Montreal: Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Old Montreal and the Underground City

During the American Thanksgiving week, I visited some family out in Montreal. I spent most of my time with family, so I didn’t do as much touring around as I had liked to. Besides, this wasn’t my first time in Montreal (here and here).

For one reason or another, I never made it out to Saint Joseph’s Oratory the other times I visited. According to my cousin, “it’s one of the best free attractions in Montreal”.

Saint Joseph’s Oratory is Canada’s largest church, and it enshrines a statue of Saint Joseph within it, I wasn’t able to take a good photo myself of the the oratory in all its beauty, so here’s one from Wikipedia.

By Paolo Costa Baldi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17469968

We weren’t allowed to go inside the main nave (where the people sit in church) of the basilica since it was closed for an event. But we were able to go to the Crypt Church on the floor below.

The statue of Saint Joseph is located in the Votive Chapel. People all over come here as a pilgrimage to pay their respects.

Since Saint Joseph’s Oratory is located on Mont Royal, there is a viewpoint nearby to look into the city.

Someone had some fun at the nearby chalet!

A short hike from there was the Mount Royal Cross. The temperature was only slightly below freezing, so it wasn’t as cold as I expected Montreal to be. I was told that it’d get much much colder in January and February.

The next place we went to was Old Montreal. It was pretty dead, even for a Sunday afternoon. It makes sense since I’m way past the busy tourist season! In the summer, all the restaurants set up patio seating outside, but it was too cold to do any of that in November.

Lastly, I went to the Underground City. Like a lot of cities that get really cold, the city has built a network of underground tunnels so that people can avoid walking outside in the cold winter. Some parts of it are actually really nice!

A piece of the Berlin wall appears in the most unlikely of places..

One of the places I wanted to go on this trip was the Biodome, which tries to recreate different ecosystems in the world to display various plants and animals that live there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reopen until summer 2019.

Photo album: here

Schwartz’s, Olympic Stadium, and Family Reunion

After the day trip to Quebec City, we went back to my uncle’s home in Montreal to stay for another night.  The day after, we toured a little more of Montreal.


I was told that this place is really well known for its smoked meat sandwiches.  Good thing we got the chance to try it because that sandwich was indeed very delicious (I find it very difficult to describe how good something tastes…).  For those interested, it’s located at 3895 St-Laurent.

Olympic Stadium

The next destination was the Olympic Stadium that was the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics.  It has quite a unique building style with its tower on an incline.

At the top, people can see across Montreal.  People can see the different structures nearby that were all once used as Olympic venues.  Nice view!

Here’s also a nice video of the view while going down the lift.

Driving by McGill University

On the way back, my uncle took us by the McGill University campus.  Didn’t really get to see much of the school except for what I saw from inside the car.

Family Reunion

Not exactly a touristy thing to do, but we had a rather large dinner with as many of our family members as we could.  We had 18 family members – not exactly a regular occurrence for us.  We could have had more, but we were missing my dad’s eldest brother’s entire family (7 people), two other cousins, and an aunt. And this was just my dad’s side of the family.

This was the best opportunity that we had in order for everyone to see each other in person and catch up after years of not seeing each other.  One of the nicest things about the family is that people very much respect these family gatherings and are eager to go to them.  I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t really share the same enthusiasm of seeing their relatives.

This dinner was also a birthday celebration for four people in the family that had a July birthday.  I want to post pictures, but I’m not able to since I’m not sure if the others would be okay with it.   But anyway, here’s a picture of a finished cake.

The next morning, we would leave Montreal for our tour to New York City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.

Random Wandering around Montreal

After coming back from Mount-Tremblant, we decided to do a night time stroll around Montreal.  One of my uncles had originally suggested to check out Montreal’s night life, which we were all open to.  Then my uncle started saying he would take us all to a strip club.  Good joke.  But nope, he wasn’t joking.  Then his son (my younger cousin) start going on about how terrible it was for my uncle to take us all to such a place and something about setting a good role model for the kids.  While my cousin was completely serious as he was saying all that stuff, to everyone else, it sounded like a big joke.  His obnoxious tone to his dad while talking and his dad’s kind of eye-roll reaction was quite funny to everyone listening.  In the end, we didn’t go check out Montreal’s night life.  Instead, we went to see Chinatown and the Jazz Festival.


My impression of a “Chinatown” in any western place has always seemed to me that the district was full of buildings that look to needing some good cleaning and maintenance or maybe even downright dirty (like gum stains all over the concrete) compared to more modern and nicer looking Asian districts like Richmond in Vancouver or Markham in Toronto.  The vibe in the Montreal Chinatown was kind of the same, but a bit better (see Wiki photo below).

They also have a fancy entrance sign.

The nice thing about Chinatown was the food.  For the past couple days, we had been eating a lot of random fast food (McDonalds, Tim Horton’s etc.) and so eating here was a welcome treat.  The restaurant even had shark fins on display at the entrance.  Looks amazing, but I suppose people shouldn’t be eating that anymore.

Complexe Desjardins

Because Montreal is so cold in the winter, there are some underground tunnels that take people around downtown.  One of the tunnels took us to the Complexe Desjardins.  From what I could tell, this place was just a mall, except, they had a really cool sculpture in the main atrium area.

Each of the little water droplets go up and down individually and seemingly randomly (I have no idea how it works).  Here’s a video of it in action though (kind of shaky because I’m terrible at recording videos).

International Jazz Festival

I’m not exactly a Jazz person, but it was good checking out the atmosphere at the Jazz Festival.  Bands were playing on the concert stage (I didn’t know any of the songs), but the crowd seemed into it.

We probably only walked around for about an hour and a bit, and afterward, we headed home.  We would need good rest for the trip to Quebec City the next day.  I’m told it is about a three-hour drive.

Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort in Summer

For some reason, my parents and various uncles and aunts had the idea of going to a ski resort – in the middle of summer.  I guess that’s like going to Whistler Ski Resort in Vancouver during the summer.  No snow, just grass, trees and mountains.  And of course there’s the ski village – that was really nice.

The whole place is a clear tourist town, which makes sense for a ski resort.  In the summer it’s still quite busy (probably way less busy than winter) with tourists everywhere splurging on expensive meals or buying brand name clothing (there are apparently stores for that here).

Some of the summer activities around here are mini golfing and outdoor swimming.  For some it’s eating/drinking, but for us it’s sightseeing.  Sightseeing means taking the free gondola just for kicks.

The trip in general was quite pleasant and relaxing except for the weather being especially hot (but luckily cooler than the day we were in Ottawa).  Kind of a short excursion from Montreal, but I think everyone enjoyed it.

Old Montreal and Mount Royal

After a bit of rest from the travels in Ontario, our next destination was Old Montreal.  I often thought that Montreal was a microcosm of France in North America (after all Quebec was known as the “Colony of New France” a long time ago), but it seems that it’s evolved its own culture.  There are elements of Montreal that are very modern (skyscrapers and the like) and the historical part of town (there are even horse carriage rides for tourists that ride along cobblestone roads).

The outside patio seating on cobblestone roads has a nice “European feel” and the architecture of the buildings surrounding it definitely add to the atmosphere.  Store and restaurant labels being in French also makes the atmosphere feel a lot more foreign (but luckily most people in Montreal speak English).

As I have learned throughout my travels, there is always a nice church in the historical part of town, at least in this case, a basilica.  This one is called the Notre-Dame Basilica or in French, Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal.

The inside is also quite different.  I remember a lot of churches like to use ambient light to keep the interior illuminated but the main congregation hall seems to be closed to natural light except for the two windows in the ceiling.  There is a lot of “blueness” in this basilica, which I don’t think is very common.  As usual, the altar is filled with statues of religious figures.

After that, the next destination was Mount Royal, which is one of Montreal’s largest greenspaces.  There is a large artificial lake where people like to go for runs or just casual strolling.  There is also an observation area that looks down the mountain toward downtown Montreal.

A raccoon even tried to join us at the observation area.  Poor raccoon…was probably hungry too.

That night we had a nice dinner that was a partial family reunion.  I think about 15 people from my father’s side of the family came.  That was probably the first time we’ve ever all got together for a meal in a long time.  The meal was also made better by the presence of my cousin’s 15-month old daughter (first cousin once removed?).  I think the last time where everyone got together (at least partially – I wasn’t present for that one) was in the summer of 2009 when one of my cousins got married.  We all asked about one another and how everyone was doing since we hadn’t caught up in a while.  We ate for about an hour and talked probably for another 2 or 3 hours.  It was a nice get-together that doesn’t happen very often.

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