CANADA: A traveller's delight
Canada is more than its hulking-mountains, craggy-coasts and appealing cityscapes – it also cooks extraordinary meals, rocks in its modern avatar and unfurls wild, moose-spotting road trips
I got a taste of the friendliness and charming demeanour typical to Canada as soon as I stepped into Montreal, where our flight had landed. Limping with a twisted angle, I had difficulty in walking and an airport worker immediately rushed to guide me to an elevator and thereon to the immigration area. This was in great contrast to the treatment I received at the previous airport where we had a stopover.
Situated on river St Lawrence, the island of Montreal is a juxtaposition of the new and the old. My visit to this former French colony made for an unforgettable experience. This vibrant city is today home to 120 distinct communities. With vibrant people, restaurants, cafés, museums, churches and green spaces, it presents a moving canvas.
Old Montreal & Old Port
In these two neighbouring areas of Montreal, we can see the city's centuries-old history. One can walk down the cobbled streets of old Montreal and admire the historical buildings that line the streets. When seen closely, one can notice French, English and Scottish influence in the architecture. After walking through the lanes, one can take a well-deserved break in one of the numerous restaurants or cafés dotting the streets.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
The Basilica in the old city stands testimony to the city's Catholic roots and intimate relationship between art and religion. The Basilica's interior consisting of intricate wood carvings, slain glass art with a deep-blue background presents an excellent piece of art by architect Victor Bougear. The courtyard in front of the Basilica that is surrounded by some historic buildings is a place one can send some time sitting and admiring the surroundings and enjoying the street performance of classical, vocal or instrumental music that plays across different times of the day.
Mount Royal is an iconic natural feature of Montreal, affectionately called 'The Mountain' by locals. On the slopes of the mount are located two of the city's oldest cemeteries. The slopes are also a preferred spot for nature lovers, birdwatchers and sport enthusiasts. At the top of the mount is the Mount Royal Chalet. The walls on the interior of the chalet are decorated with pictures tracing the history of Montreal. The Kandiaronk lookout in front offers a magnificent view of the downtown area and the mighty St Lawrence.
It is a significant destination of Montreal. Founded in 1931 by Brother Marie-Victoria, it has a thoughtfully laid out garden with quaint green houses. The botanic is well-known worldwide as one of the finest and largest of its kind. The collection of plant species include several exotic and rare plants. A stroll through its various theme gardens such as the Japanese garden, Chinese garden, Courtyard of Senses and more, is a delight. It is also a source of endless knowledge and reverberating beauty.
A day-trip can be taken to Quebec City from Montreal. Several bus tours are available but one can also hire a cab for the day to be able to move leisurely at one's own pace. One day is sufficient to visit this picturesque and historic old city. A walk around the old town through the cobblestone streets is a pleasure. One can admire the beautiful old houses and cafés by the side of the street and live performances in the open spaces along the river front.
A visit to the Montmorency Falls is a must too. It falls from a height of 83 m, higher than the Niagara Falls. The falls can be approached from different ways and a few of them can be really adventurous and thrilling.
We left for Niagara Falls from Montreal by car. The journey, with a couple of halts, took us eight hours. The drive through the smooth roads with dense green forests on both sides is an irreplaceable experience. On the way, we stopped to admire the scenic beauty of the Thousand Islands – a marvel of nature which is an archipelago of 1,864 islands on the St Lawrence river. Once we reached Niagara, we became impatient to see the falls. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is awe-inspiring. To watch 3,160 tonnes of water cascading down the falls every second is a spectacle. A must is the Maid of the Mist cruise to the Horseshoe. As the boat enters the Horseshoe, the mist and deafening sound of the falls makes for an out-of-the-world experience. There are several other ways to approach the falls. But most thrilling is the Maid of the Mist.
I could spend only three or four hours in Toronto but it was enough to feel the vibe of friendliness and good nature that prevails among people here. Also, the harmonious coexistence of people from different parts of the world – different cultures, languages, races and colours – could be realised in such a short time. We could also squeeze in sometime to go up the CN Tower, which gives a magnificent view of the city and Lake Ontario, a visit to the vibrant Eaton Square and of course, a stroll along Lake Ontario.
I will remember my visit to Canada for the friendliness and kindheartedness of people. It has great respect for pedestrians, and drivers stop the car to enquire if one is about to cross the road (something much unexpected in India). The numerous cafés and restaurants are very inviting. Jardin Nelson, located in the heart of Old Montreal is a true haven for foodies to relish the combined pleasures of good food, exceptional service, and an impressive and breathtaking ambience and decor.