In mid-May, I attended the 10th World Biomaterials Congress in Montreal (the previous one was four years ago in Chengdu, China). With over 4000 delegates from all across the world, this is the largest event in my field of world and I was honoured and glad to be able to represent my lab, MiMe Research, at the congress. But I’m not here to talk science. As I was back in Canada, I took this opportunity to invite my parents to stay with me in the Montreal area for a few days, convenient as it only took them 5 hours to drive from Toronto. During the last two days of the congress, after my oral presentation and chairing duties were done and I was relaxed, it was time to have some quality family time. We spent a day exploring Montreal itself, took a day trip to Quebec City and Montmorency Falls, and stayed overnight in Ottawa on the way back to Toronto, just in time for the end of the annual tulips festival!
Part 1 – Montreal
I had actually been to Montreal twice before – once in grade 9 as a part of a band trip and once during the summer holidays in 2002 as a part of an Eastern Canada trip with the entire family. I was quite young during those visits and don’t recall much from those trips, and 2002 was 14 years ago – wow! This time I was able to properly explore Montreal, on my own and with the family, without being in a rush because the congress lasted an entire week so there was plenty of time to see Montreal as a whole new city!
Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal, Canada
The story of Montreal on Mount Royal
On Mount Royal
Downtown Montreal resembled downtown Toronto in several ways – tall buildings (thought not as dense as those in Toronto), bad traffic, and vibrant nightlife. I do remember going inside the Notre-Dame basilica in grade 9, but maybe I was too young back then to appreciate how stunning the interior of the basilica was. And indeed I was stunned this time around and thought that it looked more beautiful than Notre Dame de Paris. Among the notable discoveries was Mount Royal, after which the city of Montreal was named. Here is the story of Montreal written at the summit: “On October 2nd, 1535, Jacques Cartier, discoverer of Canada, climbed the mountain under the guidance of the Indians of the village of Hochelaca and, impressed with the beauty of the landscape displayed before his eyes, he gave it the name of Mount Royal, from which the city of Montreal took its name.”
The English Pug
The Illuminated Crowd
The French Poodle
With Sherry and the Tremblay family at WBC2016!
With mom in Montreal
I saw some interesting sculptures in downtown Toronto and my favourites would have to be a pair collectively called “The English pug and the French poodle”. Of course, here an English gentleman was holding in his arm an innocent-looking pug while an elegant French lady held onto her gorgeous poodle. Aside from them, I also met some “celebrities” at the congress – the Tremblay family! Apparently Tremblay is the most common family name in Quebec, and we were happy to be joined by the moose family, Donald, Bob, Betty, and Lucie. Of course we can’t forget about my own family – hi mom and sis! Dad will appear later… 😛
Part 2 – Quebec City
Onto Quebec City, hereafter known as just Quebec. I had also been to Quebec during my teenage years, but as it was the case with Montreal, I don’t remember much about Quebec other than buying a little tank top for my sister. I was actually contemplating going on a bus tour and in the midst of searching for suitable ones, found that there is an attraction called Montmorency Falls just 15 minutes outside of Quebec. After deciding that driving is obviously the better option, the family was off to Quebec and now I can officially say…on y va!
Bottom of Montmorency Falls
With the family at Montmorency Falls!
I love waterfalls so to miss Montmorency Falls when it was so close by would be a foolish move. And what lovely weather we had! The falls themselves were quite impressive, perhaps not as voluminous as Niagara Falls but apparently taller. What we didn’t expect was that a steep climb would be involved, as we went down to the bottom of the falls and obviously had to climb BACK UP. Oof, that was tiring, but so worth it!
Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City
With the family in Quebec City!
As for Quebec itself, many people have told me that it is more “chic” and European than Montreal, and in my mind that was what it was like too. We walked around the old town for a bit, and it certainly felt more quaint (there’s that word again, already used to describe Córdoba) and less urban, which suited my tastes because I like small towns (not that Quebec was one) more than large cities. I felt that during the daytime, Quebec was livelier than Montreal, but unfortuately we weren’t able to stay overnight! Also, the Chateau Frontenac was a lot taller and more magnificent than I had imagined/remembered it to be. Oh, Quebec, I liked you a lot!
Side note: For the readers that are unaware, Montreal and Quebec City are in the province of Quebec in Canada, which is the French-speaking region of the country. In Montreal and Quebec, I tried to communicate in French as much as possible, but as anticipated, Quebecois French and French in France are quite different in many ways. I would say my conversational French is quite fluent, but only in France! As a result, sometimes I actually had to resort to English in order to save time and avoid embarrassment. Certainly a good try though…heh!
Part 3 – Ottawa
On the way back to Toronto from we made a short detour to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Yes, our capital is Ottawa, not Toronto (although the capital of the province of Ontario is Toronto, not Ottawa, even though they’re both in Ontario – how strange!) I thought it would be nice to make a short stay here as well. After all, how often do we do road trips like this??
Parliament Hill from afar
Parliament Hill from afar
Parliament Hill from afar
Compared to Toronto and Montreal, Ottawa is not as busy and crowded even though it is the national capital. However, its charm is undeniable. Unmissable is Parliament Hill, where the Parliament of Canada is situated. Unfortunately we missed the chance to see the inside of the parliament building, but we did catch a glimpse of cannons being fired as noon struck. I never did find out whether there was a special occasion or whether it was merely a daily tradition…
ByWard Market, Ottawa
Three little sheep?
Notre-Dame in Ottawa, accompanied by the giant spider
Tulip festival in Ottawa
As I had mentioned before, the annual Ottawa tulips festival was nearing its end and as a matter of fact, our second day in Ottawa was the final day of the festival. Having seen Keukenhof, I’m not easily impressed by flowers, but it was still nice to see some pretty tulips, actually a gift from the Netherlands to Canada. Other points of interest in Ottawa included ByWard Market and a gigantic sculpture of a spider outside the National Gallery of Canada, in front of the Notre-Dame Basilica of Ottawa…how fitting. At the end of the day, before resuming the 6-hour drive to Toronto (caused by the long weekend traffic T_T), we stopped by a park to rest and recharge under the sun…gotta get that vitamin D when I can!
I’ll conclude my Montreal-Quebec-Ottawa adventures here and just say that I am so glad to be back in Canada and will always love the country. Incidentally I am on the train from Toronto to Montreal as I am writing this, as I have to fly back to Glasgow from Montreal. Back to rain-land, yay! I’ll miss you, Canada, my home! See you again soon!