Hi Frugalistas! If you Google the search term “chateau in Montreal” there are a plethora of results. Most of them are hotels in Montreal. Some of them are hotels in the Dordogne. One is even a kebab shop! But look carefully and there is one French chateau in Montreal in those Google searches. The Chateau Ramezay in Old Montreal is a true French Chateau in Montreal. But like everything in Quebec, its “Frenchness” is not complete, and it does not tell the true story of this interesting museum.
History of the Chateau Ramezay
The Chateau Ramezay was built by Claude de Ramezay, the 11th Governor of Montreal. Originally from Normandy, and homesick for the architecture of his homeland, Chateau Ramezay was built in 1705 in a Norman style. Think stone walls, dormer windows and a copper roof.
For the first 200 years of its life, the Chateau served a number of uses – Governor’s Chateau, home to the West India Company, a school and a university. Then in 1895 it became a museum.
The modern Chateau
Now restored to its full French splendour it tells the story of multiple cultures within the Montreal region. Early rooms tell the story of local inhabitants prior to French colonisation. I was particularly taken with a display of baby and child artefacts. A pair of moccasins and the painted side of a crib were delightful.
But it’s what’s beyond that is the true star of this French Chateau in Montreal…….
Welcome to the Nantes Salon, designed in the 18th century by French architect Germain Boffrand. Restored to its original splendour, it is definitely a place to linger. Enjoy the wood panelling. Admire the glittering chandeliers (yes, there is more than one!). Find the portrait of Jean Talon – hero of Montreal, and after whom the Marche Jean Talon was named.
But don’t forget head downstairs. As well as a small 18th Century costume display there is a fabulous kitchen. Check out the barrel-type wooden cylinder to the right of the kitchen fire. What do you think it is? Apparently, it was designed for a small dog to run in and turn the spit rotisserie. Sort of a hamster wheel if you like. Not at all appropriate in a 21st century home, but an interesting original feature in an 18th century kitchen.
The last part of the tour takes on a slightly military flavour with some history relating to the 350th anniversary of the arrival of one of the French army divisions in New France. With over 1 million descendants in Canada and the United States, it also tells the story of many of today’s Canadians.
The Chateau Garden
Now a fraction of its original size (think 4 times smaller in fact) the French chateau does not stop at the Chateau. The garden is laid out as a traditional French potager garden. While it was very bare while I was there in early May, it was obvious what a joyous garden it would make in spring and summer.
If you visit the Chateau during warmer months, the garden terrace would no doubt make a perfect spot for a light lunch or afternoon tea to enjoy the garden.
Yes, the Chateau Ramezay is a French chateau in Montreal, but its contents tell a far richer story of Montreal’s inhabitants, their culture and their history. It’s one I thoroughly recommend you take time to enjoy.
Author’s note: In Montreal I was a guest of Quebec Tourisme and L’Hotel.