Montreal & Quebec Day 5: Museum of Fine Arts and Botanical Garden

Wednesday began with breakfast at our second hotel of the trip, Hotel Manoir des Alpes. The breakfast was definitely worse than the one served at our first hotel. The croissants and pain au chocolat were clearly the type one gets in a package from a supermarket. I ended up eating cereal, so things worked out okay.

These pictures capture the day's adventures.

The day's main goal was to see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal). The museum's pieces cover a wide range: from African art, Intuit art, and ancient art, to scale models of churches, to old religious art, which in turn gives way to romanticism, and then to eighteenth and nineteenth century portraits, European masters like Picasso and Miro -they have a nice collection-, Canadian art, and finally to modern art such as Jean-Paul Riopelle. Somewhere, the museum found space to fit in Mediterranean artifacts, including many old coins, a model of the Temple of Apollo, some really old glass (I mean, some of the earliest glass ever made), and several tiny lamps. And next to that, it had an exhibit on furniture and other functional art, both old and modern, including pianos, pots, vases, teapots, and oddly shaped vessels.

Many of my observations are documented by pictures. Here are a few comments that are not. Sadly, I couldn't find a picture online for most of the pieces of art these comments reference.

  • I liked Albert Lebourg's The Point Marie at Sunset -- it reminded me of some of Monet's work. It was also displayed near a Monet.
  • I liked the museum's paintings by Renoir, in particular Entrance to General Holy d'Oissel (or so my notes appear to read).
  • I liked Jan Hackaert's Departure for Hunt with Falcons.
  • I liked Jan Both's Southern Landscape with Travelers.
  • Emmanuel de Witte's Interior with a Woman Playing a Virginal has a good sense of depth.
  • Christian Luyckx's piece Pronk Still Life with Silver and Gift Vessels has lots of detail. The museum also had paintings by others in a similar style.
  • Something about Victor Vasarely's piece Toil or Toll or Tou -I can't read my handwriting- made me write down the name.
  • The gift shop sells tiny night lights painted like paintings in the museum. I've seen items like this before but I still find them cute.
We took a break from browsing the museum to have lunch, eventually deciding to return to Le Commensal, a vegetarian buffet place. Here's my review of this visit.

After the museum, since we were on the correct side of the city, we decided to compensate for seeing so many churches by seeing a few synagogues. So we drove to the few my guide book mentioned. Apparently Montreal has a large Jewish population. I didn't take pictures of the synagogues because they were pretty ugly, especially compared to the churches. In the process of visiting them, we decided Westmont, the neighborhood that contained them, was nice. And even here, outside Montreal proper, we found notable buildings (i.e., worth seeing) not in my guide book. And we found murals everywhere we went. Pretty cool.

Then off to the Botanical Garden we went. After fighting rush hour traffic, we made it and parked not far from the Olympic Stadium (Stade Olympique). It didn't tempt me but I was amused by the description in my guide book:
"The stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, is beautiful but not very practical. It's hard to heat, and the retractable fabric roof, supported by the tower, has never worked properly. Abandoned by the baseball and football teams it was supposed to house, the stadium is now used for trade shows, motorcycle races, and monster-truck competitions."

As for the Botanical Garden itself (Jardin Botanique de Montreal), we sadly didn't have much time there before dusk. While I'd planned to be there at dusk for one special exhibit, I'd hoped for more time to explore before the sun set. But the Botanical Garden was huge! We walked through quickly, attempting to see as much as we could while light remained, not even pausing long enough to take pictures. We made it through the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden, the Rose Garden, the Garden of Innovations, the Shade Garden, the Alpine Garden, ... Though decent, I imagine many would be much better when in bloom. Some, like the Alpine Garden, are probably always good. Some of these gardens are subdivided: the First Nations into hardwood, softwood, and nordic; the Japanese into a tea garden, a bonsai courtyard, a stone garden, and a pavilion. I'm actually really happy we found the bonsai exhibit -- it was purely by accident as we were leaving for the night. We missed a number of gardens and all of the exhibition greenhouses. The Botanical Garden's web site has virtual tours of many of the gardens.

We also stuck our head in the Insectarium. I'd hoped to see the butterfly room, but found it closed due to the season. Instead, we saw many mounted bugs, butterflies, bees, etc. A great place for entomophiles.

By the time dusk arrived, I'd navigated us to The Magic of Lanterns exhibit in the Chinese Garden, the true purpose of our visit to the Botanical Garden. Every fall, the Chinese Garden is decorated with lanterns, paper boats, and more. It's pretty stunning. Since I took many pictures (and one movie), I won't bother describing it in detail. I wrote in my notes that I hope the pictures express the glowing nature of the displays. I'm happy to observe many do.

As we left, the Chinese Garden got much more crowded. I'm glad we arrived at dusk to see it slightly less packed. While walking to the car, my mom remarked, "What a wonderful way to end Montreal at night."

Once in the car, we headed to dinner at Au Petit Extra. I'd decided to end our Montreal trip with another French bistro. Here's my review.

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