Friday, June 15, 2018

Montreal: Day 1

We woke up bright and early to get a start on our first day in Montreal. Breakfast at the hotel was delicious - a hard-boiled egg, an apple, and a Fairmount bagel smeared with peanut butter. (Strangely, the hotel did not offer cream cheese, even though I am assured that the Quebecois love the schmear. Maybe too expensive or annoying to need to refrigerate this?)

The city is neat to walk through; lots of parks, neat old "Frontier French" architecture, as I chose to call it, and lots of sidewalks, bike paths, and stairs.

Dave at the top of some stairs near Place Jacques Cartier
Our first visit was to the Basilique Notre-Dame, which was truly spectacular. We have been to a lot of churches all around the world, and nowhere have we felt that an interior was so simultaneously breathtaking and homey as in this church. The warm wood helps with that cozy cabin feel, and the backlit blue alter is wonderfully beautiful. We didn't want to leave.

After visiting the basilica, we did a little walking tour of Old Montreal suggested by my book. The tour took us through some interesting interiors and courtyards. Later, our food tour guide (Sunday) told us that Canadians "use their money inside," meaning that building facades can tend toward boring or utilitarian (to withstand cold weather) and the beautiful gilt interiors are worth spending the money on.

We enjoyed this little courtyard!
Our next stop in Old Montreal was the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, basically an anthropological and archaeological look back at Montreal's history from early settlers to the present.

Exterior of museum, which I thought evocative of native peoples' traditions
The museum was very informative; I don't think Americans are taught very much about Canadian history. There was a video, many displays of artifacts, and we even got to explore the ruins of the old sewers!

At least the sewer was pretty!
The museum also had a temporary Egyptian museum that we thought was really well done, too. They had a copy of the Nefertiri bust that we saw in the Neues Museum last year!

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of a gourmet hot dog and beef panini at Olive et Gourmando, one of Old Montreal's most sought-after foodie establishments. It was well worth it, and we only had to wait about 20 minutes. (I can wait anywhere with my knitting.)

On our way out of Old Montreal, we escaped the midday sun at a highly rated brewpub, Pub BreWskey, to enjoy some cold beers on a shaded porch. My favorite beer was the P-Nut Buster, a deliciously well-done peanut butter stout. (God, I love those.)

We rested at the hotel for a minute, then hit the road again to explore the large and in charge 
Grande Bibliothèque, which doubles as a city branch library and the national archives of Quebec. 

Public library trustees have to include libraries in our tourism!
I posted my visit on Twitter and engaged with some local Montreal librarians. I didn't have to go far to fit this into my visit - it happened to be two blocks away from our hotel - but I'm really glad I stopped by.

Our big surprise of the day was that Montreal was hosting its fifth annual Mural Fest, which involved lots of food, art, and clothing vendors in an area where a lot of the murals are clustered.

One of my favorites!
The murals are really integrated into the residential area of Saint Laurent Boulevard; you saw one every couple of streets. We didn't have the app, so we didn't know which were new for this year and which were from previous fests (or just incidental street art). 

There were even some artists working on their murals as the fest was continuing! Really fun festival of public art.

We tried to continue our art consumption at Fonderie Darling, a contemporary art museum located within a converted industrial building. Sadly, the museum was closed for several weeks while they changed exhibitions. Tant pis.

We enjoyed a hearty and delicious dinner at Garde Manger, where I enjoyed an absolutely tasty Brett Zeste Saison by Microbrasserie Le Castor. I'm not a saison person, but I found a lot of balanced saisons in Montreal that edged more toward sour than funk, just like I like them. Dinner began with delicious focaccia bread and continued with a shared beef carpaccio appetizer. Dave had the halibut with risotto, I had the scallops with gnocchi. Dessert was a tasty and seasonal pistachio semifreddo with Quebec strawberries on top. Mmm.

I had bought tickets to a show at the Place des Arts and we had some time for the show, so somehow we made room for a pre-show glass of wine at Pullman, which our book had recommended. If you go, they have bites for dinner, but not, like, a meal-meal. Dishes we saw looked tasty, though.

There were a few shows to pick from, and I chose the poppy Andréanne A. Malette, who sounds like a combo of Feist and Sarah McLachlan. 

They told us not to take pictures, but I was a bad American.
It was a fun show; I had listened to her stuff on Spotify, so I knew some of the songs. It was so weird to watch a show with the Canadians; they told us to keep our phones away - and almost everyone did! Everyone just sat there quietly listening to music! I started thinking that Canadians are pretty cool, respectful people. If it had been an American show, there would have been teens screaming and taking selfies and whatnot.

It was a long day; Dave tracked our steps that day and we walked almost 20 miles, which is kind of nuts. Not a great idea to do the day before a 5k, but whatever. On we go!

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