Montreal is Canada’s bit of European culture. It’s only a 5 hour drive from Toronto yet so different. The coolest part about this city is that it’s an island located just by the mouth of the St. Lawrence river. Although it is located in Canada’s French province, knowing Francais is not a necessity since everyone speaks English on the streets and in the stores but ONLY in Montreal (since most of the residents are immigrants, students or native Torontonians).
St. Joesph’s Church, Montreal
Although I have made annual summer pilgrimages to Montreal since I was 5 years old (mainly to visit St. Joesph’s church which is in the heart of Montreal, sitting high above the city on a small mountain), I have barely had a chance to really explore the city. A few friends and I went on this short road trip for simply that purpose, and to head to the annual Val Morin Hindu temple festival that takes place a few kilometers north of Montreal.
The well-known Canadian Just for Laughs comedy festival was taking place at the same time so the city was buzzing a bit more than usual. After checking in to the Travelodge in the heart of downtown (which is uber small, almost like a hostel room but with free breakfast) we headed out for a night on the town. Too bad we didn’t know where the clubbing district was! We ended up walking on rue St. Laurent for a while which was amusing with crowds of people walking around at all hours of the night, passing strip clubs on strips clubs (and no night club in sight) before we realized that we were probably lost and headed back to the hotel. The next day we were told that the clubbing district was located on rue Cresent but for some reason no one was able to direct us toward there the night before.
We spent Saturday shopping and exploring the city during the day. Montreal’s Chinatown is very small in comparison to Chinatown’s in other major Canadian cities. It consisted of something that looked like an alleyway with a big sign and a few stores. My cousin Ines and I decided to shop since we were told that Montreal was great for deals, and it was very true! We spent an hour on rue St. Catherine and we scored amazing deals which we were very happy about.
We ended up staying in Laval with the rest of our friends which is closer to Val Morin where we were headed for the festival on Sunday, but the problem was that Laval was a city that was about half an hour outside the city of Montreal which meant there wasn’t very much to do there. After hanging out for the afternoon at our hotel in Laval, we decided to drive back into Montreal to party since we didn’t get the chance to the night before.
With the help of my friend Jana’s cousin who is a native Montrealer, we ended up club La Boom (very creative with a lil bit of French). It was clearly poppin! and lucky for me, I bumped into some friends from Toronto randomly at this club!!
The best part of the night was when some girls and guys in police uniform came in and jumped on the speakers and started to strip. It obviously freaked us out because being Torontonians we are used to police crashing in to evacuate due to problems, but these “cops” being pretty hot strippers was clearly amusing after a few drinks.
Getting up early in the morning to head to the Hindu festival was a real accomplishment. This festival is well-known and majority of the crowd consists of Toronto Tamils so by the time we got there, we had to hike up the temple in our sarees in the sweltering heat. Once we got there, we realized it was worth it because the festival was very unique.
Val Morin temple was built by man who had a profound belief in the Hindu religion as he studied the religion from a yogi. The development of the temple occurred because this man’s plane had crashed on this specific site about 50 years ago, and he had remained alive and unaffected. As a tribute he built the temple, and the crashed plane can still be seen since it’s been made into a sort of monument. The site also features a yoga camp and a beautiful Krishna temple that is the most serene I have ever seen. It’s a gorgeous site for a temple and really makes you feel at peace.
After a few hours at the festival we were extremely exhausted due to the heat, the hiking in bare feet, and the lack of sleep. It was time to venture home.. to Toronto. But what a weekend!