Olympic tower

The Olympic Tower seen from the north. If you squint, you can see the strings that hold up the Biodome's roof. A cable car runs to the top of this thing every few minutes. You can only get out and look around, but I bet the view's great.


The Biodome seen from the south. It was refurbished from the Olympic site and houses (among other things), penguins. The botanic gardens are down to the left about a mile, and yes, you can see them on MontrealCam.com, too, but usually it's a really boring inside shot.

The Olympic sites were amazing. Olympic Village is now very expensive apartments as well as a retirement community. You can take a ride to the top of the Olympic tower and see the city.

Leftovers from Expo '67 were the cubist village (which I remember seeing on TV as they were building them), which is a collection of apartments shaped like cubes that have been haphazardly stacked upon each other. Must be hard to heat in the winter, but sure looked interesting!

The Geodome, the US building from Expo, is still there. It's used in conjunction with Jacques Cousteau's foundation and keeps track of the life of the river. From the Bateau-Mouche it rises in the dark, slightly gray from interior lights, a ghostly moon resting on the earth.

There's the big amusement park, La Ronde, which was half-heartedly open after Labor Day but looked fun, and the Casino. I believe it's the second-largest in the world. We only saw it when we traveled by train to Quebec City. It looks rather spiffy at night, all lit up, but cheap as hell by day.

Molson Centre

The Molson Centre, which at the time advertised a little Celine Dion concert. The spooky way to the Metro is on your right and back, within the picture. Down the block to the right is the nice hot dog bar.

Q: Okay, I know the Canadiens play at the Bell Centre now, and I've been past there in a bus. It's right downtown. This place here seemed to take forever to get to by Metro and the neighborhood was fairly deserted and run down. Are they the same place and I just got turned around, or did Bell build a new joint when they took over?

The Molson Centre, home of the Canadiens and just recently opened, looked as if it had been there since the Fifties. Really cheap. But the bar next to it sold splendid hot dogs and the cutey guy behind the counter really tried his best to speak English to us. And interestingly enough, you had to come up through about four or five extremely long rounds of escalators from le Metro to get to it. During the day, the journey was a dark, lonely, kinda scary one. It's not in the best of neighborhoods. There was angry grafitti (quite unusual -- the city is very clean) on the escalator concerning the fact that it was still under construction, but my blisters and I could relate to the sentiment very well.

Our tour bus ride became a very steep one as we went over the mountain. We didn't even attempt to climb to St. Joseph's Oratory. Supposedly there's a room in the oratory where crutches, wheelchairs, etc. have been left after the owners received miracle healings. The lower part of the entrance consists of 90 wooden steps (flanked by regular cement ones for tourists) which pilgrims are supposed to crawl up on their knees, praying at each step, to receive their miracle. From there there is another flight of steps, and another, and another, and another... On a clear summer's day it was absolutely frightening. I'd hate to imagine having to attend something within the oratory on an icy winter's night!

Motoring back around the mountain (the brakes had started to squeal), we went through carved-out rock, came around a turn, and suddenly the entire city spread out in front of us. Picture time! Incredible. Absolutely freaking incredible view.


The panorama view. That thing barely sticking out in the center is the Olympic Tower, so we're looking southeast. Old Montreal was behind the mountain to the right of the shot. Looking right (south) you can see the mountain that we saw up close in Longueil or Boucherville -- gorgeous, but not QUITE right for the books. Ah well, they're fiction; I can make my own mountain!

Underground City

The Underground City at Montreal Trust.

Ran into the Underground City by accident. We were looking for le Metro and at the end of the down escalators came upon a five-level shopping center. "It's the Underground City!" I cried exultantly. I had it on my list of things to see. Our bus driver had told us that it was illegal for buildings to advertise that they had access to the U.C., but it was certainly noted on maps -- just not where the actual entrance was. I missed hearing why notice was illegal. Maybe because it's the Underground City and not la Cite Souterraine? Signage has to be in French. (If anyone tells you that signage has to be bilingual, they are lying. If someone remembers to add the English, it's usually in smaller type and off to the right or bottom of the sign.)

But anyway, there the Underground City was, all eighteen miles of it, linked by tunnels throughout Montreal and connecting to le Metro. It's just a huge shopping mall (and must easily better the Edmonton Mall's so-called largest shopping mall record), and during the off-season closes at 9 PM.

McGill University

McGill University. Sigh -- I'll have to move Lon here instead of UQAM. Beautiful gothic buildings -- but they're all crumbling! Lots of renovations going on, though. We encountered hordes of demanding seagulls and pigeons at McGill while on rest break.

Not far from this point of the U.C. was English-speaking McGill University. We entered with the crowd going to the Alouettes game. Karen wanted to visit the Redpath Museum, which was supposed to have the largest Egyptian exhibit in Montreal, and I wanted to post a few notices asking for translating help on my novel. Redpath turned out to be a so-so minor museum (the NC Museum of Art has a much bigger Egyptian exhibit, and even that's a pretty small one). When I asked a student where a good bulletin board was, he told me that the English department was over behind there, but I might not want to post there because it was "up the hill."

We went around to see where it was and looked up. And up. And up. There was the English building. "Let's get a Coke instead," I suggested. We ended up posting at the library, which was on the same level as the Redpath.

A few tips on Getting Around in Montreal:

First, you'll need money. Get your money changed at the airport, train station or main Infotouriste, or use ATMs. There aren't that many ATMs around. We had one kindly security officer unlock the ATM room of his bank for our use because the bank technically wasn't open on Mondays. There was an ATM at Place Jacques-Cartier, but that was the only other one I ever saw that wasn't directly connected to a bank.

WARNING from a later trip: The vast majority of ATMs in Quebec are now run by companies that DON'T RECOGNIZE American banks!!!! Not even a behemoth like Bank of America! Therefore either rely on retailers who have machines that allow you to get extra cash when you swipe your card, or try to find out which ATMs are Yankee-friendly. People told me that all ATMs in bank lobbies would work for me, but that turned out not to be true all the time, though more frequently than an ATM on the street. Now back to 1999:

My tour book said that everyone in Montreal spoke at least some English. Untrue. The sweet Asian lady running the drug store across the street from the hospital on St.-Denis didn't speak a word of English or much French, nor did she understand pantomime for "gigantic, oozing foot blisters." She did, however, know what a Coke was, and produced cold ones from the back for us.

The other citizens of Montreal would speak to you in either accent-free English so that you'd swear that they were from your part of the US, or in a romantic French-tipped English that would leave you swooning -- and then turn to someone else and, without skipping a beat, launch into the fast string of exotic syllables that is true French.

When we were coming out of the ATM at Jacques-Cartier, we noticed an invasion taking place. Men (and a few women) in military uniform were marching up the Place from the river, heading for l'Hotel de Ville. We tagged along as they stopped traffic, shouted for the mayor, and held still in formation in the middle of the street while he formally inspected them. TV crews recorded the event. One photographer in official photographer's garb (baggy shorts, wrinkled shirt hanging out of said shorts, no tie, unkempt hair) kept three crouched paces ahead of the mayor, clicking madly.

Tourists came up to ask the officer who was supposed to be holding back traffic (apparently no one had scheduled this event to the extent of hiring real traffic cops or putting up signage to detour traffic, which had to perform u-turns to leave the area) what the heck was going on, and my smattering of French let me understand that this was the crew of the Montreal, which had just docked, and were paying their respects to His Honor. The French tourists next to me hadn't heard, judging from their conversation, but I told them in English what was going on, and they similarly conversed in French to some Asian tourists, and eventually everyone caught on. So language really isn't a problem.

And the occasion marked some truly great "new in town, sailor?" jokes between Karen and me. Unfortunately, the entire crew trooped off to a reception in City Hall.

Our feet hurt too much to have enjoyed a night of carnal sin, anyway.

the Invasion

The Invasion. We're just a few feet from where we picked up Jean et Sugar. The troupe is standing in front of the Hotel de Ville, and Place Jacques-Cartier stretches down to the river to the right.


Place Jacques-Cartier

See? I told you it stretches down. There's an (later note: EVIL) ATM just on the left here, FYI. Expensive Cokes can be found in that first cafe on the right.

postcard of Place Jacques-Cartier



And of course if it stretches down to the river, the Place Jacques-Cartier also stretches UP from it.

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