“We’ll always have Paris,” Humphrey Bogart tells a tearful Ingrid Bergman at the end of the movie classic “Casablanca.” And indeed, Paris often is called the most romantic city in the world. But Francophiles are discovering ways to get their Paris fix — wonderful old cathedrals, superb bistros and historic neighborhoods set amidst a buzz of French chatter — without leaving North America or spending a fortune. That fix is called Montreal.
Bonjour! That’s French for good morning and it’s a great term to use as you wander the cobblestone streets of Vieux Montreal (historic old Montreal) just a short walk from the bustling and very modern downtown.
Among the must-sees is Pointe-à-Calliere, Montreal’s Museum of Archaeology and History. A national historic site, the museum has four main parts, including the recently restored Ancienne-Douane (old Customs House) which was built between 1836 and 1838 and the modern Eperon, a structure erected upon the ruins of older buildings with a basement that houses an ancient crypt.
An additional stopping point is City Hall, a fine example of Second Empire architecture, a style that originated during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-70) — who led the major building campaign to transform Paris into what it is today — a city of grand boulevards and monumental buildings and ultimately influenced Montreal’s architect as well.
Paris has its famous Champs-Elysées shopping area, but the stores along Notre Dame and Saint Paul streets in Montreal also are a delight. Another must-stop is the Bonsecours Market, which opened in 1847. Its sidewalk cafés, vendor stalls and shops still hum with activity today.
And, of course, on Notre Dame Street is the magnificent Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, an awe-inspiring and magnificent cathedral built in 1892. There are guided and self-guided tours and The AURA, an immersive multi-media experience by Moment Factory that surrounds visitors with an amazing visual and musical universe, presented upon what is described as one of the most beautiful canvases imaginable: the basilica’s nave.
Contrary to what many might think, Montreal is a year-round destination with the 20.5-mile Underground City of stores, cinemas, restaurants, and more—perfect anytime but particularly in the winter when the temperature drops. Check out such places L’Art des artisans du Québec known for its woodwork, blown glass and amazing finery. Beautiful jewelry is made on the spot at Joaillerie St-Jean or Bijouterie Ralph et Elle. For books, stop by Renaud-Bray. Brands to be found in the Underground City include Rudsak for leather goods, Squish for gourmet artisanal candies and the Montréal-based, internationally famed ALDO shoes.
Pricewise, Montreal is a bargain and if you save your receipts, you can get your sales tax back.”
In comparison, the American dollar buys much less in Paris. It is a completely a European city with Old World charm minus the jet lag or a long trans-Atlantic flight.
So who should opt for Montreal instead of Paris?
Anyone who is looking for great value, ease of travel and who has a limited amount of time would be perfec.
For more information, visit Montreal.