Happy Birthday, Michael!

Trip Start Apr 10, 2007
Trip End Apr 15, 2007

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Michael!
Day one of our Montreal adventure greeted us with clear blue skies as we awakened with excitement at the thought of exploring this historic city. And what better day for perfect weather than today--Michael's birthday. Of course, we started the day with breakfast at the hotel. You know the Globetrotters have to fuel up for a day of exploring. Marcel, our gracious waiter, ensured that we had everything we needed.

After breakfast, we walked around the hotel a bit, and ventured downstairs to discover a treat--the underground city that we had heard so much about was right below our hotel! Once we got our bearings, we ventured outside headed for Viex Montreal (the city of Old Montreal). As we stepped outside, we realized that the weather was quite a bit cooler than we realized, so we bundled up and got to steppin'. We walked south down Rue Urbain, enjoying the views and the hustle and bustle of Centre-ville. During our walk, we saw a beautiful display of art featured on the side of a building. We had no idea of what it depicted, but it was interesting nonetheless.

A few blocks down we came upon Place d' Armes Square, which features a statue of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal. And right across the street stood one of the landmarks we wanted to visit--Basilique Notre-Dame. This has no resemblance nor any connection to the "real" Notre Dame in Paris, but we had heard so much about it that we wanted to visit to see its beauty for ourselves.

As we crossed the street to visit the basilica, a young lady sitting atop a horse-drawn carriage invited us to take a tour of the city. We declined for the moment and told her that we would consider it later in the day. This was a treat I wanted to give Michael for his birthday, and while I was hoping to take a romantic carriage ride during the evening, Dominique, the driver, mentioned that the carriages pack up at 5 p.m. So, if we were to experience it, we would have to do it by daylight.

It was kind of strange to have to pay to enter a church (4$ per person), but we did. I suppose that's the price of keeping up the place and paying the staff to provide the 15-minute guided tour through the elaborate building. We arrived just in time for the English language tour and joined the 15 or so other guests as the guide explained the history of the place. The architecture was quite amazing, with detailed carving, brightly colored paint and amazing statues and stained glass windows. You could spend an entire day in the church and still not take it all of its beauty. No wonder it was named a basilica, having met the Roman Catholic church's requirements as a building with architectural, artistic and historic value. Despite its rich history, one of the most notable references to the church is that Seline Dione was married and her son christened at Notre-Dame.

After the tour, we decided to walk along the old porte and came across the IMAX Theatre located right across from the home base of Cirque du Soleil, which was scheduled to open its 2007 season on April 19th. Unfortunately, we would miss this grand opening. Michael had once mentioned that he wanted to see Cirque at their home base, so I suppose we will have to come back to see the show here.

Strolling further along the porte overlooking the Fleuve St. Laurent River, we admired the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the historic Clock Tower, and the city's skyline. Across the street, we walked through Marche Bonsecours mall, a beautiful building which houses shops and restaurants.

On our way out of the mall, we stopped to get our bearings. Apparently we looked lost because a nice gentleman approached us and asked, "Parlez vous francais (do you speak French)?" to which we replied, "No, parlons anglais (no, we speak English)." Suddenly, he reverted to English (a skill we have come to admire about this very diverse population, many of whom are multi-lingual), and asked if we were lost. We explained that we were just admiring the beauty of the city and were deciding which direction we wanted to further explore. He kindly pointed out the City Hall just two blocks over, the shopping areas a few blocks up, and then suggested that we not eat in that area because the food was too expensive. If we were interested in a lobster dinner, he explained, we should head over to the Latin Quarter, where there were several good restaurants that allowed you to bring in your own bottle of wine, which they would open and serve at your table. Great tip. We thanked him and continued our exploration.

We must have walked another 10 miles through the city, slipping into small shops to admire the goods, walking past historic markers, grand buildings and just admiring the people. We dodged into Cafe Presse for some tea and soup to warm our insides (and to rest our tired feet), and then headed out for more exploring. Then we found ourselves back in front on Notre-Dame and were pleased to see Dominique, our friendly carriage driver awaiting us. We hopped aboard the carriage and allowed Dominique to tuck us in with a very warm blanket before she grabbed the reins and guided the horse through the streets of Old Montreal.

The tour was nice, but considering our self-guided walking tour of the city that we had already done, we really didn't see anything new. However, Dominique did offer some interesting historical commentary about some of the buildings, streets and people that we wouldn't have known otherwise. As our 30-minute ride came to an end, we thanked our driver and headed towards Quartier Chinois (China Town). It seems every large city has one, and Montreal is no exception. This one, however, is only about four square blocks, and led us right back to our hotel.

After a brief stop to rest our feet, we headed downstairs to the underground mall for dinner. We decided on a restaurant called Baton Rouge, where we enjoyed delicious short ribs, salad and steamed vegetables; just enough to fill our bellies and cause that sleepy spirit to creep up on us. Time to turn in for the night and prepare for another day of exploration.
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globetrotters on

Re: Happy Birthday Michelle
C'est bon, cher. Monsieur Michelle had a wonderful birthday. We are having a fabulous time here in Montreal. So when will you two be ready to run with the Globetrotters? You know we have a Glotrotters Training Program. Read the Puerto Rico journal to learn some of the requirements. Love you both.

Michael and Anita

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