Sunday, April 26, 2015

Montreal trip wrap up

It's hard to believe it has been a full week since the trip to Montreal last week.  Probably the single best thing was that my daughter did not get sick on the train, even though the ride back from Montreal was pretty rocky and bumpy. (I think they were trying to make up lost time when we were stuck behind a freight train -- shades of Amtrak -- and the rails still haven't been tamped down after the hard frost of winter pushed them around.)  Unfortunately, I ended up with a severe headache Sunday afternoon, partly just stressing over getting everyone marched through Montreal and back on time and also making sure my daughter finished her homework on the train.  She was particularly resistant to writing this short essay on her favourite story.  I've noticed she doesn't always do well with completely unstructured assignments.  Perhaps not surprisingly, math is actually her favourite subject.  My headache basically took me out of commission, and I missed out on reading at least 100 pages and perhaps more, so I ended up finishing The Subtle Knife and Philadelphia Fire the first part of this past week.

The biggest disappointment of the trip by far was not getting into the Greek show.  I think everyone in Montreal woke up to the fact it was only open for two more weeks.  By the time we got there, it was an hour wait to get in, and that would have left us roughly 30 minutes to go through the exhibit, and it might well have made it difficult to get dinner and then for me to still make it to Travesties that evening.  Had we known everything -- including if the train was going to make it on time or not -- then I could have pre-ordered tickets and made it to the event.  But frankly, I didn't even know if it was just going to be my son and myself walking down or if the whole family unit would go.  Since it was a long train ride and it was fairly chilly out, it was just the two of us.  What was strange was that they had the lines snaking around two different buildings and actually it seemed impossible to even get into the gift shop.  While I might not have felt sufficient goodwill to pick up the exhibit catalog, I would at least have liked to see it.  I may or may not see if it is on Amazon.

At least we had a chance to see Old Montreal.  I remembered a few buildings from my last trip, but I haven't been to the Old City in many, many years.  Still, it hadn't changed that much, whereas the rest of Montreal had more skyscrapers and was a bit busier than I remembered.  Again, I haven't visited in probably 15 years.

My son was fascinated by all the horse-drawn carriages.  We did go into a museum dedicated to the history of Montreal, though I didn't find it terribly compelling, and as far as I can tell, they didn't have a gift shop or at least I didn't see any books about historical Montreal for sale.  Another missed opportunity.

We got back just before 5 and it is as well we did.  We went down into the main train station (the hotel actually connected directly to the station) and basically all the restaurants were closing down.  We just managed to get some food.  It was a similar problem on Sunday with most of them opening fairly late or not at all.  It is such a contrast to the little restaurants in Union Station, which have much longer hours of operation.

Anyway,it was pretty chilly but I made it out to the Segal Centre and saw Travesties.  That was very enjoyable, and I review it a bit here.  I particularly liked the fact that, starting at 6 pm, I was able to get an unlimited Metro pass for $5.  I just managed to miss the train back, but it wasn't that long until the next one.  It was interesting that at that station (Côte-Sainte-Catherine) I almost only was overhearing English and not French.  I also noted that the sound of the Metro when it started up seemed quite different from before.  Maybe that was just the Orange Line.  Probably on the next trip, I'll try to take the Green Line.

We got off to a reasonably early start, checking out and grabbing breakfast, then walking over to the Musee des Beaux Arts.  I enjoyed it, though it was a little disappointing how difficult my daughter was from time to time.  She is not a big fan of museums, though this goes in waves.  My son is pretty much game for anything.  We did a fairly thorough job of going through the main collection.
Jim Dine, At the Carnival, 1996

Marian Scott, Stairway, ca. 1940

Mabel Irene Lockerby, After a Snowstorm, ca. 1935

We even wandered into the design wing and looked at some odd furniture and "artistic" jewelry (finding the modern floor the more interesting of the two).  I liked this stained glass window, though I wonder if it would have been even more impressive had it been installed with natural light coming through it.

Marius Plamondon, Nature morte, 1958

I was a little disappointed later to find out that they have put their George Segal statue into storage.  (And perhaps even more disappointed to find out that in 1997-8 there was a Segal retrospective that passed through Montreal (which I would surely have gone to if still living in Canada) and DC -- but I was a poor grad. student in Chicago and had far more important things on my mind at that time.)  Oh well.

George Segal, Femme assise sur un lit, 1993 (not on display)

I was starting to get a bit worried about the rest of the day, since I really didn't want to miss the train.  We walked up to the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) and went into the gift shop but not into the museum itself.  This did get us sufficiently north-east that we could take Rue Saint-Urbain into the heart of Old Montreal, since I really did want my wife and daughter to feel that they had seen the most interesting part of Montreal.

So there was a lot of walking on the trip, and some grumbling about this later on the train.  But on the whole the trip went pretty well, and we didn't end up stuck in Montreal for another night.  While I probably would do it again, I do wish they could cut an hour off the train in each direction (and I wish this even more for the Toronto-Ottawa trip).

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