By Amanda Gates (GDES ’19)
Have you ever felt like exploring beneath the city streets? To your luck, the entrance to one of Montreal’s very own Narnia’s is right at your fingertips. For what feels like miles throughout the downtown core, a series of malls and tunnels connect the above to the below. The adventures and discoveries double with the existence of this underground city, and while sometimes difficult to find and navigate around, the easiest first step to get there begins at the McGill metro station.
I started my adventure right out of the Evo residence and down the hill behind the building as part of any other day. The typical metro symbol marked the entrance, and a set of escalators met me at the door, sending me down into the tunnels of the underground. Tempting my wallet, I was faced immediately with an entrance to La Baie, a large multi-floor department store. Further down the hall I found a variety of food choices, including a Tim Hortons, and a few steps away the entrance to Centre Eaton de Montreal, a four floor shopping center with a diverse food court and large selection of your favorite stores. At first glance, you would assume that the mall ended there. But, with the help of an underground map and a small dependency on directions from signs, there was much more to explore.
My next stop after Centre Eaton was Place Ville Marie. Out of the many other areas accessible from these tunnels, this was by far one of the easiest to get to because bold, screaming signs point in the direction of the location. Luckily, these signs brought me to the doors at the very end of the Eaton mall, where once I passed through lead me into a long series of straightforward tunnels. Along the way sat smaller shops and cafes that run on their own time, personalized and unique from the rest. Up, around, and down a few more tunnels and I found myself at another underground section, made up of more unique stores from woodworking to bakeries and flower shops.
Headed in the direction of Bonaventure, I found myself getting lost. I had gone this route before, but the opposite way, and while I knew how to get back to the residence, I didn’t know how to get to the next major part of the underground. Admittedly, I gave in and took a metro ride from Bonaventure to Place d’Armes, skipping over Square Victoria which does as well have an impressive connection to the tunnels.
After getting off, I was attached to another central hub called the Palais des Congres, an exhibition center, and a familiar sight from the outside with its multicolored panes of glass covering the front of the building. With an interior full of open architecture and bright glowing lights from neon signs and natural sunlight, it’s hard not to stop and wonder how a series of underground hallways and metro systems could bring you here.
I had called it a day, and while on the way back, I was able to find the tunnels that I had missed from taking the metro earlier. Each one has its own character. Some are dark, some purposeful and some not, with glowing panes of art lining the walls. Others are bright and plain, with colorful glass illuminated by decorative lighting. This adventure ended as the tunnels brought me back to the Bonaventure metro center, where I took the opportunity to avoid getting lost in the larger series of tunnels and head back to McGill the easiest way I knew. While this time I missed a few important underground locations and architectural landmarks, the point of it all is that while the outside of Montreal is beautiful, bright, and artistically impressive, the inside can be too.