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The Islands: Île Sainte-Hélène

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Visible across from the Old Port of Montreal, Île Sainte-Hélène is home to the Jean-Drapeau Park, and many of Montreal’s favorite summertime activities. With nature trails, weekend festivals, an amusement park and a pool, not to mention the Biosphère, there’s plenty to on the island. We spent the day there, and made sure to swing by the Stewart Museum, located in an old British fort and dedicated to the history of Montreal.

Ile Sainte-Helene

Although its sister island, the Île Notre-Dame, was artificially created in the 1960s, Île Sainte-Hélène has been a part of Montreal’s history since the very beginning. It was named after the wife of Samuel de Champlain, who “discovered” it in 1611. Sainte-Hélène was private property until 1818, when it was purchased by the British government for defensive purposes. After the War of 1812, the Brits had feared an American invasion and wanted a fort to protect Montreal. The invasion never came, and today the Fort de l’Île Sainte-Hélène is the site of the Stewart Museum.

We’ve talked before about the ridiculous number of museums which Montreal has dedicated to its own history… and the Stewart Museum is yet another. We breezed through it, as the exhibits were largely similar to those we’d seen in the city’s other history museums. But it’s not a bad museum, by any means, and if you’re new to Montreal’s history, you should enjoy it.

Ile Sainte-Helene

The Stewart Museum is just one of many things to see and do on the Île Sainte-Hélène. This is also where you’ll find the Biosphère, the popular municipal pool and Alexander Kalder’s 1967 giant metal sculpture entitled “Man.” Visible from Montreal, this sculpture is the scene of the Piknic Festival, which is a weekly electronic music event held every Sunday of the summer.

There’s also a network of trails which snake through some attractive woods. We followed one at random, and ended up at the Tour de Lévis, built in 1930 as a water tower. Normally, you can climb to the top of the tower for a view over the park, but it was closed during our visit.

From the tower, it was just a few more minutes to walk to the gates of La Ronde, Montreal’s Six Flags amusement park. But it had already been a long day, and we weren’t about to drop $64 apiece on tickets, so we took a rain check on the roller coasters, and headed down to the ferry station. Île Sainte-Hélène is also served by the metro, but during the summer, it’s more enjoyable to take the express ferry that runs between the island and the Old Port.

Locations on our Map: Jean-Drapeau Metro Station | Stewart Museum | Tour de Lévis | Man Statue / Piknic Festival | Ferry Station
Stewart Museum – Website

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June 26, 2016 at 10:37 pm Comments (0)

A Trip to Quebec City

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More from Our Three-Day Trip to Quebec City:
Fortifications and Citadel | Two Views of Quebec | The Château Frontenac | Old Quebec
The Montmorency Falls | The Plains of Abraham | Two Great QC Hotels | Final Images

Montreal might be Quebec’s largest and most important city, but it’s not the capital of the province. That would be Quebec City, three hours to the north along the St. Lawrence River. The only city in Canada or the USA which has retained its original fortifications, Quebec City makes for a perfect getaway from Montreal.

Quebec City

The name of the city is officially “Quebec,” and this is how most natives refer to it. “City” is often appended to the name to help differentiate it from the province, but for locals, it’s just “Quebec.” At first, it confused us when people in Montreal would ask if we’d be “going to Quebec.” Weren’t we already there?

Quebec City was “discovered” by French explorer Jacques Cartier, who built a fort on the site in 1535 during his second voyage to the New World. But it wasn’t until 1608 that Samuel de Champlain founded a permanent settlement here. The town would grow slowly, and although it never experienced the kind of population boom that hit Montreal, it’s remained an administrative capital since its inception.

The British claimed Quebec in 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War, but the city’s heart has remained steadfastly French. In comparison with Montreal, where a significant proportion of the population speaks English, 95% of Quebec City’s population is francophone. And there are far fewer ethnic minorities here; in fact, this is the least diverse major city in all of Canada. Immigrants and industry were drawn to the booming port city of Montreal, and as a result, Quebec City has maintained a small-town feel, despite a healthy population of 700,000.

Quebec City is located where the St. Lawrence River begins to widen, on its approach the Atlantic Ocean. With Cape Diamond, its large natural promontory overlooking the river, the location is of utmost strategic importance, and was a natural spot for Champlain’s settlement. Most of the city’s historic sights are found in the walled confines of Old Quebec, which has both a “High Town” atop the promontory, and a narrow “Low Town” squished between Cape Diamond and the river.

Old Quebec doesn’t seem to have changed much in its 400 years of existence. We arrived on the morning bus from Montreal and, by the end of the ten-minute walk to our hotel, Le St-Pierre Auberge we’d already fallen in love. With its ramparts, gates, stone buildings, cobblestone streets and European architecture, Quebec City is beyond picturesque. And the locals know it. One lady we encountered during our initial explorations told us that Quebec is “la plus belle ville d’Amérique du Nord.” We found it hard to disagree.

Cheap Flights to Quebec City

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May 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm Comment (1)
The Islands: le Sainte-Hlne Visible across from the Old Port of Montreal, Île Sainte-Hélène is home to the Jean-Drapeau Park, and many of Montreal's favorite summertime activities. With nature trails, weekend festivals, an amusement park and a pool, not to mention the Biosphère, there's plenty to on the island. We spent the day there, and made sure to swing by the Stewart Museum, located in an old British fort and dedicated to the history of Montreal.
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