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Claude de Ramezay, the city's 11th governor, was probably daydreaming of home when he built his Montréal residence, which is on UNESCO's list of "1001 historic sites you must see before you die." Its thick stone walls, dormer windows, and steeply pitched roof make it look like a little bit of 18th-century Normandy dropped into the middle of North America—although the round, squat tower is a 19th-century addition. The extravagant mahogany paneling in the Salon de Nantes was installed when Louis XV was still king of France. The British used the château as headquarters after their conquest in 1760, and so did the American commanders Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold. Benjamin Franklin, who came north in a failed attempt to persuade the Quebecois to join the American Revolution, stayed here during that winter adventure.
Most of the château's exhibits are a little staid—guns, uniforms, and documents on the main floor and tableaux depicting colonial life in the cellars—but
they include some unexpected little eccentricities that make it worth the visit. One of its prized possessions is a bright-red automobile the De Dion-Bouton Company produced at the turn of the 20th century for the city's first motorist.
Head outside, through the back door, and you'll enter gardens full of 18th-century tranquillity. They are laid out just as formally as Mme. de Ramezay might have wished, with a potager for vegetables and a little verger, or orchard. You can sit on a bench in the sun, admire the flowers, and inhale the sage-scented air from the herb garden.
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