Thursday, July 30, 2009

The three of us began the morning exhausted from yesterday's adventure walking the streets of Montreal. But blue skies had chased away the rains and light splashed the walls outside. We had to get out there, cameras ready. The morning was dedicated to photography, shooting more murals, some cool graffiti, and the ornate, brightly colored houses surrounding Square Saint-Louis. At one point we stopped to film squirrels who performed acrobatics as they played with each other, "fighting" in complex flips that reminded me of a kung-fu movie. I'd never heard of 'em, but they clearly exist: Canadian fighting squirrels (YouTube video). We then had breakfast at Café Vienne, chatting with a server who eventually announced that we'd won his unofficial nicest guest award; we were treated to some baklava to add to our croissants, fruit, and fresh squeezed juice.

Most of the afternoon was spent touring the Montreal Botanical Garden, located near the metro stop for the 1976 Olympic stadium. This was a choice largely made by Jenny and Vienna. I wasn't too interested in this portion of our itinerary, but I must admit that the place is amazing. Acres of greenery offer a world of variety: a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, a section dedicated to the flora of Canada's First Peoples, a grove of winding paths within shade trees, and more regions than I can recall. You could spend a full day at this place and still not see everything, which even includes an insectarium. The place is so large and complex that at one point we simply needed to rest, so we stretched out next to a koi pond, somehow managing to attract a duck who wobbled up and began to nibble my toes (YouTube video). A few hours later, after more walking and ahhing at the gorgeous sites, we departed, exhausted but convinced that we'd made a terrific choice in how to spend our time.

Late afternoon, believe it or not, brought more walking. This time we took the metro to the site of the Montreal Expo and then hoofed it across a bridge in order to visit Habitat 67 (blog entry with more pix). This was a trip I wanted to take, all to visit a housing complex that many folks dismiss as ugly. Moshe Safdie, aged 24, designed this community as a model for cheap, efficient, and elegant housing. With its poured concrete boxes piled cattycorner from each other, a cluster of cantilevered shapes and empty spaces against the blue sky, the complex is unmistakably weird but fascinating. Word is that the modules, once comprising a kooky failure, now sell for top prices to the city's elite.

Hiking back across the bridge to the metro we set our dinner path toward Little Italy. Our feet ached so we didn't search long to find a nice al fresco meal, which was followed by a walk to a nearby park where a dancing class practiced on a bandstand as the sun glowed a golden orange against the downtown cathedral. For dessert we took one last metro trip, this time to Vieux-Montréal. The old quarter bustled with artists and performers along with tourists wandering alongside the buildings that were lit up in white and purple. Jenny and Vienna shared crepes while I sampled some gelato. Then at last, our feet practically smoking from a day's worth of walking, we climbed the stairs one last time for bed.

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All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.