We awoke the next morning, glad that the purple dwarfs had let us live another night. We showered & walked over to Christian's B&B so that we could enjoy the 2nd B: breakfast. To get to the breakfast area, we had to climb the stairs behind the tapestry-covered door, & then we could sit at a table for 7 on the back deck. From where we sat, we had a kinda cool view of the spiral iron staircase linking together the floors of the building.
Our table was nicely set, with fresh croissants, orange juice, milk, & coffee.
David & Denise were happy to be eating breakfast in such a pleasant setting.
Serving breakfast was a young man named Simon. We weren't able to tell what his relationship to Christian was, exactly. Was he a hired helper? Friend? Lover? Captive? We never were sure, & we couldn't get a moment alone with him to ask. He was in his late 20s, with short dark blond hair, nice features, & a ring in his lower lip that Christian perhaps used to chain him to a wall each night. He spoke with a French accent & a somewhat quizzical manner. After we sat down, he asked us, "Do yew want eggs or cer-e-all?" We went for eggs, & in he went to fix them. While we waited, we were joined by two young Germans—boyfriend & girlfriend—who had just arrived, & a man in his early 40s & his 4th grade daughter, still in her PJs. We chatted amiably with our new companions, only to find that the Germans hadn't even checked in yet.
Simon re-appeared with our eggs, & then said to the Germans, "I wahl kook yew eggs, but yew should not be getting them, since yew 'ave not checked in yet." German woman replied with a smile, "Oh, zo ve should not tell Christian?" To which Simon said, with a subtle shudder and definitely without a smile, "No. Yew do not fuck wit' Christian."
Well OK then! Glad to know that! And that kind of became a motto of ours on the rest of the trip. Whenever someone proposed something that one of the others didn't agree with, we would simply shake our heads & say, "Yew do not fuck wit' Christian".
We finished our food & got up to start exploring Montreal. First stop, the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, or Contemporary Art Museum. It was actually only about 3 or 4 blocks from our B&B—yep, our B&B was actually in a great location—so we walked there in a few minutes. Actually, we decided to walk past the Museum further up St. Catherine street, as there seemed to be lots of people, shops, sights, & more.
Unfortunately, the weather couldn't make up its mind as to whether it wanted to rain or not. It would drizzle, then stop, then drizzle, then stop. We made our way down St. Catherine, enjoying everything we saw. There were differences from Toronto we immediately noticed, most of them due to the fact that Montreal is 400 years old, while Toronto is much younger. Montreal is dirtier, grungier, more crowded (it has more people. so that's not a surprise), & much, much more French. Almost every sign was in French, & you heard French, or French accents, everywhere around you. The architecture was more Gothic, not as sleek, more ornate. This isn't to criticize Montreal at all—it's a very cool city, as we found out—it's just to say that it's very different from Toronto. I have to say, we all preferred Toronto, if we had to live in one or the other. But I think I could live in Montreal … if I learned French.
I looked over at a statue, & there was a pigeon sitting perfectly still on top of the statue's head. I could tell that this was a popular place for pigeons from all the white bird poop covering the great man's head & shoulders.
After checking out things on St. Catherine, we made our way back to the Contemporary Arts Museum, stopping for a moment to enjoy the plaza that the Museum is part of.
David, being David, took a movie of Denise & I walking up to the Plaza.
2005-0820-arts-arrive-scott-denise.mp4 (1.8 MB MP4)
There was a fountain next to the Museum that was really lovely, in spite of it being a gray & overcast day.
It was a fountain. It was a waterfall. It was a waterfountainfall!
We sat & walked around the fountain for a while. David took a movie of it.
2005-0820-arts-fountain.mp4 (2.7 MB MP4)
David & Denise posed in front of the fountain, & I obliged with a picture. Perhaps David was too excited by the fountain, or the Museum, or perhaps he just wanted to liven up a gray day.
We entered the Museum, bought our tickets, & were told to stand over by an entrance, as a tour was starting in just a few minutes. There we met our tour guide, who actually was excellent, but at this juncture she said & did some obsessive-compulsive things.
Guide (to Denise): You can't bring water into the Museum. Maybe you should check your bag.
Denise: Can I put my water in my bag?
Denise: OK. Then can I keep my bag?
Guide (pointing to a tightly wrapped blue cloth cylinder about 4.5 inches long & 2 inches in diameter): You have a raincoat hanging off your bag?
Guide: Oh, you'll probably want to check your bag.
Guide: Oh, you won't want to carry that around. It will get heavy.
Denise: No, it's pretty light. I'll be fine.
Guide: You're going to have to carry that bag everywhere on the tour.
Denise: I know.
Guide: The tour is over an hour.
Denise: I know.
Guide: OK, well, if you want to check it, it would be over there.
Denise: Thank you.
Guide: Right over there.
At this point, I leaned over to David & said, under my breath, "Jesus, what's goin' on with this lady? Is she the Bag Nazi or something?"
Finally, we started the tour, all of us with our bags. To heck with you, Bag Nazi! Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures in the museum, which is too bad, because there was some really cool stuff in there. I really had a good time. The Museum is divided into two parts: permanent art & temporary art. Our guide took us through temporary art, & it really was excellent. The theme was "Appearances", & it featured the work of 11 young Quebec & Canadian artists, in a variety of mediums & formats.
Here were my favorite artists & the art I liked.
- Kelly Mark (my favorite)
- 5 videos, taken at the same time on 5 days, with Kelly in the center, doing the same actions at the same time, while the world around her changes. Viewers see 5 screens next to each other, each looping the same day over & over.
- "Drawings" done using only numbers & letters created with linotype, acquired from a printer.
- Kelly played porn movies on a TV, but then filmed the glow on a wall opposite the TV. What the viewer sees is the movie of that glow, so all we see is ambient shadows. Very beautiful.
- Euan Macdonald
- Snail, 2003: a 6 minute movie of a snail moving along the ground. Strangely hypnotic.
- Jean-Marc Mathieu Lajoie
- Wreck, 2002: A picture puzzle of Pope John Paul II, with most of the pieces separated & in a pile at the bottom of a glass case. Just the part showing the Pope is put together, but it is angled oddly in the pile of random pieces.
- Tower of Babel: 9 copies of the same puzzle—a depiction of Brueghel's Tower of Babel- were put together & combined to form a looooooooooooooong puzzle showing the Tower of Babel 9 times. 27,000 pieces were used. Really cool.
- Various puzzles missing pieces, or having pieces from other puzzles stuck in them.
- Yanick Pouliot
- The Courtesan, 2002: a box is constructed, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet wide, but stretching all the way to the ceiling. When you enter the box & close the door, the lights suddenly come on & you see that the walls are beautifully paneled in white & there is a small chandelier hanging from the roof. A selection from Mozart's Figaro plays. Open the door, & the lights go out & the music stops.
- Jerome Fortin
- Screen, 2005: For 3 months, Fortin spent 12-15 hours a day folding pages from Japanese Manga (comic books) into tiny strips & then taping those strips directly to the wall to form a massive work in black & white approximately 25' x 10'. When the show is over, the piece will be destroyed.
- Taras Polataiko
- Light Works, 2005: We walk into a large room, where there are lights embedded in the walls approximately 3 feet from the floor & spaced out about 6 feet along the wall. Some of the lights glow, while others are dark. Above us on a wall a videocamera records us. The lights are actually connected to bicycles being peddled by people convicted of misdemeanors & sentenced to community service. They can watch us through the videocamera. Is that not cool or what?
As I said, it was great stuff. When we had finished, we really had to use the restroom. Back at the front of the Museum, David & I asked a guard where the restroom was. In very roughly accented English, he said to us, "Ah, non, we do not 'ave one 'ere. You mus' go outside." We looked surprised for a second, & then he laughed. "Haw haw haw! No, go up zee stairs, an' yew will see it." As we walked up, I turned to David & said, "If he hadn't quit joking, they were about to have a new work on display: 'Le Puddle de la Pee'".
We left feeling good, so good, in fact, that David uttered a wonderful truism: "I love going to museums of modern art, because after you leave, everything you see looks like modern art!" He's right!
At this point, I called my friend Kelly Martin to try & arrange a meeting spot. Kelly is my editor for SecurityFocus, & although we've been working together for over 2 years, we'd never met in person, mostly because he lives in Canada & I live in the US. Kelly & I have always had super talks on the phone, so I really wanted to get to know him personally. I also knew that he'd be a great tour guide for us in Montreal, even though he moved there just 3 months earlier from Calgary, on the western side of Canada.
Poor Kelly. He had been visiting his parents, & was supposed to fly in the previous night. Sadly for him, his flight was canceled due to the crazy rain we drove through, so the plane didn't leave until 6 this morning. He didn't get a free hotel room, so he had to spend the night in the airport, which meant no sleep. Even better, he arrived, only to find out that his luggage was lost. Even better than that, he'd left his keys in his luggage (not good, Kelly!), so he had to go home, get his landlord to let him in, then drive back to the airport to check on his luggage. I'd spoken to him earlier in the morning, & we'd agreed that he'd get some sleep & then come meet us at the coffee shop cattycorner to the Museum. You can see it & other buildings in this picture, taken from the Museum's plaza. You can also see Denise sitting & waiting.
Kelly showed up, & introductions were made. He's tall, good looking, soft spoken, & just a great guy. Smart as hell, & (I was right here) an excellent tour guide. We were all starving, so the first order of business was food! Kelly wanted to take us to a Montreal landmark: Schwartz's Deli.
It was a Jewish deli, or, as the sign put it, "Charcuterie Hebraique". It was tiny, hot, fast paced, with everyone crammed together. It smelled wonderful, I do have to report, but there was nothing for me to eat! Kelly didn't know that I was a pescetarian, & he offered to go somewhere else, but it was cool with me. I could tell that everyone else's mouths were watering over the yummy pastrami, which did look really good. I contented myself with french fries & cole slaw.
Our next stop was the mountain that divides Montreal, & also gives the city its name. Kelly drove us up to an observation point, which gave us an amazing view of the mega-city. We all posed for a picture there in the near-drizzle.
After that, it was time for Old Montreal, the original city. This was fascinating to see, as it really was like a walk back in time. For instance, here's the City Hall.
On we walked through the narrow streets.
Kelly told us about the area & helped us understand what life in Montreal is like. We continued walking through narrow streets.
David saw a sign advertising "Internet"—that's all, just "Internet"—and had me pose under it. The shot came out pretty blurry, but it gives you the idea. I actually kinda like it, so I'll have to keep my eye open for similar signs & better pictures.
We found an ice cream store, & stopped in & ordered some. It was good, but about 6 blocks later, we found another store, & this one looked absolutely magnificent. The ice cream was hand made, in an awesome variety of flavors, & we simply couldn't say no, so yes, we ordered ice cream again! To our credit, we contented ourselves with the mini cones, which contained but one little, teeny tiny scoop, so we're not that piggish. And even if we are, we don't care—it was damn good! Just look at Denise & David!
A few blocks down, or it might have been the same store, we found a creperie. There were sample crepes hanging in the window, & even though they were plastic, they still looked really, really scrumptious.
We walked down towards the water, continuing to take in Montreal. On the water we found a cruise ship that held a wedding party, getting ready to sail around the city, eat dinner, & celebrate. We watched as everyone finished boarding & the ship cast off. It looked like fun.
We left the water & walked back into Old Montreal.
We were heading for the Church of Notre Dame, because we'd heard that it was having a laser & sound show inside every couple of hours, every night. The 4th grader at breakfast that morning had said that it was "Really, really good!", so off we went. We bought our tickets, then realized we had 25 minutes until the show began. Hey, that's enough time for a quick beer! So we ran a block, found a restaurant, ordered a pitcher of Quebec beer, guzzled it (& it was good—good pick, Kelly!), & went back to Notre Dame. As we walked in, we were handed a radio receiver & headphones. "French or English?" we were asked. We all took English, but Denise's only played French. She went back, received another, sat back down … & it was French. Kelly finally gave her his, & he took care of it. Finally we were ready, & the show began.
I was expecting Pink Floyd & some trippy lasers, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, the show was actually kind of weird. It starts with a kind of pink cloud-like blob appearing in the midst of some yellow auras on the ceiling, while a voice with a terrible Irish accent told us that he was the ghost of the architect of this church. Ohhhh-kaaaay. Then we saw on a movie screen ahead of us a representation of Jesus dying on the cross, & then live action actors on the screen playing priests & bishops & settlers, talking about founding the colony of Montreal & building a church there.
Two problems: the actors were terrible—I suddenly understood why a 4th grader would like them—& they had originally spoken their lines in French, so the English was dubbed. But of course it didn't match their lips. I kept half-expecting a kung-fu fight to break out.
Priest: We must build a new church in the colony of Montreal!
Bishop: But we cannot!
Priest: You have insulted my ancestors! I will now use upon you the Secret of the Monkey's Fist! Hiiiii-yaaaaaah!
Between the live-action elements we saw on the movie screen, the lights would re-appear on the ceiling, or the walls, & the ghost would talk. Pink Floyd's Meddle, or even Dark Side of the Moon, would have been quite nice, but no one asked me. Finally, the movie screen dramatically drops, revealing the architecture & art of the church. Now that was stunning! I was really impressed with the church's interior, once I could see it.
We left the church & walked back towards Kelly's car, parked far away. Along the way, we passed by a fountain. Earlier in the day we had seen that fountain, while it was still gray & drizzly.
Now the fountain was brilliantly lit up for night, so that it looked like the water was on fire. Denise & I stopped in front.
Meanwhile, David took a movie.
2005-0820-montreal-fountain.mp4 (2.3 MB MP4)
We continued back to Kelly's car, piled in it, & drove back to our B&B. We invited him in for a glass of wine, but he, understandably, was tired as hell … nevertheless, he was going to drive out to the airport & see if his luggage had been found. We made plans to call him in the morning, headed inside, had a glass of wine, & went to sleep. Our first day in Montreal had been a success.