Andy and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary on June 15, but we will likely be preparing our move to Florida during that time. So we had decided to celebrate early! We have had our Montreal trip in the works for 2 years. We wanted to go international, but we had never planned an international trip on our own before. I had gone to France with a group from college and to South Korea with a group from Seminary. Andy went with a college group to Greece. And on our honeymoon we spent time in Charleston, Isle of Palms, and took a cruise from the Charleston port to the Bahamas. All of our international travel had been pretty well planned for us. We thought Quebec would give us the feeling of traveling far without going to far away and having English friendly places in a French speaking country would be helpful.
The flight was only about 2 hours and 10 minutes (much shorter than the 14 hour flight to S. Korea!) We checked into out condo that we rented through AirBnb. It was the perfect location to easily walk to Old Montreal and two of the major metro stops. There were also some great restaurants just blocks away. Of course the first thing we tried was poutine! It was as delicious as we had hoped.
I will give a brief overview of each day:
Day 1: We went to Little Italy and explored their shops, the beautiful farmer’s market, the architecture, and had some authentic Italian pizza (thin crust topped with a layer of mozzarella, with shrimp, clams, and marinara on top.) The Italian folks who owned the shop had a great sense of humor! We then headed over to the Fine Arts Museum which was downtown. Again, great architecture downtown with tall buildings alongside old-world looking churches and businesses. The museum was enormous! They had a special Picasso exhibit alongside of an exhibit that showed various styles of art from all over Africa and contemporary African-Canadian art. It showed how Picasso had been inspired by (or maybe had taken from…) these art styles. There was renaissance art (my favorite!), various other styles through the centuries, and a large section of contemporary art.
Day 2: We walked over to Old Montreal and explored the Old Port, various statues, old-world architecture, visited shops, and looked in multiple churches. The stand out for this day was the Notre-Dame Basillica! We stopped by early in the day to see inside and attend noon mass in their smaller (though still fairly sizable and extremely ornate) chapel. Mass was in all French, but it was nice to listen to the liturgy, scriptures, and prayer being spoken while meditating on the art. We came back to the Basillica that night to see their light show “Aura.” The show was created using lights, lasers, projections, mirrors, and orchestral music to show the beauty of the Basillica and celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montreal. The anniversary was last year, but the show was so popular that they kept it going for this year! We were lucky to catch it!
Day 3: We went to go visit the “Underground City.” It was hard to find what we were looking for, but we learned that the Underground City refers to the tunnel system. One must follow the tunnels to find the shopping and restaurants. So we wandered around until we found some! In the future one might want a map or a specific location in mind before they find themselves wandering from tunnel to tunnel. Then we visited the McCord Museum of History, which focused on the difficult history Canada has faced with First Nations people and Jewish people. The museum attempts to honor their stories while owning up to the fact that they haven’t always treated these groups of people well. That night we visited the Comedy Nest and heard some awesome stand up!
Day 4: We visited the Botanical Gardens. There were so many flowers (every color of iris, my favorite!), a First Nations garden full of plants and trees, a beautiful pond, an Alpine garden with a waterfall and rock formations, a Japanese garden with a koi pond, and an insectarium with beetles, ants, moths, butterflies, bees, spiders, and tons of exotic bugs. Then we went up in the Montreal Tower to get a 360 view of the city.
We wore ourselves out! We walked all day for 4 days. But we saw so much of the city and used the most of our time. We figured out the Metro system pretty easily and could walk around without the GPS to the local spots. We could speak English pretty easily; in fact there were many conversations happening around us in English! We had some great food, and the weather was sunny every day. In fact, Montreal was having a heat wave while we were there.
It was interesting seeing so many homeless people in such a progressive country. I wrongly assumed that since Canada’s government is ahead of us in so many ways that they didn’t have as many homeless people as we do. But there are always people who are oppressed and who fall through the cracks. We all have such a long way to go in helping others.
All in all, it was a good trip! We were tired out, but it was so much fun to figure out a new city, and a new country on our own.
After 5 years, Andy and I have been through so much together. We’ve moved states (and we are moving again soon!), we’ve gotten masters’ degrees, we’ve traveled together and apart, we’ve become better communicators, we’ve been through family illnesses and family deaths, we’ve been to weddings, we’ve seen plays, concerts, and eaten good meals, we’ve struggled with life’s tragedies and changes, and we’ve taken care of each other through it all. It’s not been easy. But I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Here’s to many more years of growth, changes, striving, and loving.