Belle Montreal

Before I begin, I should point you to Don's site, All Things Canadian. He is the latest host of the Carnival of the Canucks with a special Stanley Cup theme this week.


Friday

We left Kitchener midmorning, avoiding the bulk of Toronto's traffic by using Highway 407. We arrived around 6 pm and collapsed at our hotel: the Day's Inn Dorval, a fine (cheap) establishment with a beautiful view of absolutely nothing!

After bestirring ourselves, we headed down to near Pointe Claire for a picnic dinner by Lac St. Louis on the St. Lawrence River. The sun was just setting as we arrived.

Most tourists think the action in Montreal is all downtown, so many don't get to see the gems along the north shore of the west island. Expensive properties line Lakeshore Road/Bord du Lac, but a number of parks manage to reach the river.

Michael taking a picture of Erin and Rosemarie enjoying our picnic.

Joggers at sunset.

Park signpost at twilight.

After our picnic dinner, we went to downtown Pointe Claire, a fine village full of shops, and had an ice cream while watching a Hydro Quebec worker fix a faulty transformer. If you get a chance, go enjoy the west island. Pointe Claire in particular has wonderful views and great shops, at a far less hectic pace than downtown Montreal.

Saturday

Rule one for tourists visiting Montreal: never drive in the city. We parked at Cote Vertu and purchased three-day unlimited passes for $16 each (a bargain, especially considering that parking at Cote Vertu was free). While Erin took Michael and Rosemarie to see Old Montreal, I begged off. Being an unabashed transit geek, I wanted to see more of Montreal's Metro. I'd seen Old Montreal before...

I went out to Parc Agrignon and had my soul saved by two kind representatives of the New Beginnings church, who were trawling for individuals to share the Word with. They were pleasant people so we chatted a little while before they moved on. I left the park and wandered through the streets a bit. I didn't realize that Parc Agrignon was Prime Minister Paul Martin's home riding. Check out his campaign sign (overtop NDP competitor Rebecca Blaikie).

Montreal train at Agrignon terminal

Art display at Berri-UQAM station. I realize it was something of a risk to be snapping pictures on the Metro after an urban planning student was busted for doing the same, but I was discrete, didn't make a nuisance of myself, and played the role of impressed tourist all the way (which was what I was, after all). Nobody bothered me. Unfortunately, with a digital camera, these few shots were the best that I ended up taking.

We were in Montreal to attend the League of Canadian Poets AGM. Erin had been short-listed for the Pat Lowther Award for Best Book of Poetry by a Woman. She did not win but, considering the competition, it was an honour to be nominated. She and others on the shortlist who were in attendance were asked up on stage to read a short selection of poems.

After a sumptuous fish-or-chicken dinner, we settled in for the evening's entertainment. Beautiful Nubia performed a fascinating drum-and-poetry set (really good!) before a band took over and got us dancing with classic rock tunes.

We danced the night away and staggered home on the Metro to collapse in our hotel room well after 1 am. But the trip wasn't over. For Sunday, we had relatives to meet, and more of the city to see.

Sunday

After breakfast with aunt Margaret, uncle Leon and cousin Christopher, สัตว์ใต้ท้องทะเลErin, Michael, Rosemarie and I headed to the Mountain. Although probably technically a hill, it sure felt like a mountain.

Designed by the same man who designed New York's Central Park, Mount Royal is a green oasis surrounded by urban Montreal. It's hard to believe that the city is close by. There were loads of people out to enjoy the warm day, and I snapped this interesting cloud formation.

So, why do people climb Mount Royal? Because this lookout is on the top.

The stone railing is lined with people gawking at the city.

Here's Erin enjoying the view.

At the lookout point, people can take refuge inside this impressive chalet owned by (I think) the Concordia Club. The hall is probably a favourite for proms and large weddings. Inside, you can enjoy overpriced snacks and souvenirs. Or just look at the view.

About a kilometre on from the lookout, you come to the cross of Montreal, which can be seen through much of the city. It is an impressive structure.

Another view of the cross

Erin took this photo of an interesting pictogram warning sign at the Mount Royal lookout. We figure it means "in the time of the Great Snowflake, anybody foolish enough to walk to their car will be pummelled by the Great Black Slime!"

We took transit off the mountain and headed for the Botanical Gardens next to Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the park was closing. Olympic plaza itself was a barren concrete stretch home to skateboarders, students of Modernist design, and very little else. I will admit that the stark lines are savagely beautiful, if inhuman.

I snapped this shot of a Conservative campaign sign near Berri-UQAM station on Rue Sainte Catherine. It illustrates what I said about the defacing of campaign signs in Montreal. If I had my camera ready at other opportunities, I'd have a pretty good photo essay. Somebody should be logging this for posterity.

Statue at the entrance of Berri-UQAM station.

On Monday, we slept in a little, shopped at Ikea, and then headed over to Schwartz's for a late lunch. I did not take my camera, unfortunately, but it did cap off a wonderful visit. We're very much in love with this city, and hope to visit it many more times in our lifetime.


Concentration of Power

A couple of my commentators asked me about the concentration of power in the west island of Montreal. What I meant to say was I was impressed by how many names of political candidates I recognized while walking or riding through Montreal. You have to understand, coming from Waterloo Region, where our MPs (Andrew Telegdi aside) rarely receive national attention, I felt like I was stumbling across celebrities (even though there were no candidates around).

I believe it takes a cabinet position (or leader of an opposition party) status to really get onto the national scene. Waterloo Region hasn't had a top-level cabinet minister in ages, I don't think. Is there a conspiracy afoot? I don't think so. Previous cabinets stretching back past Mulroney have tried to maintain a balance of representation across the country, roughly in accordance to the population distribution. Of course this is limited by where the government actually holds seats.

As you all know, Liberal seats in Quebec (the second largest province) have been concentrated in the west island of Montreal, of late, and in the Eastern Townships, with the Bloc taking the rest. Even if the Liberals squeak out a bare majority, it's likely that this trend in Quebec will only be enhanced after the next election. In Ontario, with over 100 cabinet candidates available, cabinet positions can tend to get spread around.

Still, it's fascinating to see all of the big names practically rubbing shoulders. If Jean Lapierre wins his seat, he'll be Gilles Duceppe's geographical neighbour. That has far more impact than saying that Karen Redman is Andrew Telegdi's neighbour.

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