07.27.2013 - 07.27.2013 82 °F
After breakfast we took our first trip on the Metro and got our first look at Montreal's underground city, the set of interconnected complexes (both above and below ground) in and around Downtown Montreal. It is also known as the indoor city, and is one of the largest underground complexes in the world. Not all portions of the indoor city are underground. The connections are considered tunnels architecturally and technically, but are air conditioned and have lighting as good as any building's liveable space does. Many tunnels are large enough to have shops on both sides of the passage. With over 20 miles of tunnels spread over more than 4.6 miles, connected areas include shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, condominiums, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, a regional bus terminal and the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena. There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Each access point is an entry point to one of 60 residential or commercial complexes comprising 1.4 square miles of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal. In winter, some 500,000 people use the underground city every day. We headed out to the Botanical Garden which is near Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics and former home to the Montreal Expos.
The Botanical Garden can best be described as "spectacular". The gardens occupy 190 acres of thematic gardens and greenhouses. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2008 as it is considered to be one of the most important botanical gardens in the world due to the extent of its collections and facilities. It contains a greenhouse complex full of plants from around the world, and a number of large outdoor gardens, each with a specific theme. The garden was founded in 1931, in the height of the Great Depression. It serves to educate the public in general and students of horticulture in particular, as well as to conserve endangered plant species. The highlights are the plant/tree sculptures of animals, fish, humans and many other objects. Hopefully there will soon be photos which do not really do these sculptures justice...they are truly works of art and we observed their keepers meticulously trimming and maintaining them by hand.
Next we headed to the nearby Biodome. The facility allows visitors to walk through replicas of four ecosystems found in the Americas:
The Tropical Forest is a replica of the South American rainforest.
The Laurentian Forest is a replica of the North American wilderness.
The Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system is an estuary habitat modelled on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
A polar area that is divided into Arctic and Antarctic.
This place was mildly entertaining, primarily the monkeys that did their best to hide from the tourists, and the penguins, all of whom had likely been retirees from March of the Penguins.
Remarkably, we found the Metro, got on the right train with no assistance, and made our way back to the hotel. I had been intrigued by a highly rated restaurant, Mahdavi, which touted the fact that they had a jazz singer that performed during dinner. I called to make a reservation and was told they had nothing until 10:15pm. I had the concierge call and we got a reservation at 8:45. The food was very good but we never heard the jazz singer, although there appeared to be some music coming from upstairs. After dinner, we made our way down to the waterfront. We had been told that there is an international fireworks competition in Montreal in July and that, this night, it was Montreal's turn. Serbia was last weekend...and it goes without saying how tough the Serbs are when it comes to explosives. Well the fireworks went on for at least an hour when we decided we had enough pyrotechnics. On the cab ride home we continued to hear and see snippets of the continuing show. This is how our last night in Montreal ended...a fascinating city...as it turns out. Next stop...Quebec City.