Montreal & Quebec Day 2: Downtown Montreal

With a fifty-fifty chance of rain, I decided to spend our first full day in Montreal exploring downtown, where it'd be easy to jump into a building for protection if need be. As the pictures demonstrate, this precaution was unnecessary: the day was fairly clear, although very windy.

We started the day with a complimentary breakfast in the hotel: a croissant, pain ah chocolate, sesame bagel, orange juice, and coffee. Uniformly good, it was the best hotel breakfast we'd have on our trip. Even though I later spotted a staff member taking the pain au chocolate out of a bag, these were fresh and quality, comparable to, and sometimes better than, what we got in bakeries.

We walked this route through downtown, during which time I snapped many pictures. The captions of those pictures serve as the primary narrative of the day. I'll only mention in this post sites where photography was prohibited (one museum) and other observations for which I couldn't take an appropriate photo.

As we walked, we noticed many brick/stone buildings (probably good for heat retention given Montreal's cold winters) and restaurants, often with alfresco dining under an overhang. We also noticed there were fewer overweight people than one sees in the states.

During the morning, we browsed the Museum of Contemporary (Modern) Art (Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal). It's a small museum -it took slightly more than an hour to explore- and I generally wasn't a big fan. Many items were too cutting edge for me. The museum also could've used more commentary about particular pieces. Since photography was prohibited, below are some specific comments on items I saw. Some comments from my notes are inexplicable.

  • I liked Jean-Paul Riopelle, especially Composition 1951, a painting which brought to my mind some connection to stained glass.
  • In the same exhibit, I also liked Marcel Barbeau.
  • We spotted some striped modern art an aunt of mine would like.
  • There were photos of Francoise Sullivan's performance of Dance in the Snow. (I'm not sure why I wrote this down.)
  • We very briefly watched some weird/creepy/bizarre experimental videos.

  • We saw photographs of backlit hair.

  • We walked by an enormous photograph of someone's junk drawer.

  • We saw drums shaped like heads.

  • But perhaps the most insidious odd pieces we saw at the museum were in a special exhibit on the surrealist Neo Rauch. (By insidious, I mean his paintings were psychologically warped but from a two-second glance, it was difficult to tell.) He uses big canvases to paint disconcerting, otherworldly scenes. His painting, Gold, which at first we thought was more normal than the rest of his works, provides an example of his style. We saw it and said:
    "This is a little less otherworldly than the rest ... except for the heads ... heads for sale."

Downtown, I noticed Montreal has murals that extend well above the first floor of buildings. Those must be an adventure to paint! For lunch, we stopped at Le Commensal, a vegetarian buffet-style restaurant. Here's my review. After lunch, we continued exploring downtown. The fact that many streets have trees is a nice feature, not common in other cities. While exploring, I heard a nice saxophonist, spotted a man wearing a "danger men cooking" t-shirt, and, further west, found some ugly buildings that may be for housing projects. We stumbled upon an open town house practically across the street from the Canadian Center for Architecture. We took a tour. Restored and with an especially nice molding, it was going for a mere C$359 thousand. We continued our exploration, eventually returning downtown. Downtown was much more packed than a few hours ago. I'd call it 75% of the average crowd in Manhattan. A neat fact I learned this afternoon: Montreal has a law that prevents any building from rising higher than Mont-Royal, the mountain-park in the center of the city. It's about 720 feet above sea level. I like the policy; it's a natural way of limiting vertical density in order to preserve Montreal's skyline. After returning to our hotel to change and rest briefly, we headed out to walk to L'Express, a Montreal/Parisian bistro. Here's my review. Our hotel was in a great location and made pretty much all of our excursions walkable. We didn't even need to take the metro.

1 comment:

Di said...

I think you'll be fine on your India trip, you already proved that you can take a trip with minimal planning in Montreal. :)

Although...minimal planning for you is more planning that I did for a month long trip to China.