slightly different route, which was less oppressive and in doing so spotted our first piece of real street art,
a mural so big that it was not possible to fit it all into a single image, but I’ve done my best here. The general area around our hotel is pretty much a business district and so one wouldn’t expect it to have lots of charm. There are one or two odds and bits of interest
although I haven’t a clue what any of them are about; and there’s some interesting modern architecture, which I’ve attempted to convey in an arty shot here.
Many of the tall modern buildings hereabouts are quite interestingly architected, with modern takes on art deco and so forth, so it’s not without interest.
It was nice to have a chance to explore a little of the area in preparation for two days of currently unplanned wanderings. Apart from anything else, it made us realise that we would need to get equipped with ticket for the metro in order to get to the areas we want to explore – it would take too long to walk. I’m sure that by the time we get to tomorrow, Jane will have worked out what we should be getting up to, and I bet it involves looking for street art among other things. You’ll have to stay in touch with these pages to find out, won’t you? I hope you think this is a reasonable idea.