Sunday, November 02, 2014

Au Canada! ( and then home again with a brief stop in Stowe)

Even with the help of our genius GPS system, it was grey and damp by the time we got to our hotel on Rue Saint Jean Baptiste.  (The GPS has a worse French accent than I do... but we didn't switch her to French... so it might have been fine if she weren't accomodating the Americans.)  So after we checked in, we went in search of dinner, what else?!  I wish I had taken my camera.  The streets of Old Quebec are narrow, sometimes cobble stoned or bricked, and lined with five or six story buildings, which means they are especially dark.  (I wonder if anybody besides America wants all light, all the time, regardless of what it does to our circadian rhythms, energy use, or the ability to see the stars.)  Lucky for us there was a restaurant and bar down the street on the corner called The Keg.  Maybe it was the joy of traveling, or of trying to remember my high school and college French, but I had the BEST STEAK EVER!  Really.  Filet cooked perfectly with a blue-cheese and garling "croute" on top.  Imagine my surprise when I found out there is "The Keg" back  in Plano, Texas!  (I vaguely remember seeing it, but we never went there!)  When I asked Pascal, our waiter, where they got their steak he said it usually came from Alberta.  I can't help but wonder, now, if the Texas location serves Canadian beef!  What a scandal THAT would be.
In the morning we valiantly started our exploration of Old Montreal.  I was tickled by Les chuchoteuses (The Gossipers)  by Rose-Aimee Belanger.  They looked like they would be fun, although there was no way I'd be walking barefoot!

Our walking day was drizzly (the drive up had been sunny and almost warm).  But again, I was enamored with the novelty of this town.  The clopping draft horses pulling carriages seemed romantic in the light of myriad art galleries, bars and eateries.

 We turned a corner and there was the Basilica of Notre Dame .in all of its Gothic Revival splendor.  (Ever since those art history classes back in the day, it has seemed to me that churches SHOULD be Gothic.

Doesn't this chien just LOOK like he would speak French?

 What I wouldn't realize for a day or two was how exhausting it was to be in a place where EVERYTHING is "different."  The accents, the styles, the buildings, the ROAD CONES!!!  These are about 18 inches at the base, four feet tall... and not very conical at all.

One thing that was the same was the early appearance of Christmas.  I don't know if the store is year-round or not... but this Toy Soldier wasn't able to maintain total order.
When we got to the top of the hill the Basilica was to our left, and straight ahead was the Place D'armes.  This plaza has had a checkered history, it seems.  Serving as a rallying point for various insurrections (sometimes internal to Canada, at others between Canadians and Americans.  Then it was a haymarket, and later a garden.  The part I need to research more was about there being under ground baths with glass skylights.  But they became undesirable for" moral and cleanliness reasons" in the 1980s.  The plaza was sealed off for some years before it was renovated in 2011 at a cost of $15.5 million. I thought it was very attractive, with slatted wooden benches placed at  unexpected angles with attractive views.  There was a talented guitar player providing mood music as well. 

 Maisonneuve (aka Paul de Chomedey) was the first governor of Montreal. He successfully defended the colony against a band of Iroquis.  He fell out of favor with later politicians, however, and returned to France after his father died.  Some things never change. He might not have been this good looking, either, because there were no known portraits of him.  ;-)

 The English Pug

 This statue, by Marc-Andre J. Fortier, was installed in 2013. There is an accompanying one called The French Poodle.  They are intrinsically funny, even though I haven't found a story of what the sculptor was thinking.  Possibly it is a commentary on how snotty and argumentative humans end to be while animals "just want to get along."

Conveniently, as it had begun to rain,  we paid the $5 admission and entered the Basilica de Notre Dame. Except for one child who seemed to be "high on life" or just plain sugar, the tourists were quiet, the pray-ers were praying, and those who might have been homeless were unobtrusive.  There was was one section in an out of the way corner that was glassed in and sequestered for people who actually wanted to pray.  (I don't remember the French working, but it helped balance the sacred and the sightseeing.

The basilica has it's own web page, as you might imagine.  And it is well worth looking at their professional photographs.  I think some of those pictures must have been taken from scaffolding or by people on stilts. I'll have happy memories looking at the ones I took, though.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah are "at the base" of the old pulpit to remind parishioners that The New Testament rests on the Old Prophets.

I'm sure there was more than one "Lamb" in the church, but this was my favorite.
The carvings in the knave were all black walnut.

"The great organ that towers over the choir loft of the Basilica was built in 1891 by the firm of Casavant et Frères of Saint-Hyacinthe. Since then, the vast instrument has undergone several restorations. To mark its 100th anniversary, additional stops were installed, bringing the total number of pipes to 7,000. The largest pipe measures 10 metres (32 feet) and the smallest, 6 millimetres (1/4 inch). "

My Italian Mother-in-Law had a statue of the Infant of Prague on her dresser.  All things Catholic were a mysterious fascination to me.  I still think most of these statues look like Madame Alexander dolls.

DH lit a candle in honor of his mother.  She would have liked that.

Who wouldn't be attracted to a halo of gold stars?

 We returned to the Place D'Armes for a closer look at Louis-Philippe Hebert's Sculptural monument to Maisonneuve.  Hebert must have been THE go-to-sculptor at the turn of the last century. His work is everywhere. 
 These fellows are  "mascarons" -- a human or animal face intended to ward off evil. Do you think you would ward off more or less evil if you crossed your eyes?
 Identified as Lambert Closse, a valiant fighter against the Iroquois.  (I liked that the sculptor included the dog.)

 The caleche driver pointed the way to the Subway station.  But first we stopped in Starbucks.  They had a "grass family" planted outside.
 The subway station was kitty corner from China Town.  This building is actually a Holiday Inn!

 Walking just to the subway station, then the Little Italy exit and back totally wore me out.  We went back to the room for a dead-to-the-world nap.  Then we walked to a corner opposite The Keg to Creperie Chez Suzette.  It is a franchise operation... but definitely NOT like IHOP or Denny's! 

Having worn ourselves out walking on Sunday, we had mixed feelings to discover that the Musee de Beaux Arts was closed on Monday, as was the Botanical Garden's Biodome and Contemporary Art Museum.  Furthermore, the concierge told us that the Grayline Double Decker Hop-on-Hop-Off buses weren't running any longer (closed for winter).  We should have argued, because we saw some.  Given that information, it didn't take any arm twisting at all to plan to drive, park and avoid walking when possible. At least Canadians drive on the right side of the road and have traffic conventions pretty much like the US.  (And better than New York.)
Pretty boulevards.  Lots of pedestrians.

Lots of glass!  Marvelous Reflections.

A VERY pink taxi!

 I was surprised to look up one long street and realize that Montreal is on the lee side of a big hill.  Maybe even a mountain.  This street had consulate offices on it, if I remember right.
 We looked for a bookstore (and parking lot) and ended up underneath a 4 story mall.  I liked the bookstore (Indigo), even though it seems to be the Canadian monoplistic equivalent of Amazon.  I was just as happy to find a place for a simple lunch. 
With signs like this is isn't surprising that you get lost sometimes.
Atop the hill near the Royal Victoria Hospital (affiliated with McGill).  So many skinny pedestrians!

Sofitel:  A French owned hotel

Still blooming.
 This must be an art museum, but I was lost by then!  I do recognize Miro and Chihuly!

 No two facades were the same, so far as I could tell!
 One of the rare free-standing homes I saw in the city.
 Vestige of the 60s or 70s, and slated to become condominiums.  I don't know if they'll keep their modern mushroom or not.
 There were two front end loaders working like gangbusters.  I saw lots of construction sites.
 This is the "other" church devoted to Mary:  Marie Reine Du Monde Cathedral. It (also) has a (somewhat garish) website. (with a virtual tour.)  Mostly I wanted to identify the statues on the roof.  They certainly don't seem very "reachable" for the average person. Yay:  Wikipedia comes through:  Instead of statues of the 12 apostles like on the façade of St. Peter's, the front of the cathedral is topped by statues of the patron saints of the  13 parishes of Montreal who donated them, including St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick. They were done by Olindo Gratton between 1892 and 1898.
 Lights and darks and shadows downtown.
 More reflections.  Can you imagine painting this?!!

 The so called "View" from our hotel room window.

And then it was back on the road to home.  I would have lobbied for staying another night, except I was still SO tired and foot weary.  (I can't wait to do it again!!  Thanks, DH!)  So I took more pictures out the window and through the rain.

 The border guards asked if I'd taken pictures of "the installation."  I lied.  (Don't know why... it was kinda automatic, like being caught with your hand in the candy jar.)  But I hope they'll leave me alone since I photoshopped it into abstraction.  And anyway, what else would one expect?  A bazillian red lights, cameras and barricades.  I don't like it, and remain somewhat less than convinced that this is the "right" way to keep Canada (or the US) save.
 Back in Vermont.

 A homely little church on the road to Stowe.
 Downtown crossing in Stowe...

 Something about the gingerbread trim on this otherwise plain red house caught my fancy.  I might abstract it more for a painting.

 The Stowe Craft & Design shop was pretty entertaining.  I loved their yard art.  Especially the rusty Moose and ornery Goat, although I wouldn't turn down the elephant, either!

 Another Moose (l.) and "Dorothy's Friend" on the right... a cowardly lion, perhaps.
There was a pretty brook behind the craft gallery.

 An architectural design firm had "industrial" furniture and hand crafted items, too.

 A sinking barn.
 A curly wood table or bench. and a cooll wall sculpture made from all sorts of gears (and stuff).

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