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A heady mix of Europe and America, Montreal blends the best of Paris and New York, with quaint little streets and quality French restaurants, as well as a thriving commercial and industrial economy, great nightlife, busy shopping and a real buzz to the place. The biggest port on the St Lawrence River, all shipping between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic passes through this very pleasant city.

Montreal was an unexpected place to me, I knew next to nothing about it before arriving for a two-week trip in the summer of 2000, and it turned out to be one of my favourite places in North America. We were promoting the shipping company project I'd been working on in Florida at the time, and our trip included a visit to the container yard and one of the fleet's vessels.

View from Mount Royal, Montreal

Montreal is named after Mont Real, the Royal Mountain in the centre of Montreal Island, an easy walk from the downtown district. I was a fresh-faced eighteen year old and just about to start university at the time.

The Sun Life Building, once the largest building in the British Empire, a mighty edifice and representative of the architecture in Montreal from the early part of the twentieth century.

Sun Life Building

Statue of Robert Burns

Robert Burns is represented in effigy in Dorchester Square right in the centre of the city. I did not expect to find a statue of Scotland's national poet in a French-Canadian city.

The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, my home for the two weeks I was in town. Although it looks quite forbidding, it was a pretty fancy place, and has hosted many celebs. The experience of staying in such a place did nothing to endear me to the student accommodation I moved into a couple of months later.

Queen Elizabeth Hotel

IBM Building, Montreal

The view from my hotel room included the IBM building in downtown Montreal. I was impressed with the modern architecture of Montreal, and indeed at the time that such buildings existed outside of the USA.

The Canadian flag flutters in the breeze by Place Ville Marie, one of Montreal's most distinctive buildings in cruciform shape. There was a searchlight that would rotate above the city from the nightclub on the roof of this building each night.

Canadian flag and Place Ville Marie

Canmar Fortune

We spent an afternoon visiting the nearby container yard, including the chance to step onboard the Canmar Fortune, which was loading up in preparation for her next voyage. Like many vessels, she has since been renamed several times, but was built in South Korea and is just over two hundred metres long.

Prehistoric container loaders in the port area of Montreal, poised and ready for the next deliveries to come in.

Big metal beasties

Loading containers

The loaders are capable of grabbing forty-foot containers at each end off the back of an articulated lorry. Watching them at work was like watching steel dinosaurs go about their business.

Loading reefers onto the Canmar Fortune, the gantry cranes are remarkably quick at doing so. "Reefer" is slang for refrigerated container, as referenced in the song "Convoy". Loading containers such that the fewest have to be stripped out at each port is part science and part art.

Loading reefers

Montreal Olympic Stadium

Montreal's Olympic Stadium boasts the world's tallest inclined tower at 175 metres. It was built for the games in 1976, not long after the city hosted the Commonwealth games in 1967.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2001-2018