Montreal Part Deux

It was a hot night in Montreal, Saturday August 15th.  I had trouble sleeping from the heat, and I took a break from reSt. Joseph’s Oratoryading guidebooks to watch a fireworks display.  Probably part of some festival, that weekend there were numerous festivals in the city.

In the morning, I decided to see another museum and another church to round off my weekend.  I headed for St. Joseph’s Oratory. At the front of the church pilgrims and the very devoted go up the stairs on their knees, there is a wood staircase just for this reason. It is quite a show, this type of devotion would be seen throughout my visit.  I began with a tour of the crypt.  It is amazing, a windowless vaulted tunnel with 10,000 vigil lights flickering on chandeliers and votive racks.  Collected along the walls are racks of canes and crutches, from pilgrims who came to be cured by Saint Joseph.  It is really moving to see these canes and crutches, I am a Roman Catholic and I do believe   faith will heal you.  From the crypt I walked up to the basilica, sat for Mass for a half-hour, then walked the gardens and the stations of the cross.  I met two young women in traditional clothing who were nice enough to let me take their photo.

Girls in Traditional Style Dresses McCord Totem

I then went to the McCord Museum.  I had heard a great deal about it but I was still not sure what to expect.  I was impressed by their exhibits about the Being Irish O’Quebec, Simply Montreal: Wintering, Enjoying, Prospering, Meeting, eSpace, and an exhibit of photographs of Norman Bethune.


They also have a gorgeous Haida totem in their atrium.


After the McCord I went for lunch and a coffee, then drove back to Vermont to begin the last two weeks of my internship.  I really enjoyed the city, it must be one of the most multicultural places I have ever been.  I hope I can come back to Canada more often, I feel like I have seen so much of Europe that I should spend more time exploring North America.


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Keeping it montREAL Day 1

I just got back from an incredible weekend in Montreal.  I had only been to Canada previously for a few hours when I went to Niagara Falls a few years ago with Ariel O’Connor while I was visiting the Buffalo State art conservation program.  I decided to go for the weekend traveling alone, I am really intense when I travel, trying to see as much as possible, walking cities up and down, and I didn’t want to subject someone to my whims for a weekend.  I also really like traveling alone, a holdover from half-a-year I spent backpacking around through Poland, Hungary,  Spain, and Italy. I had 3 guidebooks with me, The Rough Guide to Montreal, Frommer’s Guide to Montreal & Quebec City, and Insight Guide Montreal.  These were my sources for facts about the city for this trip and this blog post.

OLD MONTREAL Vieux Montreal

Basilique Notre-Dame

I started out going toward the Notre-Dame Basilica.   I had the ahhhhhhh moment staring up at the two towers, 227 feet tall, called La Preservence and La Temperance.   The architect of the basilica, James O’Donnell,  converted to Catholicism after his experience building the church, and he is the only layman buried in the church.

I think Gothic churches are my favorite, there is something inspiring about gazing up to the sky, realizing how tiny you are.

This church is in an interesting square,  many other architecture styles surround it.  On one side of the square is the Edifice Aldred which was built in 1931 to resemble the Empire State Building in New York City.  The Edifice New York Life InsuraEdifice New York Life & Aldrednce, the red building,  was Montreal’s first skyscraper in 1888.  Not pictured is a modern skyscraper made of wall of glass on the other side of the square.  I found the assortment of buildings in this square fascinating, it is not often I can see so many styles in one area.

I continued to explore Vieux Montreal, walking down to the river and over to see the Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, or Sailor’s Church.  This Church was built in 1673, founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys, one of the first teachers who came from France to Canada.  The church is called the “Sailor’s Church” as it would have been visited by sailors after docking at the port Montreal.  The interior of the church is decorated with a nautical style, with small wood ships serving as votive candle holders hanging from the ceiling.  The church is small but beautifully decorated.  There is a museum that tells the story of Marguerite Bourgeoys, and a tower viewing over the port and the city.  Ship Votive

I did not go to either, but I lit a candle with the prayer that I would remember where I had booked my hotel that evening.  I realized once I arrived in Montreal that I had forgotten the name of my hotel, and I had not printed the reservation e-mail, I had actually mapped myself to another hotel with a similar name.  I think this was because my French is….lacking.

Horatio Nelson Statue in MontrealFrom the church it is a short walk along the rue St-Paul to reach the Place Jacques-Cartier.  This is a charming little town square, with cafe’s lining either side you can follow the square uphill to the Rue-Notre Dame.  At the top of the square is a statue of Horatio Nelson, the hero of Trafalger.  The original statue was erected in 1809. However, the statue was a target for French separatists for years as it is in the French quarter of the city.  One account is damage from these attacks are the reason the statue had to be replaced.   The first case I found of an attempt at the statue was in November 1893.   Another belief is because the statue was 200 years old it was suffering wear from the environment and had to be replaced with a limestone copy.

After going to this end of the port, I doubled back and went past the Basilica Notre-Dame square again, turning left and going down to the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History.  (Point-a-Calliere Musee d-archaeologique) It is a wonderful building that resembles a ship (a theme here?). The tour begins with a presentation in a room looking into the remains of the first building on that site, the customs house.  It really must be called a presentation instead of a video, there are hologram images projected into the spaces in the remains of the building, a fog effect, lights, everythMuseum of Archaeology and History of Montrealing but pyrotechnics really.  Each chair has headphones so you can choose to listen to the presentation in french or english, and Montreal was very accomodating every place I went with information in both languages.  After the presentation you walk through the ruins, underneath the street, and look at exhibits about the archaeology of Montreal told through exhibits of excavated ceramics, metals, and organic materials.

I was mainly interested in the temporary exhibit about Pirates.  It was very well done, you enter and board a ship, joining a pirate’s crew, and then see the items pirates would have owned and used.   There are many interactive exhibits and I greatly enjoyed flipping through sets of pirate flags to see who flew the skeleton and hourglass combination.  It was a bit crowded on the ship though, and I was surprised at the number of people interacting with the exhibits, I had expected more children, instead I found adults at the exhibits.

This ended day one, I went to the hotel and for a walk in the Park.  I found a ginger cat to follow around, I wondered if the cat was english or french, she was tres jolie.

Le Chat


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