Mardi Gras and Biosphère in Montreal

Saturday 15 to Tuesday 18 August

We enjoyed our time in British Columbia in the west of Canada, and were especially impressed with the beer and wine offerings in the city and the countryside.

We drove back into Canada starting with the glitz of Niagara Falls. We skipped Toronto, we had no desire to conquer such a big city, and after a long drive reached Montreal. The freeway was good, and the kilometres slipped by much more quickly than the USA miles do. The freeway runs in the flats alongside the Saint Lawrence River. There has been a massive effort to re-energise the river, and the median strip and verge was alive with beautiful wild flowers and reeds, all doing their job to clean and filter the marshy waters.

Our hotel was less salubrious, run by a family of Indians who employed a very disgruntled Caucasian staff. Carpets were dangerously threadbare, internet was vague, breakfast, although good, could have been better. But what can you expect when the disgruntled reception staff also have to clear dirty plates and make waffles. And our room was serviced with half rolls of toilet paper and half used bottles of shampoo. Serious improvements are warranted and unlikely.

Montreal is an old world style city, quite unlike the rest of North America that we had seen. It was obvious that we were now reaching the eastern, earlier populated part of North America. Many of the buildings have a high first floor and a low basement serviced by outside staircases. There are Romeo & Juliette balconies on most houses. These are often painted brightly, enlivening the grey stone facades.

As we started our touring of Montreal, we discovered there was a Mardi Gras parade on. It was long and varied, but we certainly enjoyed watching some of it.

The Metro in Montreal was built in the 1960s for the World’s Fair or Expo67, which was held in 1967. The trains are still as I remember although like me, a little aged. They run on rubber wheels and provide a quiet, smooth and fast service.

We took the metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau on the Saint Helen’s and Notre Dame Islands, and named after the mayor of Montreal who supported the World Fair.

Little is left of the pavilions, except for the American pavilion’s metal-lattice skeleton from its Buckminster Fuller dome, which now encloses an environmental sciences museum called the Montreal Biosphère

The biosphere was an interesting and frightening insight into the plight of our natural resources. I don’t like Tony Abbott’s coal energy plan and liked it less after seeing this. Interestingly, we were asked a couple of times in Canada if we were also involved in Permaculture – Australia is seen by some as the leader in this field.

Notre Dame Island also hosted part of Montreal’s 1976 Summer Olympics for rowing and canoeing.  And it is also home of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track that is used for the Canadian Grand Prix.

We had no trouble finding interesting food, wine and beer in Montreal, but we did try to cover the major gourmet districts, so found ourselves walking miles and seeing much of the inner city on foot.