Our third day in Montreal was dedicated to exploring the city. It started with breakfast in the historic Marché Atwater, Montreal’s other big farmers market, located just minutes down the street from our apartment. I enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Première Moisson Bakery after admiring dozens of stands with colourful home-grown fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese products, honey and preserves and many other local artisanal products. Built in 1933, the market building itself is one of Montreal’s Art Deco landmarks.
Then I walked further south to catch a glimpse of the Lachine Canal, formerly an important waterway that was opened in 1825 to avoid the treacherous Lachine Rapids. Although the canal became obsolete in the second half of the 20th century due to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, it has successfully been transformed into a recreational area with extensive bicycle paths and parklands. Many of the old industrial buildings in the area have been converted into loft condos and the entire Atwater Market area has become one of Montreal’s most popular residential areas.
Then we hopped on the metro and minutes later we exited at the Sherbrooke metro station and walked up vibrant Saint Denis Street with its many restaurants and bistros. St-Denis runs through two of Montreal’s most popular entertainment districts: the Latin Quarter and the Plateau Mont Royal.
At Duluth Street we turned into a residential area. Montreal’s residential neighbourhoods offer many interesting photo opportunities with their leafy streets, whimsical building styles and unique outside staircases. Our destination was the Parc Lafontaine which has 14 public tennis courts. To work off all the calories accumulated over two days of watching tennis at the Rogers Cup, we needed to play some tennis ourselves.
After a solid two hours of tennis, we took a bit of a rest on a park bench and were approached by a couple of assertive squirrels that insisted on demanding some food from us even though our hands were empty. This park is a wonderful oasis in the middle of the city, with its leafy green walkways, picturesque ponds and sports facilities. People were having fun playing tennis, beach volleyball, and bocce balls.
Then we walked south to Sherbrooke Street where we admired the unique and fanciful architecture of Montreal. Sherbrooke Street is one of the longest streets on the island of Montreal and features several landmarks: McGill University, the Concordia University Loyola Campus, a campus of Dawson College, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, and further east, the Olympic Stadium as well as the Montreal Biodome and the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Strolling past McGill University we started to enter the downtown area with its shiny skyscrapers and continued our walk on busy St. Catherine Street, Montreal’s most important commercial artery. We made a quick foray on to Crescent Street, a hugely popular entertainment district with tons of restaurants, bars, lounges, boutiques and galleries. Then we settled in for a filling dinner at Trattoria di Mikes and watched some more Rogers Cup tennis matches on the big screen.
August 13, 2011 was our departure day. We had planned to leave in the mid-afternoon which would give us a few more hours of exploring on this gorgeous day. We decided to use the last few hours of our 3-day metro pass and took the subway a few stops east to Place d’Armes. After leaving our car parked for 3.5 days, we had fallen in love with the speed and efficiency of the Montreal public transit system. Montreal’s rubber-wheeled subway (or as they called it – the “metro”) whisked us around quickly and efficiently to any destinations in the downtown area.