Monday, August 17, 2009
Montreal, je t'aime!
My Montreal trip is over and I'm already wondering how I can save enough money to visit again, maybe two years from now.
On Monday, the train from Toronto to Montreal was full and I was fortunate to sit next to a young Quebecois woman who was returning home. We chatted and the time on the train passed quickly. Attention: writers of romance - the young woman, who is bilingual and works for the provincial government, said that she doesn't enjoy 'fiction' and only reads romance, because it is 'soft' and relaxing. She also asked if I was gong to visit the Basilica (de Notre Dame) and said I really must see it. I have been there before but planned to see it again.
It was after 4 p.m. by the time I reached my hotel (damn the stairs in the Sherbrooke Metro station), so I walked over to Rue St. Denis and found a restaurant for an early dinner, because I was very hungry. Via Rail will sell you a 'snack' but I had not indulged.
On Tuesday, I went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and saw some of the permanent exhibitions, plus the Frederic Black exhibition. I admit, I knew nothing about Frederic Black before this. Now, I own a 4 DVD set of his animated films. The Museum is housed in two buildings and when I went outside to cross the street and visit the second building, there was a gorgeous vintage white Bentley at the curb. It was adorned with white bows, but the bride and groom were absent. The driver, who stood beside the car, was happy to answer my questions. He also took a picture of me sitting in the car. Perhaps I should have tipped him, but I was besotted by the car and didn't think of it. Later in the day I visited a shop that sells tablecloths and fabrics from Provence and found present I hope my daughter will enjoy. A good dinner was certainly in order after all my walking and wandering. I found a Bistro that had modest prices, and good food.
On Wednesday, I visited the Botanical Gardens. It took over an hour just to tour the ten greenhouses. Then there are the many gardens. I could only visit a few of them before my feet protested. It was a very hot day - that's my excuse. I also visited the Insectarium, which was filled with children and quite noisy, but fun. There's a small train that takes you around the whole of the Botanical Gardens, including the huge arboretum area, and it's free, so I went along for the ride. By late afternoon, I had wilted, though the flowers had not, and I bypassed visiting the Olympic tower and returned to my hotel via the Metro. When it was time to go out for dinner, I walked up St. Denis and eventually settled on another Bistro. This time, I was very lucky, the food was fabulous, the service was excellent, and the price was not as high as I had expected, though it certainly wasn't cheap. No matter - it was worth it!
Thursday was my last full day and I went to Old Montreal and revisited the Basilica de Notre Dame. After that, I needed a coffee, but not a six dollar coffee. I found a Starbucks. I was walking down toward the Port area when I came upon the Maison de Mere d'Youville. It was not in my guidebook, and it doesn't look as if it is open to the public. Still, I tried the door. It opened into a small office area but I could see antique furniture, and stone floors to one side. The receptionist spoke to me in French and asked if I would like a tour. When I replied 'yes,' she said if I would wait a few minutes she would furnish me with a guide who spoke English. An excited young woman soon arrived and gave me a personal tour. It lasted over an hour and the guide provided fascinating information. The Maison is on the site of the first Montreal Hospital, started by a group of religious 'brothers'. They helped the poor and sick men of Montreal in the 1700's. Eventually, they were unable to maintain the hospital. Then Marguerite d'Youville and a small group of women (they became the grey nuns) took it over, repaired it and helped as many of the poor and suffering people as they could - men, women and children. Would you believe they even took in prostitutes and abandoned babies? There is much more to the history, of course, and I am fascinated by the profound courage of Marguerite and the women who worked with her.
After a bit of shopping it was time for dinner and I returned to the Bistro I had enjoyed on Wednesday. It was a wise decision.
Friday, I returned home and I'm happy to be here. I missed out on Montreal Smoked Meat and Fairmont bagels; therefore, I'll have to go back, won't I?