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The Montreal Botanical Garden

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Comprising an area of almost 200 acres next to the Olympic Park, Montreal’s Botanical Garden opened in 1931, and is considered to be among the most important in the world. The garden is separated into over twenty thematic zones along with ten greenhouses, dozens of kilometers of trails, and over 22,000 plant species. In other words, you better get started.

Botanical Garden Montreal

There’s no way you could see everything in the Botanic Garden during a single visit. So perhaps the best course of action is to ask one of the staff what happens to be in bloom. That’s what we did, and the guy at the welcome desk pulled out a map, circled “Lilacs” and “Rhododendrons” and recommended a route that would take us to a few of the park’s other highlights.

We had visited the Botanical Garden’s greenhouses shortly after our arrival in Montreal, to see the annual “Butterflies Go Free” exhibition, so today we were able to concentrate on the outdoor sections. That was useful, because the greenhouses themselves are worth hours of your time.

Botanical Garden Montreal

Starting on the western edge of the park, we walked through three small zones: the Perennials, Economic Plants (such as those that produce dye) and the Garden of Innovations (where new hybrid flowers and the latest gardening trends are showcased). We then arrived at the field of lilacs which, as the employee had promised, were in fragrant bloom. The weather was perfect, and I could have spent all day under the shade of the trees with a book; in fact, a lot of visitors were doing exactly that. It doesn’t make sense for tourists, but for a reasonable price, residents can become “Friends of the Garden,” which gives them free access for a year.

We continued north, through the First Nations Garden (featuring trees of North America and a few totem poles), and with some trouble found the Leslie Hancock Garden. This is a small, shaded plot filled with heather and rhododendrons, which feels as though it’s been purposefully hidden away in the forest.

Botanical Garden Montreal

Heading back towards the greenhouse, we passed through the Shade Garden, where low-light plants like ferns and Quebec trilliums thrive, and moved on to the Japanese Garden. They’ve done a good job replicating the atmosphere and layout of the gardens we had become so fond of while in Tokyo. Montreal’s Japanese Garden is the work of horticulturalist Ken Nakajima, and includes a zen stone garden, a bonsai collection, and even a traditional pavilion where you can participate in a tea ceremony.

Next to the Japanese Garden is the Chinese Garden, which is supposed to be fantastic. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation during our visit (it’s set to reopen in 2017) so we wandered through the Alpine Garden. This zone isn’t as immediately beautiful as the others, but shows off a completely different kind of landscape, with the rocks and flowering shrubs of the Alps.

The Botanic Garden isn’t cheap, and it’s so large that I can only recommend going when you have a lot time to spend there. Keep in mind that your ticket will also get you into the neighboring Insectarium. We loved the garden, and even after spending the whole morning there, I wasn’t nearly ready to leave.

Location on our Map
Montreal Botanical Garden – Website

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June 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm Comments (0)

The Écomusée du Fier Monde

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Found within the former Généreux public bath hall on Rue Amherst, across from the Marché Saint-Jacques, the Écomusée du Vier Monde shines a light on the working-class community of Montreal’s Centre-Sud. We visited the museum, and then took a walk around the neighborhood to which it’s dedicated.

Ecomusee du fier monde

Not speaking French, I had no idea what “fier monde” might mean. Mentally, I had prepared myself for either the “Museum of Four Moons” or the “Museum of Fear World.” So, I was a little disappointed to learn that “fier monde” means something like “proud people”… not as exciting as Fear World, but we decided to check it out, anyway.

The Industrial Revolution was a turbulent time for Montreal, during which it rocketed past Quebec City and Toronto to become the richest and most influential city in Canada. The factories and the people who worked in them were based mostly in the Centre-Sud section of the city; basically, everything to the east of the Boulevard St. Laurent and south of Rue Sherbrooke.

Ecomusee du fier monde

As neighborhoods full of factory workers tend to be, this was a low-income area with squalid living conditions. The Écomusée begins its story during the Industrial Revolution, introducing the lives and struggles of the shift-workers and their families. You learn about the attempts to unionize, and other ways the people of the Centre-Sud organized themselves to improve their lot.

Those early efforts at solidarity would pay off following World War II, when Montreal began to de-industrialize. The factories which had provided the people a living wage closed up completely, or moved out to the suburbs. With no ready jobs, the Centre-Sud became an area of severe poverty, as the families who had the means to escape did so. To survive, the remaining community had to band together, providing basic education and services to its least-fortunate members, and fighting for governmental aid.

Today, life has improved tremendously in the Centre-Sud, and it’s become one of Montreal’s most vibrant areas. The factories never returned, but that’s become less important. The Gay Village is part of the former “fauborg” (suburb), as is the post-industrial neighborhood of Sainte-Marie. Artists and young people have been moving in, drawn by the prime location and relatively cheap prices.

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The Écomusée does a good job in describing all this history with a set of exhibits that form a loop around the former pool of the Généreux baths. Built in 1927, this bath hall is itself a part of the Centre-Sud’s history, dating from a time when most residents didn’t have running water of their own, and depended upon such public solutions for their hygienic needs.

The museum is small, and doesn’t take much time to tour. But afterwards, you’ll probably want to spend some time walking around the streets of the Centre-Sud, to see first-hand how it’s matured into the modern day. In many ways, the story of this area is the story of Montreal, and it’s worth stopping in to the Écomusée du Fier Monde to learn about it.

Location on our Map
Écomusée du Vier Monde – Website

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May 27, 2016 at 10:07 pm Comments (2)

Bonjour Montréal!

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For the sixteenth edition of our “For 91 Days” travel project, Jürgen and I chose Montreal: the second-largest city in Canada, and a multilingual hotbed of culture and the arts. We arrived at the beginning of April with no prior knowledge of the city and no expectations. So we were excited to see what Montreal had to offer us, and would be giving the city 91 days to impress us.

Bonjour Montreal

Before landing in a new destination, Jürgen and I normally do a lot of research. We buy travel guides, study maps, and pore over whatever information we can dig up on the internet. By the time we arrive in our new 91-day home, we’ve usually got lists of things to do, and a basic understanding of the culture, currency, language and layout of the city or region we’re visiting. But we didn’t do any of this for Montreal.

Part of it was a lack of time. After finishing 91 days in Curaçao, we spent the next few weeks on a whirlwind tour of the USA, visiting friends in DC and San Francisco, catching up with family in Ohio, and returning to Savannah, which had been one of our first destinations. Given all this activity, we simply didn’t have a chance to read the Montreal guidebooks we had ordered. In fact, we never took them out of the box in which they’d arrived.

Another reason for our negligence was the fact that Montreal is just over the border from the US. We’re not talking about Sri Lanka or Korea, here; I didn’t need to brush up on cultural etiquette or prepare myself for any bizarre customs. I’m from the States, and Canada is my good buddy to the north. We share sports leagues and even an international dialing prefix. And so, despite never having spent any time in Montreal, I didn’t feel much need to research.

Bonjour Montreal

And then we arrived in the city, and it’s like… for a long time, your good buddy has been inviting you over to his house, but you’ve never bothered, even though he lives just up the street. One day, you finally stop by, and are immediately surprised by the differences between your house and his. His parents are speaking French and there are European paintings on the walls. They have plastic bags of milk in their fridge. Everyone is so polite, and for dinner they serve you this delicious pile of french fries smothered in gravy. From now on, you’ll have a different appreciation for your buddy. The truth is, you don’t really know anyone until you hang out at their house.

So here we are, Montreal… let’s see what you’ve got. We’re excited to get to know you, and somehow sorry that it’s taken so long.

List Of Montreal Hotels

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April 10, 2016 at 8:00 pm Comments (8)
The Montreal Botanical Garden Comprising an area of almost 200 acres next to the Olympic Park, Montreal's Botanical Garden opened in 1931, and is considered to be among the most important in the world. The garden is separated into over twenty thematic zones along with ten greenhouses, dozens of kilometers of trails, and over 22,000 plant species. In other words, you better get started.
For 91 Days