Jean et Sugar

Jean et Sugar. That's the Place Jacques-Cartier behind them, the secondary InfoTouriste on the corner, and to Jean's right and behind him, not in the picture, is the Hotel de Ville, where you'll find restrooms in the basement -- but you'll have to sneak past the guard. (Yeah, like thousands of tourists each day don't sneak over there because InfoTouriste tells them to.)

As long as I'm on the subject of food, I'll mention that I ate from the Queen Elizabeth, the most fartingly expensive and posh hotel in the city -- of course, it was food catered from there on the Bateau-Mouche, which was an evening dinner cruise. Lovely food (except the fishy appetizers, which we were going to swipe and feed the seagulls and pigeons the next day except that the waiter removed them while we weren't looking), and terrific views of the city... but they should have started the tour an hour earlier. Of course, that would have deleted an entire hour-long regular tour from their schedules and deprived them of that income, but the river was low and they had to change their route for the dinner cruise. Instead of going a long way west before turning east past our point of departure, we instead went only east around several small islands before heading back to port. After dark small, uninhabited islands are black against a black river. When they're up close, the entire window you're looking through is black. An hour earlier, we'd have been able to see something, but as it was, we paid attention to the food. They had an accordionist and a woman on a keyboard who also sang in French and English. She was a little on the nasal and monotone side, which is a good thing when you sing in French but a bad thing in English.

But it got us off our feet.

After trotting excitedly over to Vieux Montreal our first afternoon there, we found the secondary Infotourist center, picked up about three dozen maps, and spotted a cutey guy giving carriage rides throughout the sector. $30 for a half hour with cutey. He had a photo of himself and his two little girls in the carriage, but we still enjoyed being with Jean and his horse Sugar.

It's an experience to be led by a horse through city traffic. Every now and then the horse would get excited and try to climb over the car stopped in front of us, or would shift up to racetrack speeds on some of the steep, cobblestoned streets of Vieux Montreal. Karen would cry softly, "We're going to die! We are going to die this time! Oh, look at that gargoyle!" Indeed, the architecture all around the city is truly astounding.

Adieu, Jean. You'll be in my dreams.

the fire house

Montreal's first fire house. (That's Jean's back on the right.) I had to take the picture for the "Pompiers" inscription on the building, because of the old joke, "Pourquoi les pompiers portent-ils des bretelles rouges?" or however it's spelled. TO KEEP THEIR PANTS UP! Nyark nyark. Learned that one in French I class.


The first building in Montreal, now a nunnery. I think it was the same back then.

The next day we found the main Infotourist spot, one block away from the intersection of Rue Peel and Rue Sainte-Catherine, the busiest intersection in the city. Note: this one has bathrooms. The other one, you had to go across to l'Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and sneak into the basement past a suspicious guard to use the public restrooms.

At Infotourist we found a bus tour of the city. The hour-long ride was discovered to really be three and a half, and only cost something like $25. Of course, the bus driver hinted broadly for a tip at the end, but he was great, so he must have really been raking it in.

Notre Dame exteriorNotre Dame exteriorNotre Dame exterior
Notre Dame interior

Interior and exterior shots of Notre Dame. Can you tell which shot is from a postcard?

On this tour we saw more Vieux Montreal, including the Notre-Dame Basilica, which is where Celine Dion (all bow! all bow!) got married. It took 40 years to complete the interior, and every inch is covered with amazing ostentation and sculpture. There was a wedding going on in a rear chapel while we were there. They said that you have to book a wedding a year in advance; it costs $1500 to rent the joint. We assumed they meant the rear chapel and not the main one.

The Museum of Architecture has big windows so you can look in and see how they've unearthed the original fortifications of the city on their lowest level. Cool!

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