My mom really inspired me to take this trip in the first place, because I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have done this (well, maybe half-true), if she hadn’t done it first. Her and I are a lot alike; we like to do things alone, not necessarily because we’re “lonely,” but because it’s much simpler to handle things when you’re in control of a situation, and that’s how I’ve always felt. You don’t have to rely on people, you don’t have to worry about making plans for other people and then things don’t fall through. Everything runs on your time, on your schedule, and you’re in FULL CONTROL! That’s what I like, and that’s what I’ve been trying to explain to people when I’m telling them why I do things alone. It all goes back to my vent on Independence, so if you need to read more on that (which you should, it’s a good read), then it’s there to be read.
On to the main event; the reason why I’m writing this in the first place; Montreal. Getting here took forever. 6 hour drive on a Megabus, which is a double-decker bus that comes with wifi internet & outlets to plug in all types of electronic accessories. Okay, not ALL, but you know what I mean. It started off comfy, but then more people came on the bus, and then I barely had enough space to type anything, which I was kind of disappointed in, because I was working on a good piece (which I eventually finished & posted here), and when you have creative momentum going, the worst thing that you want to do is stop it, because it’ll take FOREVER for it to come back. It’s slightly annoying, but it did, and it got done.
I honestly felt like I was going to a different country, because once we passed all of the trees and vast land that is the Ontario’s version of ‘Behind God’s Back,’ all I saw was one language: French. Everywhere. Just all out there for the people to read and try to understand. Now, I’ve never been outside of Ontario to venture to another province in my life. I’ve been to 3 United States (soon a 4th and 5th), but not one province? That’s the story for a lot of people. Many people have gone to Europe and not set one foot outside of Toronto inside of their own country, so I can’t feel that bad, BUT, this trip felt like I was going somewhere that would require a plane and a passport.
Friday – I spent the few hours that I was here just really walking around and exploring the different areas. To be very honest, I didn’t have an exact plan as to what I was going to be doing for the days that I was here; it was all random, and that’s how it should be. I knew that I was coming here, but I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s cool to just drop yourself into unfamiliar territory, but at the same time, you have to do SOME planning or you’re just setting yourself up for a lot of confusion and unnecessary stress. Rue St. Catherine is basically Montreal’s version of Queen Street West. It’s a busy area that has a lot of shops & restaurants to choose from, and I even stumbled upon their art district. The first thing I really noticed was that the architecture was phenomenal. It was a mix of historic & modern, so I thought that was really cool. As a child who was raised on LEGO and using my creativity to create structures, I have an appreciation for architecture, because that IS art, you know. On my initial walk, I came across a few pieces of art that were around, and it was really cool to see that there were just structures all over the place giving the feel of a real artistic vibe, that I was digging a lot, and I’ve only been in the city (at that point) for a few hours.
I was still walking around really getting a feel for where I was going to be visiting around for the days that I was here. Montreal’s Chinatown (which wasn’t far from my hotel) is really neat because it feels like you’re actually in an Asian community. Asian styled buildings, original cobblestone roads, and they’re for pedestrians only, so you literally walk everywhere in that section. It was really cool to see because, it’s not really like that in Toronto, no disrespect to Spadina Avenue, it’s cool, but I liked how Montreal had there’s set up. The amount of restaurants around is crazy because there are SO MANY OPTIONS, which is sometimes overwhelming, but you know what? It’s cool. I just continued to walk. Really, I didn’t know where I was going, I was just exploring, and taking pictures with my Smartphone, since my smart ass decided that it was a good idea to leave my Canon Rebel at home -_- but here are some of the ones that I took on my journey. I got back to my hotel room and through the greatness that is my mother, I was able to borrow a day-to-day guidebook of Montreal, which she had when she was here. I tried not to do the EXACT same things that she experienced here, but we do share similar interests, so museums & art galleries were a must to see. The nightlife wasn’t of any particular interest because I don’t drink, and I barely go to clubs in Toronto, so it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to go clubbing in Montreal. Besides, I don’t think I would have been missing out on much, so that was that, and I got over that idea quickly. After planning what I would be doing on Saturday, it was time for sleep. I didn’t even eat anything, and I have no idea why.
Saturday – Woke up early (as my body likes to do regularly), and headed downstairs for a complimentary breakfast. There’s only one thing great about the word ‘complimentary.’ It means FREE, so you know that I was about to take advantage of that scenario: Bread, cereal, milk, OJ, fresh pastries? Allow me to quote Jay-Z here: I. will NOT. LOSE.
Google Maps is the greatest app ever to come into existence. It has single handily made Yellow Pages obsolete and maps ever extinct. No more do I have to look like a tourist trying to figure out where I have to go, but at the same time, it does eliminate the amount of actual social interactions with people because you find yourself not having to ask the locals, because you can do it on your own. That part I would understand why it could be a drawback, but then again, who wants to constantly look like an idiot walking all over the place with no help trying to figure their way around in a city that they don’t know. Many people would say “well, that’s the joy of travel and getting that experience,” and I completely understand, but you know, not everyone feels the same. But anywho, on with my day.
I was planning on visiting the Museum of Fine Arts on this day, so I mapped it out, figured out the hours, and then I made my way out. So, I’m walking, and I’m just seeing the styles of the buildings and the sick European influence that was portrayed. It’s really something neat for someone who’s just used to seeing plain and bland designs in my own city. Another thing that I noticed was that there are A LOT of parks all over the place. Little inner city parks do no harm, and it’s cool to see that, but there thing was that there were no people around. It was pretty much dead for the most part, and I wonder if that was something that was a regular thing or just by chance, either way, it wasn’t something that I was exactly expecting. So as I’m continuing to walk, it isn’t until I get to the Olympic Park, that I look at my app and realize that I was walking the wrong way the whole time, and that I needed to go back in the opposite direction. I must have been walking for about 20-30 minutes without noticing, but I wasn’t even mad: I’m in a new city, and it only gave me more to see and explore different areas, but when I started heading in the opposite direction, I just continued to be fascinated with what I saw.
The heavy presence of Catholicism was evident in the style of their buildings. The Notre Dame Hospital was really cool because initially, I thought it was a church. That’s how it was styled, and that’s what I thought of it, but there were many other buildings like this one, so I wasn’t even mad at that. Another thing I noticed was that there were monuments and statues all over the place. These people really appreciate their art it seemed, and that was really something to see. It would have been cool to actually read up on these people, but all of the descriptions were in French, so I couldn’t really do anything about that (I sort of had a reflection period as to if I should have continued to pursue French as a 2nd language in high school, but that didn’t last long). After walking a bit more, I came across a McGill University building. Now, I don’t know much about McGill, so I initially thought that it was like the York University of Montreal. People wanted to beat my ass down for making such a comment like I knew what I was talking about in the FIRST PLACE, but I’m not even mad. Very historical, and it’s definitely one of the finer educational establishments that Canada has to offer, and it’s sad that there aren’t very many others that can really be held to the same high praise, but moving on.
Unintentionally, I happened to find myself at the McCord Museum; even though it wasn’t on my list of things to visit, I said, “SELF…you’re here, so you might as well stop on by.” The one thing that I was nervous about when coming to Montreal was that I didn’t know if people just spoke 100% French and no English; of course you would probably look at me and say “well, that’s very ignorant of you,” but I didn’t know that some people were bi-lingual, how the hell am I supposed to know? But anyways, the staff were friendly, and it wasn’t particularly busy at the museum either. What I came across were some pretty cool pieces of Inuit Art. I knew that the Inuit loved animals and their religious beliefs had them as one with them, and view them as sacred, and the artwork surely reflected that; both inspirational and controversial alike. There was a picture that I posted on Twitter for people to comment on a piece of art depicting a mermaid being pinned to the cross like Jesus Christ. People were upset. I saw some photography exhibits in the museum as well just showing off Montreal using a pinhole camera, which is pretty much like looking at a negative film. That was cool too. The museum was pretty small, but there was still come nice stuff to look at. Only 13 dollars too, so I wasn’t complaining at all.
When I left McCord Museum, I kept walking towards where I was originally supposed to be going in the first place, which was the museum of fine arts. As I was walking; to the right of me, I saw this massive piece of land surrounded by old buildings. As I walked towards it, I discovered that I was on the main campus of McGill. Man, was that a sight to behold. THAT PLACE IS MASSIVE! York University may be a city within a city, but this place was huge, and I won’t lie, I felt like I had to owe this place tuition just for setting foot on the campus. It was that serious. Nice place, but I didn’t stick around for too long, but it was a good photo-op for that moment.
Montreal is a great walking city (or at least downtown), because this entire weekend, I didn’t set one foot on public transit, but at the same time, I’m used to walking all over the place (sometimes it was the only thing that got me around) so I definitely didn’t mind the walking, besides I felt like I might have missed something cool had I not walked; and the weather was nice, so why not? There were so many sculptures and monuments, plus more appreciation of the architecture, and again, it was the first time I was there, so I was just soaking it in.
I finally got to this place: The Museum of Fine Arts. There were some cool statues in front, so I was anticipating some good stuff inside. First things first, this is the main reason why it achieved greatness in 30 seconds: IT’S FREE! ALL! THE TIME! I walked up to the desk, asked her if it was free, she said yup (in a gorgeous French accent I might add), then I walked in. Toronto? Oh no, no free. Better take your ass to Nuit Blanche or Yonge & Dundas for free art (although the ROM is free on Tuesdays, but that’s beside the point).
I’m all about art: I thank my mother for taking me to the Art Gallery of Ontario & the Royal Ontario Museum for feeding into my inspiration and opening my eyes to a world beyond TV & video games. I appreciate her for her discipline and tough love to develop my mindset and to not become a piece of worthless trash. I really do.
The first floor of this museum had some kind of abstract paintings. They sucked, so I moved to the next floor, simple as that. Nothing really impressed me much; there were just a few paintings there; nothing over the top impressive. 2nd floor? Now we’re getting somewhere. The artwork featured a lot of Napoleon era sculptures and most of it was really conveying the Canadian history with a lot of the Algonquin Natives captured in great poses emblazoned in Bronze. 3rd floor was some abstract art featuring a lot cool pieces made from scraps of essentially everything including one mask that was made out of Air Jordan sneakers that would have a sneakerhead wiping away his tears with phat laces. Then, came the 4th floor. Inuit Art. It was just a small room, and there was nothing much to see, so I was kind of disappointed there. Overall, I wasn’t in either museum for more than 45 minutes, but at least I got to see some stuff.
I was all museum’d out at that point, so I just decided to walk back to my hotel. It was a nice day, so I was in no rush. I walked pretty far until I realized that I yet again was walking in the wrong direction, so I turned around. As I was walking, I saw a sign for the Canadian Architecture Centre and I was like, “Yes, this is happening. Right now.” I followed the signs, and when I got there, it was this big building (nicely constructed) but I guess it was closed because it was under renovations. I walked to the front, then I saw this thing that reminded me of Stonehenge structure, so of course I was going to be inquisitive and walk on over. What I saw were a bunch of structures that were beam poles but on top of them were pieces of model scale works of architecture featuring a mock of the Pantheon, an old Victorian styled house, and even a chair…yes, a chair. That was cool, plus there was a clearing so you could look over the city to the south; Neat stuff.
Continued walking on Rene-Levesque Boulevard (I spelled that without the assistance of Google, thank you very much, even though I’m missing the accent marks), and there was this cool monument of Sir John A Macdonald in the downtown core, and let me tell you that their downtown area (I think I was around their city hall or something) is nice. It’s not too busy, and it’s big enough for people to get around (even though at times, their sidewalks get too narrow). I took some more pictures, and then I came to this PALACE on the other side of the street. It was a Catholic Basilica, and I was caught by the amazing sculptures in front of the church and on top of the roof surrounding it; but that wasn’t the best part. I wasn’t sure if it was open, so I hesitated to go inside, but when I walked inside, and opened the 2nd door to actually enter the church, I don’t think my jaw came back from the ground. I was. In. Awe. At what I was witnessing at that particular moment. I REALLY THOUGHT that I was in a movie; that I stumbled on a movie set and that I had to leave. I’ve NEVER in my life seen something so beautiful in my life. The walls, the roof, the designs, the details, the European influence. I could have cried I’m not going to lie; it was surreal. I took my time walking around the church because I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Statues of saints, the Virgin Mary, the candles too; honestly, this was the stuff I only saw in movies, so to actually see something like that first hand was simply amazing. I’m not a religious man, I don’t go to church, I don’t read the Bible, I don’t even pray on a regular basis, but I felt the need to do it right then and there. Something just came over me, and I was in just so much appreciation, that I had to kneel down and say a few words of thanks for not only what I was seeing, but just taking the time to gives thanks to everything that I have in my life thus far and what I’m working towards. It doesn’t hurt to do it here and there. After witnessing all of that, I felt a bit of a boost in my step and I had a lot of thinking to do. At that moment, I was glad that I left Toronto for the weekend.
Finally got back to my hotel (I passed a protest rally about the whole ‘Robocop’ situation, that was cool), and I was trying to figure out as to what I was going to eat for dinner. One of my managers from work, Tommy, who has been to Montreal on numerous occasions, told me about this one restaurant called ‘Olive & Gourmando.’ I looked it up and I noticed that it wasn’t that far, so I could walk down there. I swear I discovered a new world when I was walking down Rue Saint Paul: Cobblestone roads, horse-drawn carriages (Horse & Carriage really did come to my head at that point), old buildings, and I also discovered that it was the old port of Montreal & the location of where the 1967 World Expo was (which will be 45 years old this year). I also found the Science Centre, so I made note of that to visit tomorrow. So, I’m walking, and I’m passing a ton of touristy stores and restaurants to choose from, but I was adamant to find the one that I was referred to by Tommy, so I just continued. I got there, and then I saw that it was closing at 6; I looked at my watch – it was after 6 (-_-). So, I said “dammit, what am I gonna eat now?” But, never fear, for there were many that I passed on the way. I walked back, and I passed an Indian Food restaurant after passing other Italian and French ones. I’ve never had Indian food (well, real Indian food) before, so after passing it, I stopped myself and I said, “You know what? I’m in a new city, why not try something new? That IS the main premise of me being here in the first place, is it not? Ya STiXX, you right, you right.” I made a great choice; the name of the restaurant was ‘Taj Mahal’ (can’t get anymore Indian than that) and it’s a small place, but still kind of cozy, especially since it was just me by myself (in case you missed that point 6 pages ago). I thought about going all in: ordering the most expensive thing, getting a bottle of wine, and splurging on dessert. Then I remembered: I’m by myself, I’m not THAT rich, and I needed to just relax because it’s the first time I’ve been there, not the last. I had something simple, and it was quite delicious: Butter chicken, veggies & rice. Nothing more, nothing less, but it still filled up my stomach, which I appreciated.
Afterwards, MORE WALKING! I just walked along the pier and the boardwalk (again, another movie moment, since I’ve never done it in real life). Took some more pictures, admired more architecture, and then I decided that it was time for me to head home and chill out for the rest of my Saturday, since it did start at around 12 in the afternoon. It was very productive, and I wanted to watch the Final Four, so that was Saturday.
Sunday – Wow, I’m glad you guys have stuck around this long; I’m typing this on the bus coming back home, and even I KNOW that this is a long post. Thanks for staying for the long haul. Reading this won’t take as long as the bus ride back home, I’ll promise you that much. Sunday was dreary. The skies were grey and for some reason, I didn’t even feel like leaving my hotel room, but I wanted to go to the Science Centre that was there, so I just said, “It’s the last full day, take advantage,” so I did. What I discovered when I got there was that it was bigger outside than inside: There was practically nothing to look at except for a couple of exhibits, but it was taken over by the IMAX theatre (which I didn’t bother to watch), and the preparation for the new Star Wars exhibit. I was upset; I was expecting more, and I was really regretting leaving my room, but at least I did get out and just take advantage of what was there. I left and went searching for food. I thought about getting poutine, and to be honest, I don’t even eat poutine at home, so I was like…I’ll pass. I got Pho instead (Vietnamese food), and I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, went home, felt incredibly lazy, and watched Amistad & V for Vendetta (great movies). That was it for Sunday. Short, I know.
I was too lazy to add individual photos in this, because I was far too tired to do it, BUT, the album is on my Facebook page, and it’s public, so anyone can see them —-> Montreal Photos
That pretty much sums up everything that I did in Montreal for 3 days. The only reason why I did this major recap was to avoid explaining it to every person that asked me, and this is the best way they can find out: to read this. Plus, no one really talks about their experiences in other places in full detail, and you guys know me, and I just have so much to say, and this is the best way for me to do it.
Montreal is a great place, for what I saw in a short period of time. I need to brush up on my French, but the atmosphere is very European, and it’s like going to another city in another country, but it’s in your own backyard. I’ll be back there soon
Thanks for reading, and I’ll be sure to do document another adventure when I venture to Minnesota with friends for the Soundset Festival in May (CAN’T WAIT).
But, for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX