07.27.2013 - 07.27.2013
After suffering through another room service breakfast, we set out for the hop on/off station and took the bus to the first stop, Notre Dame Basilica. The bus tour had not done justice to the city on our ride yesterday, since we could not even see this remarkable edifice from the bus stop.
Notre-Dame Basilica is in the historic district of Old Montreal. It is located next to the Saint-Sulpice Seminary and faces the Place d'Armes square. The church's Gothic Revival architecture is among the most dramatic in the world; its interior is grand and colorful, its ceiling is colored deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is a polychrome of blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montreal. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards, 92 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, 7000 individual pipes and a pedal board.
In 1657, the Roman Catholic Sulpician Order arrived in Ville-Marie, now known as Montreal; six years later the seigneury of the island was vested in them. They ruled until 1840. The parish they founded was dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary, and the parish church of Notre-Dame was built on the site in 1672. The church served as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Montreal from 1821 to 1822.
By 1824 the congregation had completely outgrown the church, and James O'Donnell, an Irish-American Protestant from New York, was commissioned to design the new building. O'Donnell was a proponent of the Gothic Revival architectural movement, and designed the church as such. He is the only person buried in the church's crypt. O'Donnell converted to Catholicism on his deathbed perhaps due to the realization that he might not be allowed to be buried in his church. The main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829. The cornerstone was laid at Place d"Armes on September 1, 1824. The sanctuary was finished in 1830, and the first tower in 1841, the second in 1843. On its completion, the church was the largest in North America. It remained the largest in North America for over fifty years.
Because of the splendor and grand scale of the church, a more intimate chapel, Chapelle du Sacré-Cœur (Chapel of the Sacred Heart), was built behind it, along with some offices and a sacristy. It was completed in 1888. Although another fine example of the excess of the Catholic Church, it is a beautiful structure. More importantly, we were introduced to Old Montreal which we really had not seen on the bus tour yesterday. After leaving the Church, we were entertained by a jazz/blues guitarist who was playing in the square in front of the church. He was so good, I bought his CD.
Next we were off to the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology and History. The Museum is set on top of the birthplace of Montreal and an authentic archaeological site, Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History leads visitors through six centuries of history, from Indian days to the present. The attraction begins with a multimedia show, Yours Truly, Montreal and the two permanent exhibitions, Where Montreal Was Born and Montreal Love Stories. The Museum also presents two national or international temporary exhibitions every year on historical or archaeological themes, as well as many cultural activities. In 2013, the temporary exhibitions are The Beatles in Montreal and The Tea Roads. After the multi-media show, which was excellent, we were led down to the basement of the museum where portions of the cemetery and other city walls have been preserved. We were also somewhat forced into a tour which was led by a rather smug young man who led us through an archaeological version of Jeopardy...not what either of us wanted. In fact, had we not left and had to listen to one more of his smug questions, I might have smacked him!! We proceeded to the Beatles exhibit and, man, did that make me feel old...when the most important band of your generation has become a Museum exhibit and there are things on display such as a princess telephone, transistor radio, 45rpm record and the thing we used to play it on...to think what today's generation must think of such archaic toys. One of the allures of this exhibit was the promise that there was a karaoke room where you could sing along with John, Paul, George and Ringo...much to my chagrin...and Margaret's delight...it was not there!
We then walked along the waterfront, stopping at one of the many outdoor cafes and had a beer and our first crepe of the trip...good...but not as good as my world famous Swedish pancakes. Then we walked along Rue St. Paul which is quintessential Old Montreal with its cobblestone streets, Victorian street lamps, pedestrian only walkway, outdoor cafes and artists. The street leads to Place Jacques Cartier...an entertainment center with street artists, roving entertainers, face painters and caricaturists. One young man had a crowd of hundreds of people captivated by his sword juggling, fire eating, humor and other feats of stupid.
We returned to the hotel for a little R&R and decided to find a fondue restaurant for dinner and we ended up at the Creperie Chez Suzette. Wanting only a light meal after last night, we ended up ordering the four course menu which began with salad, then onion soup for me, escargot for Margaret, followed by a very nice Gruyere cheese fondue with bread, apples and grapes to dip...topped off by crepes Suzette which was wonderful. Across the street from the restaurant we noted Le Piano Rouge which I had researched earlier and learned it was a piano bar which featured different types of music. We paid the $10 cover and a young African American woman was singing with a pretty loud band...she was even louder and, quite frankly, I couldn't tell if she was singing in French or English, or what she was singing. Margaret claimed to have enjoyed it...I was not unhappy to see the set and the evening end.