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Montreal, Day 3 (with added random observations) - RonO's Ramblings

Aug. 4th, 2009 05:46 pm Montreal, Day 3 (with added random observations)

We spent another day "playing tourist" in Montreal. A played a bit more than the rest of the family.

We got moving pretty well this morning, although I'm getting a bit tired of the breakfast at the Comfort Inn (the hard boiled eggs are somehow dry tasting and there are only so many slices of toast with peanut butter that I can eat). Our first stop was the Pointe-à-Callière, Musée d'archéologie et d'histoire de Montréal, built upon the ruins, and still active digs, of several old Montréal buildings -- including one of the previous Customs Houses. This very good and interesting museum does a very good job of explaining the history of Montréal.

Before the tour is a "movie" which is more of a multi-media presentation using several scrims, lighting effects and some actual parts of the exposed dig, to tell the history from before the first French settlement until the building of the museum in 1992, with emphasis on what happened at that point. After that, you tour the ruins of the buildings below the main museum, including the cemetery of the original colony, and the circa 1850 privy that occupies the same site.

You then cross under what is now a street, through the first enclosed sewer where there used to be a small river that joined the St. Lawrence forming Ponte-à-Callière, ending up in the ruins under the square outside of the customs house that preceded the one where the museum now stands.

In this section, I ended up quite a ways ahead of Tara and Derrick, who missed that I'd doubled back along the inside of the basically square exhibit (picture a square doughnut, with a bridge across the middle) and so they went and waited for me outside near the gift shop. We then returned to the main museum building, and went to the top of the observation tower and looked out, mostly across at îles Sainte-Hélène.

We finished the tour visiting their special exhibition on Pirates, Privateers and Freebooters. This was quite disappointing. Much of the problem (beyond the fact that I'm pretty fed up with the current trendiness of pirates) was that there were about twice as many people in that exhibit as the rest of the museum, and it takes up far less space. On top of that, many of the kids (and a few of the adults) were just stepping in front of people reading the displays, and I could hardly see any of the artifacts.

After we left the museum, we wondered about Old Montréal looking for a less expensive place to eat. We finally found the Notre Dame Restaurant, on Notre Dame. Tara recalled it getting a positive review in the restaurant guide, so we gave it a try, and had good food. Derrick wasn't very impressed with the mustard on his hot dog, which was not American yellow mustard, but something more German or English.

After that, we headed towards the shopping complex that backs onto the Hotel Intercontinental, and were trying to decided where to go from there when Derrick started feeling bad. So, we headed back towards the Metro, stopping in the Palace to get our badges. When we got back, we quickly concluded that Derrick was probably both backed up and missing his grandparents after spending 6 weeks with them this summer. He was helped by spending some "quality time" and then talking to his grandparents on the phone.

But he was not interested in venturing out further, and I was equally disinterested in sitting around the hotel room -- hotel rooms have started getting to be stir crazy pots for me after having several long business trips where I didn't have a lot to do but sit around hotel rooms. So after consulting my watch (it was already after 4:00) and some guides, I headed to the Cathedral of Mary Queen of the World.

This Cathedral is quite different than the older Notre Dame, but equally impressive. It was very quiet and white, instead of dark and filled with the music of a rehearsing orchestra. After that, I realized that heading back would only result in me having to head back out -- a thought I'd had when I left but, apparently, failed to communicate. So I continued to wander the area looking for things to do. I spent a fair amount of time in the shopping areas in and around The Eaton Center (Centre Eaton). One discovery is that the Eaton Center -- which had been falsely recommended as a place with a bunch of unusual shops -- does have a very nice food court, the best I've seen in Montréal and possibly anywhere else for a few years. Alas, it is a bit far from the Palace and the Delta to make it an easy place to get to (you have to walk about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile up the hill and head a bit to one side, or take the Metro a ways around.

After exhausting the shopping, I started walking towards the next Metro stop above ground, but ended up detouring all the way down to the Palace and then back up to it through the Resè (or is it Resé). From there, I took the metro back to the Berri-UQUAM stop, but decided it was still too early to head back to the hotel. So I took the one Metro line we hadn't been on to the stop on îles Sainte-Hélène and wandered around Parc Jean-Drapeau, mostly looking to find a place to take pictures back at the main part of Montréal.

One interesting thing I noticed when I headed down to the platform for that line (which is short, with only three stops) was that above the entrance to the tunnel that leads to the platform, there is still a stone sign with the Expo '67 logo and motto on it. There are fewer reminders directly in the Metro at Pie-IX for the 1976 Olympics, although both still contribute to the city's infrastructure about equally.

After that, I headed back, picked up a yogurt parfait at the IGA near the hotel and headed back.

Observation 1: People in Montréal seem to be less polite than my experience with much of North America. One of the most obvious areas for this is in their smoking, which many seem to think that they must do constantly when not actually inside (and occasionally even then).

Observation 2: The Montréal Metro is quite similar to most metro systems I've used, but with one key difference: it runs on rubber wheels. It also seems to somehow arrange to almost always (or so it seems) to have trains arrive in both directions fairly close together. I won't credit or blame the system for the number of times that the train we want is just leaving when we reach the station, or in a couple of cases the platform.

Tomorrow's plan includes repacking our stuff and moving to the Delta. Hopefully that won't eat the entire day (I'm sure I could do my part of this in under two hours, the time waiting to be able to check in not included). We should also celebrate the major event in Tara and my life from that date in 2000 as well (Wow! almost nine years; of course a pittance compared to some people we know), and the con will probably be starting to show some activity besides a bit of registration and set up.

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