November 7, 2017

French Canadian

by Rosemary West

Walking in Old Montreal, I felt as though we were in a European city. Around us, everyone was speaking French. The narrow cobblestone streets, architectural details, and incomprehensible signage, all contributed to the sensation of having been transported across the Atlantic.

One of our first stops was the Notre-Dame Basilica. Although it was built in the early 1800s (on the site of a much older church), its gothic-revival style is reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

The blue and gold color scheme is stunning.

The pulpit is elaborately decorated with sculptures.

We saw many old churches throughout the city. One that particularly impressed us was the Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde (Mary, Queen of the World), built in the late 1800s as a scale model of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, and topped by enormous statues of 13 saints representing the parishes of Montreal.

And what major city would be complete without Chinatown?

All over the city, we came across monuments and memorials. As usual, most of them commemorated rulers, politicians, military leaders, and casualties of war, but there was the occasional artist or humanitarian.

Queen Victoria

Robert Burns

Raoul Wallenberg

Leonard Cohen

Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve

Admiral Horatio Nelson

Jean Vauquelin

The dead of three wars

In addition to all those monuments, Montreal has plenty of art for art's sake. Not far from the Notre-Dame Basilica, we saw "The English Pug and the French Poodle," a pair of sculptures by Marc-André J. Fortier, satirizing the snobbery of two nations.

Sherbrooke Street, between McGill University and the Museum of Fine Arts, has many artworks on display. As soon as we glimpsed this installation, "Walking Figures" by Magdalena Abakanowicz, we had a sense of deja vu. We had seen her very similar (but much larger) work, "Agora", when we were in Chicago.

"Dancing Nana" by Niki de Saint Phalle certainly looks cheerful.

The side street immediately adjacent to the museum (Museum Avenue) serves as a sculpture garden. When we were there, it was partly closed to vehicles in order to display a temporary exhibit made of colorful traffic markers ("Flower Power" by Claude Cormier).

Dale Chihuly is everywhere! His gigantic "Sun" sits in front of the museum.

Up to this point in our trip, the weather had been warm ‑‑ often uncomfortably hot ‑‑ everywhere we went. Montreal was no exception. But on our last day there, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, and we began to feel that fall was finally on its way.

Note: We were here near the end of September.

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