Sunday, 20 March 2016

Montréal 2016

5 days in Montreal under cloudy skies for the most part with sun in our hearts and a much needed respite from the slings and arrows of outrageous, or even capricious, fortune. We stayed in the Auberge Bonaparte on Rue Saint François- Xavier.
Our welcome hotel the Auberge Napoleon

One of the highlights for us was in staying in such nice surroundings in le vieux Montréal.

We realize how lucky we were to be able to do this. I know so many people who cannot do this for one reason or another. The old bricks and the old catch on the deep window made me feel how ephemeral our existence is. I could almost hear the century old footsteps and voices and imagine the touch of metal and brick beneath so many hands. I felt adrift in time. A day or two later we came upon a plaque in Place d'Armes commemorating Paul de Chomedy, Lord of Masionneuve for having killed the Chief of the Iroquois with his own hands. It made me think of the original inhabitants of the area who do not seem to be commemorated at all except in touristic stereotypes. I must have been upset because the only picture of his statue I took is as an aside to the picture I took of Notre Dame Basilica.
Plaque celebrating the  murder of the "Indian Chief"

On the same day as I took this picture we came across a monument to the "prisoners of opinion " arrested during the FLQ crisis in 1970. The end of this plaque says history will give them justice. I wonder when First Nations people will have justice. I wonder, too, if there is any awareness of the irony in the fight for justice and independence amongst the Québecois when the rights and lives of First peoples have been so trampled for so long by those who lament oppression at other hands.

Life goes in a chronological fashion, but we remember it in sporadically as we get sensory or emotional input or sometimes as we try to explicitly remember. There are things we would like to forget, but they come unbidden into our active thoughts or, if we fortify against them, they invade our dreams. There are many memories we would cling to, especially of people we have lost, These may linger, but like pieces of puzzle the whole picture is incomplete  and try as we may we cannot retrieve the cadence of voice, the exact sound of laughter, the exact words, touch, place or time. If we are lucky, sometimes a glimpse creeps into our dreams like a mirage of emotion. I will then abandon myself here to a random order of sensations and impressions.

There are so many messages in the statues of Montreal.
Robbie Burns and Modern Art

Les vedettes des canadiens 

Queen Victoria in shadow, King Edward VII and Ste. Marguerite Bourgeoys
and a modern horse and rider with Matthew posing

A juxtaposition: Réné Lévesque. Sir Wilfred Laurier below,
 top right an English snob and a French poodle and iconic Québec art

We visited the musée des beaux arts and saw the exhibition on Pompeii, one on Napoleon and some amazing modern art and antiquities. We met out niece Miebet for a nice lunch. We really enjoyed our visit with her and touring the museum with her after lunch. The museum was a kaleidoscope of experience and emotions.
 Here is some of the statuary and other art from the city of Pompeii.

Bust of Drusus Major and garden statue of a maiden

Isis with Greek features (fecundity, rebirth), the hand of Sabazios ( good fortune, fecundity)
and Pliny's quotation. 

Male youth and woman in the garments of the time.

Tile fragments and frescoes.
Gladiators, theater symbol, portrait and garden bust
 The introduction to the moving resin casts of the people who died after Mount Vesuvius' eruption began with a cast of a dog, guardian to a home with a backdrop of a computer animated eruption sequence and the sound of a barking dog. It was very lonely sound and very moving. The child and man casts below show the same sentiment of isolation at the moment of death. 

These pictures are hard to see and in seeing the casts one cannot help but pray that they have been at peace despite the horror of their deaths. I should need no reminder that every day is a gift, that every person who loves us is a blessing and that every moment counts, but these frozen images of people from 1937 years ago have the power to humble and to slow the rapid pacing of our thoughts.

This is a half loaf of bread carbonized in Pompeii. I found it eloquent. 
Thankfully Matthew provided some comic relief.  Do not worry it appeared to be made of paper!

We saw a sweet exhibition which Miebet and I loved with Australian songbirds landing on electric guitars hooked to amps to make sound art. We were not allowed to take pictures when we were in the exhibition, so these I took through plastic glass with my zoom lens to give you the idea. Matthew prefers his electric guitar to rock rather more. :)
Later that evening we had a different sort of cultural experience when we went to see the Montreal Canadians play the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre. Montreal did not play well ( lost 4-1), but we enjoyed ourselves as did the fans there. 
Warm up and pre-game stuff. The mascot is Youpi. 

Fans in their hockey sweaters and the strange cheerleaders that I found to be evidence of sexism in their mini-skirts.  
Time out for food, glorious food. We ate all sorts of food and loved it all. Here is a collage of food.

Here are some shots of the architecture.

Chinatown had bright colours, but I wished they kept the gates in better repair. One of the lions had black fill in its toes which seemed to have been vandalized.

More shots from outside. We never got tired of looking. This is Place Cartier and the Hotel de ville.
We took refuge in the Hotel de ville as the skies grayed and then it poured. 
The interior of the Hotel de ville. Note the curved door and the beautiful stained glass in the meeting room. 
We attended noon mass on Monday in the chapel at Notre Dame. It burned down in 1976 and they restored it beautifully to be a place of golden light.

Notre Dame speaks for itself. 

Votives - the far white one in the right hand picture I lit for family and friends.

Holy women with children.
Our visit to the Biodome was disappointing except for the beauty of the birds and fish. I was very upset at how little space  some of the birds were given, especially the birds in the Northern habitat. The poor puffins couldn't even fly. 
Four of the luckier birds with larger habitats. The diving birds were amazing. 

Parrot and penguin pairs two opposite habitats.

Habitats - some are from the Botanical Garden which we liked much more. 

Bonsai- the one in the middle is 110 years old. 

Couldn't resist these flowers. 

We were lucky that it was release the butterfly day. 

The Chinese garden in winter. 

The two of us.
We really enjoyed our trip. Here we are waiting for our taxi to take us to the train station. How very lucky we are. What a trip it was filled with so many experiences: language, beauty, time together, food, culture, entertainment, history, natural wonders, faith, and happiness. We feel blessed.

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