07.25.2013 - 07.25.2013 72 °F
The package we have at our hotel includes breakfast. For reasons that are unclear, we can only have room service. I guess they don't want us mucking up their restaurant. Oh well, we decided we would suffer through and hung the room service order from our doorknob last night. It was quite a nice way to start the day. As is our custom, we made our way after breakfast to the hop on/off tour which was about a half mile from the hotel. The tour was two hours and our guide, while very nice and accommodating, was not terribly informative. We learned that Montreal was once the capital of Canada.
We further learned that a mission named Ville Marie was built in 1642 as part of a project to create a French colonial empire. Ville Marie became a centre for the fur trade and French expansion into New France until 1760, when it was surrendered to the British army, following the French defeat of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. British immigration expanded the city. The city's golden era of fur trading began with the advent of the locally owned North West Company. Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832. The city's growth was spurred by the opening of the Lachine Canal and Montreal was the capital of the United Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849. Growth continued and by 1860 Montreal was the largest city in British North America and the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada. Annexation of neighbouring towns between 1883 and 1918 changed Montreal back to a mostly Francophone city. During the 1920s and 1930s the Prohibition movement in the United States turned Montreal into a haven for Americans looking for alcohol. As with the rest of the world, the Great Depression brought unemployment to the city, but this waned in the mid-1930s, and skyscrapers began to be built. World War II brought protests against conscription and caused the Conscription Crisis of 1944. Montreal's population surpassed one million in the early 1950s. A new metro system was added, Montreal's harbour was expanded and the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened during this time. More skyscrapers were built along with museums. International status was cemented by Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics.
The one stop we knew we wanted to return to was the Museum des Beaux Arts which had a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in front. So we walked approximately a mile from the last bus stop to the Museum and viewed, to my mind, the most remarkable art display I have ever seen. This is the largest exhibit ever of works by Chihuly. In the city’s public space on Sherbrooke, there is a monumental work entitled The Sun. This installation forms a round tower over twelve feet in diameter emitting rays composed of tendrils in primary colors: two shades of yellow with elements of blue and red.
The tour begins with a vast idyllic forest of Turquoise Reeds, 199 spear-shaped forms springing from the trunks of salvaged old- growth western red cedar. Persian Ceiling is one of Chihuly’s most popular works. It consists of various series of works in a multitude of shapes, forms and vivid colours arranged in layers over plates of transparent glass. There was a room with two boats full of his beautiful blown glass globes and other shapes in a cacophony of colors. The beauty of what this fellow from Tacoma, Washington does defies description by words. I had seen a small display of his work some years ago in Palm Springs, but nothing like this. He is represented in many major museums throughout the world. He also has a large presence in numerous botanical gardens. I would like to know how many millions The Bellagio paid for its Chihuly. Hopefully I will get some photos uploaded, but don't wait for me. Google Chihuly Montreal and look at the photographs on line. Even the photographs do not do these brilliant works of art justice.
We have been lusting after a soufflé and, after returning to the hotel, began researching restaurants with soufflés on the menu. Alas, we settled on Chez La Mer Michel which is one of the top ten rated restaurants in Montreal. We showed up for our 8pm reservation and were promptly seated...there were only two other diners in this very charming restaurant that had been converted from an old house. Our waiter was in a tux and, because Yelp told us the dress was "dressy" I dragged out my wedding clothes...first time since New York I didn't wear shorts. This was a very classic French menu. I had my usual French onion soup and a filet with bernaise. Margaret had a salmon carpaccio, followed by a lamb tenderloin. The food was very good, not great, as anticipated. The service was impeccable because there were two waiters and two tables that were occupied. Our waiter did give us some tips on places to see in Montreal as well as our next stop, Quebec City. The soufflés, however...I had Grand Marnier and Margaret had chocolate...were to die for.
On the bus tour we had passed a Jazz club and we decided to make that our next stop. There was a $10 cover per person and we were led to a table about three sections from the Jazz trio. I asked for something closer and we were seated at a a table right in front of the trio. They were on a break and we chatted with the young couple next to us, Alyssa and Jeff, who were on their honeymoon. They were from Buffalo but would soon be moving to Madison, WI where she would be matriculating toward a Ph.D in French studies. We had a nice chat with them, bought them each a cocktail and listened to some great jazz. Got back to the hotel after midnight, filled out our breakfast form and retired after another wonderful day.