After seeing the Notre-Dame Basilica and the Place d’Armes, we took a stroll through Old Montreal. We passed sites like the Bank of Montreal Building, The Molson Bank Building, The Royal Bank Building, stopped for lunch in Chinatown, and ended at Château Ramezay.
Making Bank after the Basilica
After seeing the Notre-Dame Basilica, we once again turned to the Lonely Planet guide for a walking tour. We wanted to see what there is to see in Old Montreal and apparently Montreal is home to a rich banking tradition (is that a thing?).
First, there was the Bank of Montreal (BMO) building.
We stopped here by accident. It wasn’t on the walking tour, but the outside looked regal and was tangential to the Place d’Armes. I assumed it must be worth stopping in, especially after I looked it up in the guidebook. Also, I mistook it for the Royal Bank Building because how many bank buildings can there be in a close proximity?
Also, Sarah was cold:
When we walked in, it was basically a nice old bank building. I didn’t take any pictures because I’ve been yelled at for taking pictures inside banks before, so we simply asked where the museum was, and were showed to a small room containing the most underwhelming museum ever. So underwhelming, in fact, that I didn’t take any pictures.
Soon we found the Molson Bank Building. And once again, I mistakenly took a picture of it thinking that this surely was the Royal Bank Building.
Eventually we found the bank where we were supposed to stop: the Royal Bank Building. It’s described as having a “palatial interior” by Lonely Planet, and it’s certainly something…
… but not what I was expecting. Maybe there were guided tours, and we simply missed them. But without a tour, it was simply a neat decor from a moderately old period. So we continued on our walking tour.
Streets of Old Montreal
Even though it was crazy-cold out (again: it didn’t get above 0°F until our last day in Canada), the streets of Old Montreal were as quaint and pretty as ever. The area is probably busier during the summer, but it was still a wonderful place to wander through—even in the cold. That said, shoveling was not common, so the sidewalks could be rather precarious.
There were also several parks that our walking tour took us to, but since it was winter, they were simply large, snow-covered empty spaces. This furthers my recommendation that Montreal should be a Spring/Summer/Fall destination.
Our last stop before lunch was Montreal City Hall.
By this point, our hands were frozen, so lunch beckoned.
We’d heard from many people as well as the guidebook that Montreal’s Chinatown was one of the best in North America. And when you’re greeted with a giant red arch like this one, it’s hard to believe otherwise.
Yet when we sat down at a restaurant (I don’t remember the name, but it was explicitly a Chinese restaurant), we had the following “multicultural” experience:
- Sarah spoke French to the Canadian snowboarder-looking waiter
- I ordered the lunch special, Ramen (which is Japanese)
- We listened to Richie Valens (American) sing a cover of a Mexican Folk song (“La Bamba”)
- All while in Chinatown
The food wasn’t bad, though. In fact, a warm soup on a sub-zero day hit spots I didn’t know soup could hit. It just wasn’t what I was expecting when I walked into the restaurant or the neighborhood. And it was hardly authentic.
And before we left, I saw the best sign for a bathroom ever. If you can decipher it, let me know.
A former Governor’s mansion, then Continental Army Headquarters, then back to Governor’s mansion, now museum of Quebec and Montreal, Château Ramezay has been a staple of Montreal since 1705. My photo taking got a little sloppy because I couldn’t feel my hands at this point. The walk from Chinatown to here was longer and colder than I expected. Notice Sarah is in neither of these photos. She had gone inside already. She’s smart.
Once inside, I learned a terrible yet valuable lesson about cameras in the cold. Aside from taking away precious battery life, the cold will cause your lens to fog over in the same way glasses do. One way to prevent this is to warm up your camera gradually by placing it in your bag and not wearing it around your neck in the cold.
That said, as it thawed, I got an accidental vignette effect on a few pitcures:
Once I could take clear pictures again, we explored Château Ramezay and the Salon. Inside were artifacts from Montreal’s history including paintings of former Governors, and a bell. It was an immaculately maintained museum and if we hadn’t meandered past it, we wouldn’t have known to stop. Yes, this place is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, but why it isn’t more prominent is a mystery to me.
If you’re looking for a great museum in Montreal, Château Ramezay should be towards the top of your list.
After the Salon, stairs led down to the basement level. Since the construction of this house was done in the 1700s—when people were considerably shorter—we had flashbacks to other travels. And once again, #EddieTooTallforCanada.
There were points that even made Sarah—all 5’7″ of her—feel claustrophobic.
Otherwise, the basement showcased what life was like at Château Ramezay during its run as a Governor’s mansion.
After we finished at Château Ramezay, we left to risk freezing to death exploring the Old Port of Montreal. But that’s for next week.