May 24-26, 2016

Dominated by long hours of walking, eating, and sightseeing, my first ever Montréal visit was pretty exciting!

To begin with, per usual, I would pull out some fun facts ritual about the place I visited. Montréal is the provincial capital of Québec, Canada. Québec itself is one of some provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, in Canada that has French as its official language. Bonjour!
Montréal itself is the world’s third largest Francophone city in the world after Paris and Kinshasa. However, don’t expect them to speak the same French as you know people do in Paris. They speak kinda differently, but it’s still French anyway. Psst! Actual people from France find their way of speaking… different..

If you get the chance to visit North America or be in other North American cities, you will notice a stark difference in Montréal. In Montréal (and Québec City, as far as I know), you will find a large portion of the city built in European style architecture. You’ve heard it right: when you’re in Québec (especially Montréal and Québec City) it makes you feel as if you’re in Europe. In addition to that, you can find dozens of historical places (slash buildings) all over the city. It’s a nice city indeed.

Montréal City Hall

Got it? Let’s put an end to the hard facts of the city here. There are some parts of the trip that linger longer in my mind. Here are the cynosures of my short trip: it includes ride sharing, Français, walking, poutine, Indonesian food, more walking, Habitat 67, seeing old European-style buildings, old ports, Canadian Centre for Architecture, and more walking.

Ride sharing is great!
This is my first time ever doing a ride sharing for a trip. I heard that it is a convenient and cheap way of travelling. Yet, I’ve also been hearing some sketchy thoughts and stories about ride sharing. Yet… I think I should try it anyway, right? I thought that this trip to Montréal would be a perfect way to see where it fits in my future travel plans; Montréal is only 2 hours away from Ottawa and it is not too expensive—$15 one-way. I was nervous and cautious when leaving Ottawa. It turned out to be a very pleasant 2-hours ride with no vexation. It really was worth the $15. I also got to meet some other people; there was one woman from Nova Scotia who stood out from the others for she reminded me with my desire to travel to Nova Scotia. I will do it one day… Hopefully in the foreseeable future!

For my ride back to Ottawa, I also used this ride sharing service. It also went smoothly. So, for the time being, ride sharing has gained my trust. I will definitely contact the same person to give me the ride the next time I need to go to Montréal; perhaps other nearby cities as well.

Français, Français, Français
Oui. Everything is in French. From signs, tickets, advertisements, to instructions. However, luckily, I’ve been living in Ottawa for 8 months now. Since Ottawa is Canada’s capital and close to Québec, everything here is bilingual. Literally everything, I’m telling you. 8 months of being exposed to French has obviously helped me in a way. I’m not saying that I’m fluent in it, but at least I know the language enough to survive by reading the signs, instruction, tickets, and some advertisements! Should I be proud of it?

I can read this! 95% of it… Better than none, eh?

It’s the back of my $18 3-days pass to move around the city with the public transport (subway and bus). Public transport here in Canada is generally reliable and I’m happy with it!

Gule Kambing (Lamb Curry)
My first meal in Montréal is none other than… Indonesian food! Oh yes, I miss it. There is no single Indonesian restaurant in Ottawa. Therefore, this topped the list of food to taste in Montréal, for this would be my very best chance to get to taste the spices of my homeland after a while. Right after I got to Montréal and picked up my friend in the airport, we went straight to Gado-Gado Restaurant.

As it name would have spoken to itself, it’s a lamb with Indonesian curry. When I had it in my mouth, it was a pure moment of bliss. Not lying. The richness of the spices, which reminded me of home, simply tickled my tastebuds at a level where no Western food would have come close to imitate. And the lamb (and its glorious fat) exploded in my mouth, enough to make me the happiest man alive (if not the world, at least in Montréal). Sorry to say, guys, but food here lacks of spices. Well, it doesn’t mean they don’t taste good, just less rich. Or to put it better: simply different.

Gule Kambing at Gado-Gado

The only sad part, which is not too saddening, is that it’s much pricier here than back home. It cost me $15 (tax and tip excluded) to get this one, whereas it would only cost $4 if I were to eat at such restaurant. On top of that, I was happy!

Have you heard of poutine—a delicious fries-based meal originated from Québec? It originally came with [amazing] gravy and cheese curd—which you can still get today of course, but it now also comes with bacon, smoked meat, chicken, etc. They just have their way to make it so delicious… Poutine also comes in large portions, so if you’re thinking of getting one for yourself, be sure that you are starving.

Lunch at La Banquise

Look at that majestic meal. I ordered La Matty poutine with additional topping of smoked beef for $13. I shared it with my friend though, so we had enough room to try some other food. What I got was poutine with gravy, cheese curd, bacon, green pepper, onion, and smoked beef. How does this savoury meal sound? Uh-huh, yes. You know it. YOU MUST TRY POUTINE! I COMMAND YOU TO DO SO.
Oh, by the way, this is at La Banquise.

Ice cream, please! I need to cool myself down!
On the first day, it was unexpectedly blazing hot. The temperature reached 33ºC and the sun was shining bright. Walking under such heat dehydrated me so badly. As a resolve to that, I treated myself with 2 ice creams on the same day. Oh, ice cream never cease to amaze, right?

The first ice cream I tried was La Diperie. Here, you get to choose the size of your ice cream and get a plain vanilla ice cream. Then, you choose your dip, as it name says, and topping. They literally turned the ice cream over and dipped it to… the dip and rolled it on the topping. I got myself the one with hazelnut dip and hazelnut topping. It was amazing. No other words. 33ºC outside and you get an ice cream in your hand; what else can you ask for? Price-wise, it was a decent $6.50.

As the day went on, I tried another ice cream at Kem Coba. Well, I got myself a sorbet, but they also served gelato. I got a mixed fruit flavour sorbet. It was pretty good for a $3.50, though not as good as La Diperie, I think.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
Most of you probably recognize this cathedral.

Should you have seen pictures of this cathedral on the Internet and have never been there, it may be safe for me to say, since I’ve been there, that you will be disappointed when you get here in person. No kidding. It may look all good with the lights and grandeur altar, but it just has turned into a tourist go-to instead of a sacred, quiet praying site. It was too crowded and I even had to pay $5 to get it. However, the exterior is still pretty nice with a plaza and a monument across the street in front of the cathedral.

I actually went to a different church, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont Royal, to see sunset. I found this church much more compelling and pleasing to go to. It’s standing tall and strong on a hill. If you’re standing at the entrance to the premises, you can see this church standing high, maybe 50-60m high. I got no picture of this church from the bottom, but I do have a picture of what you will see the moment you step out of the door of the mass hall up at the top. If there is any church that would be able to hit you spiritually, besides the baroque churches, this would definitely be on the list.

Habitat 67
Being an architecture student, this structure would absolutely be mentioned somewhere in the programme. It’s a model community and housing complex in Montréal designed by Moshe Safdie. Initially, this was his thesis for master’s, but then it was built during the Expo 67 (1967). It’s clearly a very unique building. It’s made out of prefabricated concrete blocks which are stacked together and rise up to 12 storeys high. They look like randomly put together, but I’m telling you that it is not; well, in architecture everything is carefully thought! Ha, there is the architect in me talking. I have always wanted to see this structure on my own and I did get the opportunity to see it. Although, unfortunately, I only saw it from across the river—all due to time constraint. If I have the chance to get back to Montréal, I will definitely go closer.

Here’s a picture for you, from Google…

Looks nice, eh?

Ah, it basically means Old Montreal. This is my favourite part of the trip! This is where all the old European buildings and streetscapes are located. Basically, this area called the Old Montreal is concentrated along a pedestrian street (only pedestrians and bicycles can enter) of Rue St-Paul (St. Paul Street); bicycles are very common here. It extends as far as around 8 blocks. Once you walk on this street, you are transported to Europe. Believe me. This post’s featured image at the top is also taken here.

Isn’t it convincing enough??? It better be… So, I walked down this street for hours. This street is both historical and commercial area. You can find dozens of restaurants, pubs, and bars. I stopped by one French restaurant, called Olive et Gourmando. The food was pretty good. I got a Cajun Chicken cold sandwich; the bread was the hard one. The price was $12.45. It was the first time I tried that kind of sandwich, which I found pretty good. Yet, it was the atmosphere that came under the spotlight. When you look outside the window, all that you see are buildings from stones and streets paved with cobblestone—very European. Unfortunately, again, I didn’t take pictures while I was here, because I was too hungry at the time; I just ate anyway. I think I’m more of a person who pays attention more to the scenery, buildings, and other stuffs but food when I travel… Anyway…

Olive & Gourmando

In addition to that, there are also countless private art galleries owned by artists. Some of the galleries still have their respective artists producing artworks, while some are now legacies. It was fun going in and out of the galleries here for two reasons: I’m into art and it’s free… 🙂

I dropped in to this gallery one gallery that displayed Impressionism paintings. I also saw the artist himself—almost 90 years old. I should say that his works were amazing. He did both classical and modern Impressionism. I’m personally a fan of Impressionism paintings and I found a unique touch in his modern Impressionism paintings. The mosaic-like pattern and sophisticated palette technique just blew me away. Look at this painting, which was considered his masterpiece, and judge it yourself.

Pleasing to the eye, isn’t it?

Overall, I just loved it walking down the Old Montréal area. I have always wanted to go to Europe one day. By being here in Montréal gave me a bit of taste of Europe. I’m, at least, one step closer to being in the actual Europe. I will work my way there to make it happen, because I know it’s gonna be more awesome than this!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Canadian Centre for Architecture
Finally, eh? Yes. This will be the last highlight of this blog post. Either you respond to this with a sigh of relief or disappointment, bear with me! Despite being the last thing I visited while I was there, this became the most memorable one for me. This place was the best architectural gallery, museum, and library I have ever found in my life. I’m not exaggerating, dude. This is a place where you can find a lot of things about architecture. As an architecture student and, more importantly, a person who has great interest in architecture, this place was like a treasure.

In this place, there are exhibitions of past architecture projects, not only from Canada but also from abroad—many of them from Japan. What’s exciting about the exhibitions is that you can literally see all the blueprints, models, drawings (plans, section, elevation, sketches), digital rendering, and digital simulations (building stress points, light and shadow, wind, etc) of the projects. They’re very pretty. And this is also the place where I found myself situated in the largest architectural library I’ve ever seen; I could stay there all day long just to sift through rows and columns of books. Made my day. Very. Really. Trust me.

Okay! That’s my first trip and first travel blog I’ve done this year! I’m happy with both the fact that I travelled to Montréal and completed this post!

To be honest, there are some other places that I wanted to go to, but was not possible to do due to time constraint and limited energy level. If I need to say the things that I wanted to do but didn’t manage to, I would mention these: see Montréal at night, try Montréal beer (blanc), and get closer to Habitat 67 (even entering it) and try more impromptu restaurant drop-in.

I will be back in October to watch Il Divo concert here. 😀 So, I may go around the city once again at that time. However, it doesn’t omit the possibility of me going there even before that date; it’s just because I love Montréal!

I will post some pictures in the gallery soon. You can check it out when they’re up!

Thank you for your patience and kind heart for reading this post all the way through ’til this very sentence. I’m looking forward to write and share more and more stories here. To keep yourself updated with my upcoming posts, don’t hesitate to follow my blog if you’re a WordPress user or follow my via e-mail.
Au revoir…

Gregorius Erico


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