2012 End of Semester Vacation

Montreal

We ventured back into Canada briefly to visit Montreal and Quebec City. My mother and I have been to both cities, but that was a long time ago, and my father hasn’t been to either so it was good time to go there again. As we all know, the great province of Quebec of course uses French as its primary language, which was slightly worrying for us since none of us really spoke French. I have taken French class up to the end of high school, but I have forgotten most of the French I’ve learned, and the French curriculum in Vancouver isn’t really the most demanding anyways. Thankfully though, most of the people we’ve had to talk to in Montreal or Quebec City spoke English or Cantonese/Mandarin (in Montreal’s Chinatown), so we didn’t have too much of a language issue. We did have to learn a few road signs though for driving around.

Montreal Chinatown Gate
One of the gates of the Montreal’s Chinatown

Back on topic, we stayed in a very convenient location in Montreal’s downtown area. We were close to the malls, metro stations and Old Montreal, and we were also two blocks from the city’s Chinatown and had most of our meals there. Compared to the Chinatown of Manhattan or Vancouver, Montreal’s Chinatown is quite small and is roughly four square blocks. Still, there were plenty of people there and the Chinese food was quite decent as well.

Montreal Old Town
One of the busier streets in Old Montreal with lots of shops and restaurants

After walking around in the downtown area, we walked towards the river to visit the old parts of the city. Montreal’s downtown is modern and has lots of skyscrapers, but the Old Montreal area next to it has a distinct European feel with older, 3-5 story buildings with older, classical designs and narrower and stone-covered roadways. There were lots of restaurants on one of the streets and there were a lot of people there eating and visiting the shops. Maybe next time I go to Montreal I’ll try out one of those restaurants.

Montreal Notre Dame Basilica
The grand and dramatically decorated interior of the Notre Dame Basilica

One thing Montreal is well known for is its churches. Montreal is home to four Roman Catholic basilicas, and we visited two of them. The first one, the Notre-Dame Basilica, is located in Old Montreal, so it is within walking distance of our hotel. I have visited the church years ago and remember it as “the church with the golden interior”. The interior is grand and colorful with gold, lots of jewels and intricate carvings. It was an incredible-looking interior even if I’ve already visited the church before.

Saint Joseph's Oratory
Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada.
Saint Joseph Oratory's Interior
The massive main church chamber of Saint Joseph’s Oratory. The photo doesn’t do it justice. You have to be there to appreciate how high the ceilings are.

The other basilica we visited was Saint Joseph’s Oratory, located on the west slope of Mount Royal. Because it’s not located near downtown Montreal, we had to take the metro (subway) to get there. Montreal’s metro system isn’t as extensive as NYC’s, but it’s still very convenient and not too expensive. As for the Oratory, it is impressive because of its sheer size. Saint Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in Canada. The interior decor isn’t nearly as intricate as Notre-Dame Basilica’s, but the main church is enormous, especially when you look up at the roof and the massive dome that sits above the altar.

Montreal Olympic Stadium
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, with its distinctive slanted tower roof-retraction mechanism.
View from Stadium Tower
A shot of the surrounding area from up on the observation deck above the Olympic Stadium

On the same day, we also visited Montreal’s Olympic Park. Montreal held the Summer Olympics in 1976, and the Olympic stadium that was built is a landmark in the area. Montreal’s Olympic stadium is distinctive in that it has a slanted tower on top that is used to retract the roof. The stadium has been marred by various issues, but it’s still a good tourist destination. During the visit, I learned that the slanted tower of the stadium is actually the tallest slanted structure in the world. We took the elevator up to the observatory on the tower, the the observatory provided great views of the surrounding area.

Quebec City wooden walkway
The wooden walkway in front of the Chateau Frontenac

Quebec City

The final destination for our vacation is the provincial capital of Quebec, Quebec City. Quebec City is best known for Old Quebec, which is the historical district at the eastern tip of the city. The majority of the buildings in the district are from the 19th century and the district has the European feel with the shorter buildings and narrower, stone-paved streets. There are also various statues/monuments, the city hall, and of course there is the famous Chateau Frontenac grand hotel. The old city is actually fortified with walls and historical cannon emplacements, and this is something I didn’t notice/realized when I first visited Quebec City all those years ago.

Quebec City Parliament
The Parliament building located just outside of the old city.
Quartier Petit Champlain
The busy Quartier Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America.

We spent an afternoon walking through the old city and also found our way down to Petit Champlain commercial district at the base of the hill where the Old Quebec is located. Petit Champlain had a lot of people, but strangely the Old Quebec above wasn’t as crowded as I thought. I remember there were a lot more tourists during my first visit to the city. The weather on the day was decent, maybe slightly cool. Perhaps the tourist season just hasn’t arrived yet.

Quebec City Hall
The city hall building is located within Old Quebec.

That’s all for my end of school year vacation for this year. We didn’t travel to as many places as last year, but it was still a good family vacation. At the time of writing, I’m already back at school trying to make progress on research, but I may make a few more short trips during the summer. I don’t have classes during the summer, so hopefully that means I can get out more.

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