My wife and I love to travel and, in fact, we’re fairly convinced it’s a become a necessary foundation for our careers in the arts. It helps get us out of our routines and see the world from different perspectives by being exposed to different cultural attitudes, languages, and situations. I’m pretty sure I’m a better author because of all my travels. And I know I’m a better educator and person.
The last three years, Marcie and I have been lucky to double-dip Europe and Asia through a combination of work and personal trips. This year is the first time since 2013 we haven’t made it to Europe, so we decided to do the next best thing: Montréal and Québec City.
There’s just one hitch! Just a week before we were to leave for our trip, Marcie ended up booking an important acting gig for a national American commercial—and when you are two self-employed people bobbing along in the uncertain waters of the arts industry, you don’t turn down those sorts of jobs. So, Marcie will join me later in the week and we’ll make our way to Québec City together. In the meantime, I’m left to my own devices in Montréal.
I’m not the sort of person to get in much trouble; however, I will say that I’ve become used to (read: lazy) other people sorting out my travel. For personal trips, Marcie is the master planner and organizer and if I’m going abroad for work, I invariably have all sorts of people to pick me up or arrange transport. So my first big challenge was to get myself from the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport and into the city. It turned out to be very easy, so after a night’s good rest in a room and bed far too big for one person, I set out to explore Old Montréal.
It turned out to be a rather mercurial day, both in terms of weather and activity. I found the early part of the morning to be loud and distracting. Turns out the 375th birthday of Montréal is coming up and so they are busy refurbishing Rue Saint Paul and many other areas of the old city. That means a lot of stuff is under scaffolding (even the gates to Chinatown) and there is a lot of drilling, grinding . . . well, you get the idea. Thankfully, this died down as my way further into the core and the construction sounds were replaced by the buzz of tourists.
I had pre-booked myself a tour of the Basilique Notre-Dame in the afternoon, so first, I just wandered the old cobblestone streets, without much aim, delighting in the many details. As usual, I found a few doors to photograph! (My friends and followers know that I am a collector of doors . . . especially old doors. Who knows where they might lead? They provide great inspiration for stories.)
Eventually, I made my way to Notre-Dame and Place d’Armes, which is an old square where you can find a monument in memory of Paul de Chomedey. I confirmed my registration for the tour at the gates of Notre-Dame, then wandered around the outside to look at the architecture and explore the square in more detail.
The pigeons in particular like the fountains beneath Monsieur de Chomedey’s feet. I kept waiting for one of them to get eaten by the face. Because, in my imagination, it’s just a lure . . .
As for the tour itself, I’m glad I signed up for it. Our guide was very informative and it turned out that it was her first time leading one. (She only admitted this at the end, but you would have never guessed). Going on the tour permitted us to climb the steps and enter the upper level of the church, which afforded us a better view of the gallery.
Of course, I love the details of a place, and found a few things to capture my eye throughout the church.
Afterwards, I was pretty tuckered out (and still feeling a bit out of sorts from jet lag), so I had a quick nap back at the hotel before returning to the old city to enjoy some poutine and then go on a ghost tour.
I love going on ghost tours, especially in old cities. I’ve been to them in Prague, York, Philadelphia, and even in my home town of Vancouver. I find it’s a good way to get to know a part of a city and to learn about history from a practiced storyteller. The ghost tour in Old Montréal had us weaving through back alleys and while none of the stops were particularly specific to the stories, the stories themselves were quite good. My favourite story involved the beleaguered Marie-Josèphe Angelique, a Portuguese-born black slave who was tortured, tried, and convicted of setting fire to her owner’s home, which in turn burned much of the old city.This was in 1734 and—as our guide assured us—the ghost of Marie-Josèphe still haunts the streets.
Here’s a picture of our guide, by the way. I enjoyed her characterized approach to storytelling.
Well, that’s all for Day 1. I’m not entirely sure what Day 2 holds . . . possibly St. Catherine’s Street and the Museum of Fine Arts.