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Bienvenue à Montréal!

So. Montreal.

It had been a while since I had visited Montreal (over a quarter century, truth be told), and when you’re way out here on the western periphery of Canada, it can often feel (truth be told) as if the country stops at Toronto. My sincerest apologies to La Belle Province for my extended absence.

Having said that, I was so happy to have the chance last spring to renew my acquaintance with the second largest city in Canada. I learned a thing or two.

For one: I can’t wait to go back.

That’s in spite of the fact that my first impression of the city was this: There is an insane amount of road work going on over there. My taxi driver from the train station tried to warn me, but he used the word “construction.”

“Sure,” I nodded. “Lots of construction going on in Vancouver, too.”

But no. My taxi driver wasn’t talking about new condo developments. He meant road work. They say there are two seasons in Canada — winter and construction — and nowhere is that more true than in Montreal. Literally every street corner had a digger on it.

The other surprise for me about Montreal? That it isn’t bigger than it is. Somehow I was expecting it to be closer in size to Toronto than Vancouver, but that just isn’t so.

Here, have a look. This is the city’s skyline as seen from the top of Mont Royal.

Canada 150: Montreal

I wasn’t going to include Montreal in my Canada 150 series. Truth is, I haven’t spent a lot of time there and I don’t know the city well at all. But as I was thinking about my infrequent visits, it suddenly dawned on me. The last time I was in Montreal was on a May long weekend, and the city was deep into its 350th birthday celebrations. And this year, on May 17, Montreal celebrated its 375th birthday.

Gulp. It’s been 25 years since I’ve visited the home of my first love. (That would be the Montreal Canadiens.)

This photo is of the Marché Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market). Opened in 1847, it was the main public market of Montreal for more than a century. Today it houses restaurants and shops and a reception hall.