Je me souviens - part II

Trip Start Dec 30, 2003
Trip End Dec 18, 2004

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Thursday, October 14, 2004

So as my dad rightly pointed out after reading the last entry, Montreal is not exactly flat, being named after Mount (Mont) Royal (Real) and everything. But whatever - I think you all know what I meant! Montreal was an interesting place for me to visit as my dad had been there on a business trip many years ago and bought me a Montreal Canadiens hockey shirt. He'd also told me about the underground shopping network that I was most interested to explore!

I arrived in Montreal after catching the Orleans Express bus from Quebec City one rainy morning. The only thing of note is saw as we travelled across the province was a train. No, I haven't become a train spotter: this train was about three miles long! Granted, we were travelling on a motorway in the opposite direction at the time, but it seemed to go on forever! I looked out the window five minutes after I'd seen the engine and I could still see carriages and wagons going past! It was crazy!

Upon arrival at the bus station in Montreal, I decided to get a taxi, having not managed to get decent directions to the hostel, plus it was raining. I ended up with a wannabe pimp-cowboy-gangsta driver, who pumped French rap into the car whilst wearing a cowboy hat, red tracksuit with 'Cuba' emblazoned across the front and many pimp chains. Also, he didn't speak English. I spent the entire journey completely terrified that he was going to kill me, but luckily he simply dropped me off at the hostel, and even helped with my bags... an interesting introduction to Montreal!

After checking into the hostel, I decided to go in search of food, and ended up at the Eaton Centre, the main shopping mall in Montreal! All the shops were open til about 10pm, which I was very appreciative of, and took the chance to catch up with the latest fashions in Urban Outfitters, Old Navy and many other stores. I also got my first introduction to Montreal's underground shopping network, where I got utterly lost and ended up coming out of in a really random place that I didn't recognise, and so had to retrace my steps!

Over the next few days I spent a lot of time trying to stay indoors to avoid the fact it was raining and cold. Other than spending more time at the Eaton Centre, I visited the Musee des Beaux Artes, which had an interesting exhibition on the history of design. The highlight for me, though, was seeing the Keith Haring sculptures they had, as he is another of my favourite artists (see the photo album for pictures!). Another favourite was the bronze heart sculpture by Jim Dine, located outside the museum (again, see the photo album for a picture). It reminded me a little of that video by Daft Punk (I think) where there's a girl dressed as a big heart.

When the sun (briefly) came out, I wandered down to Vieux Montreal (the old part), and saw the Place d'Armes, Place Jacques Cartier, etc. with their attendant McDonald's, Second Cup (like a Canadian Starbucks), and Tim Hortons. I visited the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal, where Celine Dion got married! It had a beautiful vaulted ceiling, in dark green with gold and silver stars painted on. There were quite a few tourists there though, which wasn't the case at the equally beautiful Cathedrale Marie-Reine-Du-Monde (which was free to get in, unlike the Basilica). The Cathedral of Mary, Queen of the World (as its known in English) had a really beautiful altar (which sadly doesn't come out in the picture I took). It is apparently a one-quarter size replica of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. As I left I realised that I'd visited more religious buildings in the past week than I had in the past 10 years!

As it was late October, one of the main attractions in Montreal, the Olympic Park, was mostly closed. I could have gone to go up the 'tallest inclined tower in the world' but having been up the tallest tower in almost every city I've ever visited (including the World Trade Centre in New York, the Space Needle in Seattle and the Harbour Centre Tower in Vancouver) I decided to give it a miss. Instead I headed up to the Parc du Mont Royal, and the look out point there for spectacular views across the city. Apparently on a clear day you can see the Adirondacks in New York State and the Green Mountains in Vermont. Sadly, it was raining, but I could see as far as the Olympic Park and the colours of the trees were very beautiful.

Overall I enjoyed Montreal, but I think it's probably even more enjoyable in the summertime when there are a lot more events going on. It's definitely on my list of places to revisit when I have the time and money.
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