View of downtown Montréal. GNUL from French wikipedia: fr:Image:VuedeMontreal.jpgHappy almost Thanksgiving, American readers! We’re hailing from Montréal today, a few days in to our two-week train trip.

Montréal was founded in 1642, then called Ville-Marie, but its history is much older. The modern name for this city comes from Jaques Cartier, the French explorer who landed in the area in 1535 and named the mountain Mont Royal. Samuel de Champlain also visited the area in 1603, then returned in 1611 for a short while.

The city itself, as I said, wasn’t founded until 1642, by a group of fifty Catholics hoping to convert the natives and become a model community for their religion. They had problems with the Iroquois, so the settlement struggled for a while. They built a fort, then a wooden palisade, and then had to expand the palisade (twice). More and more troops came to live in the city. The British were also an increasing problem. But, in 1701, Montréal signed a treaty with a great number of native groups, which ended Iroquois hostilities. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht eased conflicts with the British (for a time).

During the last half of the 18th century, after the Seven Years’ War, Montréal was occupied first by the British, then by American Revolutionaries, and once again by the British. Several major fires devastated parts of the city, but it continued to expand as an important seaport. For a time in the 1800s, Montréal was even the capital of all of Canada!

There’s much to see and learn in this dynamic old ville. Besides the historical sites, I’m hoping we make it to:

  • McGill’s Redpath Museum, which houses a collection of fossils, minerals, and cultural artifacts from around the world. I’m especially interested in the Dawson Gallery’s exhibit on Canadian and specifically Québecois natural history.
  • Mount Royal Park, to stretch our legs after the 11-hour journey and see what the St.Lawrence River looks like from up high.

Unfortunately, the NHL lockout has ruined our chances of seeing the Canadiens play in their home stadium, and our travel plans clash with university-level and minor-league hockey, too. C’est la vie! I’m sure we’ll find a way to cope. A beer at Dieu du Ciel, perhaps?


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