|August 26 – Wednesday
On the shuttle bus and away at 7:30 this morning – 1 ½ hour drive through morning rush hour traffic into downtown Montreal where we would board our “Deluxe Motorcoach” to see the sights of Montreal, second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris. Our driver Frank was a wealth of knowledge as he drove us through Old Montreal, Mount Royal Park, past Chinatown and crossing St. Catherine Street, the longest commercial street in Canada stretching for 15 kms across the city from east to west. Frank pointed out to us the Sun Life building, inaugurated in 1918 and was used as a safe for the jewels of the British Crown during World War 11, and revealed only 16 years ago. He told us about “Underground Montreal” – an underground maze of walkways, 33 kilometers long with shops, restaurants and theatres, all connected by 65 subway stations. Here shoppers don’t have to go outside in the cold winter snow storms but can do all their shopping etc. in this underground shopping area. Our day didn’t allow time for a visit to this. Maybe next time we are in Montreal!! A stop at the scenic lookout on Mount Royal Park gave a striking view of downtown Montreal and the St. Lawrence River. We made a short stop at Notre-Dame Basilica but were unable to tour it as there was a funeral being held at the time. We were told this is the Basilica that Celine Dion was married in and where the funeral for Pierre Elliot Trudeau was held with very high security due to the presence of Fidel Castro. There is a 3 year wait to be able to hold a wedding in this church. Close by was also the Bank of Montreal building – the first chartered bank in Canada. On to Olympic Park in the eastern part of the city where the 1976 Summer Olympics were held. A ride up the 575 foot high Olympic Tower with its 45 degree incline, aboard the cable car gave us another spectacular view of the city. Our tour next included a visit to the Biodome, a museum of the environment where we toured the four ecosystems – a tropical forest, a Laurentian forest, the St. Lawrence marine environment and the Polar Regions, with their plants, birds, animals and reptiles visible in their natural habitats. This was a very interesting stop.
Our last stop of the tour was at the Insectarium, and the Botanical Gardens. We saw many weird and strange insects from huge beetles and tarantulas to beautiful butterflies in the Insectarium with its collection of 160,000 insect specimens. The Botanical Gardens was a long walk so we weren’t able to see everything but the vegetable garden and flower gardens were beautiful. The most amazing was the lotus plants in the Japanese garden and the huge hyacinth flowers.
It was a long day with a 1 hour ride back to our campsite through more heavy traffic. Another sunny day but not quite as warm with the evenings getting much cooler. Tomorrow we will head on to Quebec City.