The Legendary Montréal Excursion

March 6-9, 2003

[as always, click on the thumbnail for the larger version of each picture]

Because we tried to use the cheap camera with the built-in flash, there are no pictures of the arrival of Rachael and Rhi at Dorval. We also didn't get any pictures of the inside of Bob & Mariko's downtown bed & breakfast.  The outside, though, looked like this:  (our sitting room was the basement level of that tower), and when you walked up Laval Street (we were a block north of Sherbrooke, and a few blocks west of the McGill Ghetto), this was what Laval looked like (there'd been 25 cm of snow the night we'd arrived; this is Friday morning):  . Prince Arthur Street, the three-block fussgängerzone with all the great restaurants, is the next left; you can just see the opening. Turning right just before that, though,  you walked past Prince Arthur Park.   You can see the Metro station right straight ahead if you look close. We loved the architecture of all the houses around the area.

Our first excursion was to the top of the mountain (again, the cheap camera wasn't functioning), and then to Place des Artes, where we got tickets for the ballet that night, and walked around the mall under the Anglican Cathedral; then we had dinner at a Greek restaurant on Prince Arthur, and hustled back down to Place des Artes for the ballet.  No pictures of any of that, unfortunately.

Friday morning, after breakfast, it was off to the Biodome, which is how what was once the Velodrome, for the Montreal Olympics, has been reconstituted.  We didn't get much in the way of pictures of the outside (it's just next to the Olympic Stadium, but for some reason Clunky was not responding to the light meter, so what we got was this  spooky picture. That's snow on the Velodrome roof, and in the dark sky behind it looms the tilting tower of the big O. Take our word for it. Inside the Biodome there are four areas, each a kind of gigantic terrarium, built around a particular biome -- the first one you encounter is tropical rainforest.  We were greeted by a couple of gorgeous  parrots, and some monkeys right overhead  I don't remember the name of the species , but  they were of a kind one of which once bit Rachael.  We also encountered an iguana (which most people couldn't see; can you?)  . There were also some wonderful tiny black monkeys,  one of which had an even tinier baby on her back.  I tried to get pictures that would show the baby, but I hadn't brought along Clunky's 105mm lens.

The other biomes were pretty interesting, too, especially the St. Lawrence watershed and the Laurentian forest,  maybe because they were more familiar.  We felt right at home  among the beavers and ducks.

But for our money the most fascinating thing was the part of the tour where we went behind the scenes, to see how the Biodome works. We saw the veterinary hospital, the huge installation where they make sea water out of Montreal tap water (no pictures there because I didn't have a flash), and the staging area where things are stored  , behind the displays.  We were particularly interested in the engineering behind the beaver dam  (at the bottom you can see the plumbing and electrical boxes), and in back of the cliffs  where birds were nesting. There are places where the velodrome seats  are still in place.

Grandma, however, found the display of kids' work  along the walkway  back to the shop and the exit, full of pieces of art made  from recycled material, like this coke-can dancer,  particularly wonderful. We didn't get out of the Biodome  till 4:00.  We went back to Bob & Mariko's, had a snack, met K8 at the bus station, and we all went out to Le Chevalier Afghan for an amazing dinner.

Saturday morning we'd arranged to meet Patrick & Patricia Dias at the Insectarium, just beyond the Olympic Stadium. It was too dark in there for pictures, and maybe you don't want to see the three-inch cockroaches and necklaces madeof 75 or so inch-long iridescent green beetles anyway.  The next stop was supposed to be the "Butterflies Go Free" display at the botanical garden. It wasn't easy, though.  We followed the directions from the nice woman at the Insectarium desk, or thought we did, and found ourselves on our way home.  We went back,  tried again, and found our way to a building   which wasn't the botanical garden for sure.  Then Rachael and Anne found a sign!  Eventually we got there.

To get to the butterfly display, we had to go through a series of greenhouses, each with a different biome (ah, is there a pattern here?).  The most gorgeous  one was the orchid house,  which made us all  think maybe spring  wasn't quite so far off  as all that.  We -- especially Rhi  -- thought the smells wonderful.  And we thought the most charming orchid was  "super stupid" (that's what the sign says, though you can't read it in the scan). We also liked the ferns,  which were another summery space.  K8 and Rachael  were particularly fascinated by them,  and by the tropical succulents  as well. We thought we should bring this fern  home as a reality check for the recalcitrant Boston fern in our entryway.

We finally did get to  the butterflies. It was wonderful watching people following them  around the space. Occasionally they landed on people -- I almost caught this one   on Rachael. And sometimes one landed on the floor  and had to be persuaded to move before someone stepped on it. There was a case where you could, if you waited long enough,  see them emerging from their cocoons.

There will be more pictures of Saturday's adventure up when K8 pries hers out of Blinky.  Till then, that's what we have: we ate at a Zyng's Noodlery that afternoon, and then in the evening when to hear a group of students at McGill (including Jon-o Addleman) play Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi wonderfully; and then walked over to Ben's Deli in a dense snowfall -- Montréal shaken in a glass ball -- for a late night snack. Next morning after breakfast at Bob & Mariko's we drove K8 to the bus station and were on our way back to Fredericton.

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