The D&O Diary was on assignment in Canada last week for meetings and to attend a PLUS Canadian Chapter event in Montréal. It was a short sunlit visit to our Northern neighbor, but it was just long enough for a bit of foreign adventure without even leaving the Eastern Time zone.
The PLUS Chapter event in Montréal was a great session. It was good to see some old friends and to make many new friends. It was also great to learn how many of the Canadian meeting attendees read The D&O Diary. I congratulate the chapter steering committee for this very successful and well-attended event. In the first picture below, I am standing with my fellow panelists, John T. Trefry of Travelers , Mylène Côté of Liberty International Underwriters, and François Jean of Forum Risk and Insurance. In the second picture, taken at the reception after the session, I am standing with Sabrina Mariani of Chubb, and Ian Rose of the Lavery law firm. In the final picture I am enjoying a great meal at Le Garde-Manger restaurant in Vieux- Montréal, with several members of the Québec division of the PLUS Canadian Chapter.
With a population of about 1.5 million, Montréal is Canada’s second largest city. It is also the second largest Francophone city in the world, and so part of the pleasure of visiting the city is the opportunity to speak a foreign language. Because Montréal is at 45.5 degrees northern latitude (slightly further north than Minneapolis), spring was still in its early stages there when we were visiting. Many of the trees had only just begun to leaf out.
Montréal is a big city, no doubt, but it is also a beautiful city, with many interesting and historical sites. However, during our springtime visit, the city’s most interesting features were the city’s extensive parklands. First, on our first full day in the city, we explored Mount Royal itself, which is directly adjacent to the downtown business area. It is about 764 feet tall at its highest point, so it is more of a steep hill than a mountain, but it is still a pretty good hike to reach the top. The Mount’s heavily wooded slopes and surrounding parklands were delightful on a sunlit spring morning, as shown in the picture at the top of the post and also in the picture accompanying this paragraph. The Mount Royal Park is one of the great urban parklands in North America.
Before meetings on the second day of our visit, we took the Mêtro to the Atwater Market (see accompanying picture of market flowers), adjacent to Canal de Lachine, where we rented bicycles. The path along the canal passes through heavily industrialized areas, but it eventually leads to the Parc René-Lévesque, a long peninsula between the Lac Saint-Louis (through which passes the St Lawrence Seaway) and the Canal de Lachine. The bicycle path continues along the riverside south of the peninsula, passing interesting scenery and some picturesque sites, such as the Moulin à vent Fleming (second picture below)
The bicycle path eventually took us to the Parc de Rapides, a nature preserve that affords views of the turbulent waters of the Rapides de Lachine, as shown in the first picture below. The obstacle that the rapids presented for maritime traffic is the reason for the canals, leading to the city’s ports. The Parc de Rapides is a bird sanctuary, and on a sunny May morning, the Parc was tranquil and pleasant. It was all the more remarkable that this beautiful natural setting was within the city itself and just a short bicycle ride from the central business district.
From Montréal, we flew to Québec City for a quick weekend visit. Québec City, one of North America’s oldest European settlements, is a well-preserved jewel. The city has a population of about 516,000, but the cozy well-preserved old city within the still-intact city walls gives it a much smaller feel. The narrow cobblestone streets lined with old stone buildings are now tourist-oriented, but the Old World flair of the place still is evident despite the overlay of tourist kitsch. The city’s location on the commanding heights above the St. Lawrence River affords breathtaking views of the river and of the Laurentian Mountains to the North (as shown in the picture to the left). The distinctive Château Frontenac looms over the old city, as shown in the two pictures below.
Just above the hotel along the heights is la Citadelle de Québec, an impressive fortification built in the 19th century, after the War of 1812, out of concern over possible attacks from America. America did in fact unsuccessfully attempt to attack the city in 1775. (In other words, Canada already has “a wall.”) During our visit to the Citadelle, we witnessed an entertaining reenactment of a colonial-era battle, which featured a rather impressive cannonade.
Along the top of the bluff is the Plains of Abraham, the location of the famous 1759 battle in which British troops commanded by Major General James Wolff scaled the bluffs beyond the city and surprised the French troops commanded by the Marquis de Montcalm, as a result of which Canada was to become subject to British rule. We can be grateful that the battle took place at this site, because the location’s historic importance has meant that the beautiful area has been preserved. Though the woods along the bluff were only just in the early stages of leafing out, the parklands were peaceful and pleasant.
There are very few (if any) other places in North America with as much character and history as Québec City. Its proximity to the Eastern U.S. means that it is accessible and its well-preserved Gallic charm means that it affords visitors a taste of Europe, without having to cross the ocean. Our only regret is that our visit was so short. We are already planning our return.
More Pictures of Québec City: