I’m not a city girl. I grew up in the suburbs on 8 acres of land with horses. I don’t do the concrete jungle well. I enjoy visiting cities, but only one so far as my heart…. and that’s you New Orleans. New York is just too much for me, but New Orleans is full of history, music, food, and city parks!
One of my favorite things to do in any new place, especially cities, is to search out the local park. I would say that it is safe to say that any large city has a famous park because who could live in a place with just concrete and cars! Call me crazy, but I need trees, grass, and cow shit. Okay, maybe I don’t need cow shit, but it certainly has a scent from home that I miss when I’m traveling.
When I wasn’t dodging traffic in search of street art, standing dumbfounded by the beauty of the Notre-Dame Basilica, or stuffing my face with poutine or Montreal bagels, I rode one of the Bixie bikes to Parc du Mont-Royal, Montreal’s 494-acre city park. The park is situated around one giant hill called Mount Royal. How original, eh? 😉
The hill actually consists of three peaks: Colline de la Croix (aka Mount Royal proper), Colline d’Outremount (aka Mount Murray), and Westmount Summit. Mount Royal proper stands the tallest at 233 meters (764 ft). Interestingly, some guidebooks might state that Mount Royal is an extinct volcano. Volcano in Canada? Woah nelly! Grab your ice skates and beer and run! Mount Royal itself is not actually a volcano. However, it is part of one. It is part of an old extinct volcanic complex that was active over 125 million years ago!
Mount Royal is home to a giant cross because as we learned in last weeks post about the Notre-Dame Basilica, about 70% of the Montreal population identifies themselves as Catholic. The first cross was erected in 1643 by the founder of the city of Montreal. Today’s cross stands at 31.4 meters (103 feet) tall and is lit by LED lights.
Parc du Mont-Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who co-designed New York City’s Central Park. Mount Royal Park was first opened to the public in 1876. The park contains two belvederes on top of the hill. The most prominent is the Kondiaronk Belvedere that contains a semicircular plaza with amazing views of the cityscape.
While in Montreal a few weeks ago in October, I got to experience only a fraction of the park. From the second I set foot on the carriage trails, I could tell that Mount Royal Park was a mecca for endurance athletes. I saw countless runners and even a few cyclists climb the switch-back path to the top of the hill. I was in heaven! I followed the people up the hill until I came to the stairway to the famous lookout point. Myself and about 100 other tourists and locals climbed the 400 stairs to the top of the hill where the Kondironk Belvedere stands.
I’m a total sucker for views, which is probably why I love hiking in Maine so much. The view from the top of Mount Royal overlooking the city of Montreal did not disappoint either. I was surprised to see despite it being late October, there was still a great deal of bright, colorful fall foliage left on the trees. But, the budding photographer in me wished that we had arrived a couple of weeks earlier to really see the peak foliage views. I meandered around the top for a while just taking in the views and people watching. There was a young group of guys on scooters who honked and waved at me earlier causing a bit of a show by riding in circles in the middle of the plaza. A few young couples were making out near the tree line. Older couples were squinting at small iPhone cameras to take pictures of each other. It was a joy to see people of all ages enjoying the views of Montreal from above.
My next trip to Montreal will definitely be in the warmer months and when I have more time to explore more of the city. I would have loved to have strapped on my running shoes and taken to the trails if I had brought my shoes and was not currently dealing with a running injury.