Picture of biodome Our initial plan upon arriving in Montreal on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, was to go somewhere scenic, have a look at the city and get our bearings. That somewhere was likely to be either Mont Royal Park atop the mountain Montreal is built on, or the tower of Olympic Stadium. When we landed in Montreal, the ceiling was about 25 ft (8m) and the visibility was remarkably close to zero. So we modified our plans and went to the Biodome instead.

Picture of capybara The Biodome is also found in Olympic Park as it was once the velodrome used for the cycling events in the 1976 Summer Olympics. Now it's an indoor zoo of sorts with several partitioned areas. Some of them, like the St. Lawrence Seaway are not particularly impressive, especially considering it can be experienced in person by walking south for about 10 minutes. Others like the Tropical Rainforest are worth the price of admission though. This is the top view of a capybara from said rainforest.

Picture of jungle No this picture isn't a refugee from our Costa Rica pages, it's actually Montreal although several of these trees are fake. Somewhere in there are sloths, tamarinds, macaws and so forth.

Picture of notredame Something more typical of Montreal would be Notre Dame in the center of the old town. The exterior of this rendition of Notre Dame is really not all that interesting. It was finished in 1841 so it isn't even particularly old. The inside is more interesting but alas, we have no pictures of it so you'll have to go and see for yourself.

Picture of old_montreal Here's a typical street in the old town of Montreal. On it you'll find a goodly number of tacky tourist shops selling anything Canadian. Generally, 'anything Canadian' is usually distilled down to maple syrup, stuffed moose and mountie hats. Among these stores are a few actually unique and interesting sorts and if you hunt around a bit you're sure to find at least one good creperie.

Picture of palais On prior trips to Old Montreal this area had been crammed full of street performers and people watching them perform. This building is the Hotel de Ville (city hall) which overlooks all the chaos. On the morning of New Year's Day it was rather quiet. That may have been a direct consequence of the festivities the night before which seem to have continued on well into the morning.

Picture of east_montreal Since the old quarter was so quiet we headed up to Mont Royal park. Montreal sits on an island in the St. Lawrence river and the center of that island is Mont Royal (really just a big hill). There are spectacular views of Montreal from the park, as well as sleigh rides (in the winter at least), ice-skating, sledding runs and even a mini ski hill for kids. This view to the east is dominated by Olympic stadium which is billed as the world's tallest inclined structure. That is just silly. It is rather neat looking though and you can ride up on the outside of it if you're willing to ignore all the major engineering fiascos that have occured thoughout the history of Olympic Stadium.

Picture of cityscape To the south across the buildings of downtown you can easily see the northern extensions of the White and Green mountain ranges into Quebec. After tapering off just across the Canadian border, there are a series of oddly distinct lumps stretching up towards Montreal. Several ski resorts are visible from here in both directions. To the north, the Laurentian mountains can be seen along the horizon.

Picture of basilica Another building which dominates part of the city is St. Joseph's Oratory. Of course, you have to be on the right side of the mountain to see it. If you're making the trip from downtown or the old town we recommend a scenic route along Mont Royal park. If the park itself or the views aren't worth it, consider the expanse of cemetary that stretches for miles (literally) along the west side of the mountain. The oratory was started by Brother Andre who started with a small wooden chapel and apparently went a bit overboard from there. The basilica has quite a lot in common with Sacre-Couer in Paris, not the least of which is the number of stairs you have to climb to get to it.

Picture of st_lawrence The drive from Montreal to Quebec City can be very scenic if you're willing to take the slightly smaller river roads (although the autoroutes on the north shore are not far from the river). In the winter, the size of the ice fishing villages is staggering. We saw several that not only had roads, but electric street lights along the roads, restaurants, and even specially designated parking lots. This is a picture of the St. Lawrence taken at dusk from a roadside rest area along the way.


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