My first real adult vacation was to Montréal, Canada. Jennie and I drove up from the Hudson Valley in July of 1993. We had no real plans, had not made hotel reservations, and neither one of us spoke much French. But it didn’t matter. We headed straight to the tourism office. The ladies there suggested a small B&B in the Marais and off we went.
Looking back 35 years later, I don’t think we could have chosen a better city to begin our lives of travel and discovery. Montréal was big enough to be exciting, and small enough to be manageable. The old world architecture and European influence felt exotic. We loved figuring out how to use the métro and I particularly got a kick out of hearing French being spoken around me.
Montréal is a big city. In fact, it’s the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world. And while there are plenty of tall buildings and concrete to be found, I prefer the Latin Quarter where outdoor cafés and quaint retail businesses mix with tree-lined streets and public parks and squares.
What’s so special about Saint-Louis Square?
There are many parks, squares and green spaces in this city of almost 2 million people. Sweet Saint-Louis Square, lined with brightly-colored row houses, is my favorite. It is small, trees shade the property, and several paved walkways meander past old park benches. Small flower gardens dot the grounds and in the center is a Victorian fountain.
While situated in the heart of a busy part of the city, with St. Denis running along the eastern edge, the square is peaceful and quiet. The perfect location to read a book, enjoy a small picnic, or just sit.
We discovered Saint-Louis Square on that first visit to Montréal, crossing it several times a day, to and from the Sherbrooke metro station. Now, each time I return to the city, I make a bee-line back here. It’s not as big as Mont Royal or as popular as Jeanne-Mance Park, but it is quintessential Montréal. In fact, the Project for Public Spaces called the square “the closest thing to a European neighbourhood square you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.”
In the neighborhood, not to be missed
For cool and creamy artisanal gelato and sorbet, walk to the west end of Saint-Louis Square, away from Saint Denis. Just beyond the round cement kiosk you’ll see Rue Prince Arthur. Walk two and a half blocks on this pedestrianized corridor to visit Pagliacci Bistro Gelati.