Sunday, June 19, 2016

MONTREAL - June 15, 16 & 17, 2016

The previous night we’d spent in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield tied to a government dock in the downtown, right beside a lovely park where a local band was providing live entertainment while we dined on filet mignon, roasted potatoes and salad. This town of 40,000 was named after Colonel Charles de Salaberry who served with the British army during the War of 1812 and Valleyfield came from the Valleyfield Mills, a paper mill south of Edinburgh in Scotland. Salaberry-de-Valleyfield is also home of Jean-Luc Brassard, the freestyle skier who won the gold metal during the 1994  Winter Olympics in the sport’s debut as a metal event. 

Today was our last leg of the journey to Montreal. We did four more locks and learned that locking in the St. Lawrence Seaway can mean lengthy delays making it hard to plan arrival times and activities. A municipal employees strike meant the main marina in Montreal’s Old Port was closed to us. After a call to fellow boaters Bernard and Monique (who live in Montreal and boat out of Beacon Bay Marina where we do) we successfully made reservations at Marina La Ronde on Isle Ste. Helene, the site of the Expo 67 Worlds Fair and a walk, bus ride, and two subway rides away from Old Montreal. Our late arrival meant the office was closed by friendly local boaters helped us get settled and helped us find the keys and passes marina staff had left.

Isle Sainte Helene was named after Samuel de Champlain’s wife and over the years it was used as a public park,  a prisoner of war camp in WWII and eventually the site for Expo 67 that was held on the theme of Man and His World. The La Ronde amusement park continues to be used for that, and much of the rest of the island is now Jean Drapeau public park.

Our time here on Thursday and Friday was spent going back and forth to Old Montreal walking the streets to enjoy the lovely architecture, tour the Nortre Dame Basilica, taking a horse drawn carriage ride, enjoying the wonderful mix of local restaurants and the picture perfect weather. 

Montreal’s history spans some 8,000 years. At the time of the first European contact, the area was inhabited by Iroquois First Nations. Jacques Cartier was the first European explorer to reach this area in 1535, while he was in search of a passage to Asia. Seventy years Later Samuel de Champlain unsuccessfully tired to create a fur trading post, but the Mohawk of the Iroquois successfully defended their hunting grounds. 

A mission named Ville Marie was built in 1642 as part of efforts to create a French colonial empire. Ville Marie became a centre for fur trade & the beginning of New France until 1760, when it surrendered to the British army following the French defeat at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. This was followed by British immigration, expanding the city. Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832 and the city’s expansion was spurred by the opening of the Lachine Canal. Montreal was the capital of the United Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849 and by 1860 it was the largest city in British North America and the undisputed economic & cultural centre of Canada. Between 1883 & 1918, annexation of neighbouring towns resulted in Montreal becoming mostly a Francophone city. 

Montreal’s population surpassed 1 million in the early 1950’s and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway spurred more growth, bringing skyscrapers, museums a much larger harbour. Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics cemented Montreal’s international status. Historically, business and finance in Montreal was under the control of Anglophones and the rise of Quebec nationalism in the 1970’s caused many institutions to move their head offices to Toronto.

Sir Tugley Blue exiting a Seaway Lock

Montreal & Mount Royal looming in the distance

Marina La Ronde

Notre Dame Basilica

Horse drawn carriage ride - Old Montreal

Lunch at Jardin Nelson

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