Wouldn’t a train trip, in the fall, be perfect to Toronto, Montreal,
and Quebec City ( which I already wrote about)? I had not been
to Montreal since the 70’s and never to Quebec City.
So my friend and I had some productive travel meetings, agreed
on when, where, and how, and our plans began to take shape.
We contacted Bee Kalt Travel, in Royal Oak, Mi., and they put
together a package to these cities, with hotel and transportation.
We would be traveling by train from Windsor, and by choice,
staying at the Fairmont Hotels in all three cities.
We left Windsor by train at 5:30 am on a Wednesday morning for
our seven-day adventure in Canada. With our suitcases tucked
safely away, we took our seats and were off to Toronto.
After a quick and relaxing five-hour train ride, we arrived at Union
Station in Toronto. With luggage in hand, we followed the signs
to the Royal York Hotel, going through Union Station. A couple
of passageways, up two sets of stairs, we were suddenly standing
in the grand lobby of the beautiful Royal York Hotel.
I try to stay here when I visit the city by train. It is very convenient
to the train station, five minutes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, ten
minutes to the CN Tower, and a twenty-minute walk to Eaton Center,
a grand shopping mall on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. It’s
location is perfect, no cabs, no waiting. You are at your hotel before
you know it.
After checking into our hotel, which we had a standard room with
two queen beds, we decided to walk to Eaton Center down Yonge
Eaton Center is a huge mall with over 330 stores and restaurants, with
an attached office complex. It is Toronto’s top tourist attraction. After
spending a good couple of hours walking, looking and a little shopping,
we decided we were famished. We walked back down Yonge Street
towards our hotel and decided to eat dinner at Houston’s right on
Yonge Street. We had a great dinner, a couple of glasses of wine
and decided it had been a long day. Before going to our room
we went to the hotel lobby bar for a nightcap. Perfect ending to
a perfect day.
Toronto is the most popular city in Canada and is the provincial capital
of Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern
shore of Lake Ontario. The city is consistently rated as one of the
worlds most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the
Mercer Quality of Living Survey. Toronto has so much to offer the
visitor with its shopping, restaurants, harbor, museums, neighborhoods.
and even a castle. Toronto is to Canada, what Chicago is to Illinois, and
New York City is to New York.
We were up very early the next morning for our train to Montreal at
9:09 am. So after a quick breakfast in the hotel and a short walk
across the street to the train station, we boarded exactly on time and
sat back for the five hour train ride to Montreal. Due to the fall
colors, it made the scenery very nice passing through several towns,
industrial areas, and farmland.
Arriving at Central Station, we only had to follow the signs to the
Queen Elizabeth Hotel, located above the station. Down a few long
walkways, up some stairs, or elevator, we again were standing in the
lobby of this beautiful hotel. This hotel is not only conveniently
located in the train station, but is connected to a massive underground
city with thousands of boutiques, stores, restaurants, and cafés.
The hotel has 982 rooms with two grand restaurants and a full lounge
for relaxing with your drink of choice.
Our lovely room overlooked the stunning, Mary Queen of the World
Cathedral, otherwise known as Marie Reine Du Monde, the third
largest church in Montreal. It is a small replica of St. Peter’s in Rome,
built between 1870 and 1894. Not only is it stunning on the outside
but also the inside. It was such a pleasure to look out our window
to this amazing sight amongst the modern tall buildings.
Instead of the statues of the 12 apostles as on the facade of St. Peter’s,
the front of the cathedral is topped by statues of the patron saints
of 13 parishes of Montreal who donated them, including St. John
the Baptist and St. Patrick. All of the statues were sculpted by
Olindo Gratton between 1892 and 1898. On March 28, 2000, the
Cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
The interior of the Marie Reine Du Monde Cathedral is a copy of
St. Peter’s in Rome, except a 1/3 of the size. The beautiful lush
Baroque architecture, the columns, the thirteen surmounting statues,
the large dome, the decoration of the vault, the Baroque Canopy,
the side chapels, the stained glass ornate details, the art and
statues, make this a must see when in Montreal.
My main purpose in coming to Montreal was to visit the Notre Dame
Basilica. So in the early evening we took a taxi to the old part of
the city to see a light show in the Basilica called, “Then There Was Light”.
At first glance as you enter the church, you first notice the ceiling
with bold and striking colors, deep blue with gold stars on the ceiling.
The rest of the sanctuary is in bright blue, reds, purples, silver and
gold. There are beautiful stained glass windows imported from
Limoges, France, to depict the religious history of Montreal, instead
of biblical stories. There is also a grand organ with 7,000 pipes
and four keyboards that has the most glorious sound.
There were sheets covering the altar and some of the walls for the
light show, so at first we were not able to get the full impact of this
amazing sight. The light show tells the story of the Basilica and its
history. After a 30 minute, somewhat interesting show, the sheets
fall back and that is when you are spellbound.
The beauty of the altar is indescribable. I can only say, that I have never
experience this kind of beauty, that actually leaves you speechless.
Now I understand why they say, the Basilica of Notre Dame, is to
Montreal what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.
Can you only imagine Celine Dion, in 1994, walking down the aisle to marry
Rene Angelil, in this beautiful Basilica.
James O’Donnell, an Irish American Protestant architect, was hired to
build the Basilica in 1824 and finished in 1829. He loved his work
so much on the Basilica, that on his deathbed he converted to
Catholicism, just so he could be buried in the crypt.
Montreal is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved vibrant “old
towns”, this side of Europe. It is a key component in what makes
Montreal a “truly different North American city”. Montreal is safe,
cultural, cosmopolitan and proud of its french legacy, especially it’s
language. It is the second largest city in Canada.
The old Montreal is right outside the Basilica of Notre Dame. It’s a
delight to walk the cobblestone streets of the area, amongst historic
buildings, restaurants, shops, museums, and galleries. It oozes
French charm. It’s like a miniature Paris.
The next day we went on a Viator City Sightseeing tour that took us all
over Montreal with a knowledgeable guide to show us all the highlights
of this beautiful city. The tour took us to Old Montreal, Notre Dame
Basilica, St. Joseph Oratory, of the worlds most visited shrines.
The Basilica’s huge dome reaches 320 ft and is second in height to
St. Peter’s in Rome. This Basilica stand atop Mt Royal, a scenic lookout
which offers a striking view of the city and River. Other highlights
included, City Hall, Bonsecours Market, Place Jacques Cartier, Place
Ville Marie, Chinatown, Olympia Park, built for the 1976 Summer
Olympic Games, and many more.
It was a full day of major sightseeing and would recommend this
tour if you come to Montreal.
The next day was spent in the underground city, shopping and
enjoying all that it had to offer. I must say, I loved Montreal.
I saw all that I wanted to see and was so impressed with what this
City has to offer. The hotel was superb and the service was
Tomorrow it is on to Quebec City. Please see my post of June 25, 2014.