A week or two ago I spent a few days in Montreal seeing old friends, wandering around town, eating well (mostly at friends’ homes – damn I know a lot of good cooks!), cashing in on a few sales, checking out the wineries in the Eastern Townships, attending a friend’s vernissage, and catching the latest blockbuster exhibition at the Musée des beaux-arts.
A few observations:
- So many of the places I knew from my time living at Peel and Sherbrooke are now gone – buildings and businesses. But that is to be expected as it is well over twenty years since I left.
- It seems that every highway into and out of town is being torn up and a few of the main streets downtown too. St-Catherine is a shambles and Place Ville Marie looks like a disaster site.
- There is still a certain politesse that is observed particularly on the Metro – I saw people – particularly young people – getting up to offer seats to families with children and the elderly. I put myself in the later category as at least once on every ride I was offered a seat – I prefer to stand so I politely declined.
- Even in the last stages of winter the Eastern Townships are lovely for a day drive. I hadn’t realized there were vineyards and wineries in the region and tastings proved that they were of a more than acceptable quality.
- I picked up two bottles of Le part des anges at Vignoble de l’Orpailleur: an exceptionally good wine that pairs well with scallops, strong charcuteries, nut pastries, and blue cheeses (I love blue cheeses). It will be tested at home very soon. The grape must has gold brandy added to it and rather unusually is stored in glass Demijohns ranged along the outside cornices of the vineyard were it is exposed to “24 seasons” which I assume means six years.
- La Brassiere in Dunham cooks a burger (local beef) to perfection – just a touch of pink not the dried up hockey pucks that often pass for burgers there days. And they make a very nice blond ale too!
- Simon’s is a great department store even if it has lost that family atmosphere of the original store in Quebec City. When I couldn’t find something the sales lady assured me that though they didn’t carry the item she was sure I would find it at the Bay. Shades of Thelma Ritter in Miracle on 34th Street.
- St Viateur still makes what I consider the best bagels in the world – though I’m sure there are those who would want to discuss that with me. Sadly I could only fit a half dozen in my carry-on. They disappeared with great quantities of butter and cream cheese over three breakfasts back home.
- Napoleon – Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace is a remarkable exhibition and the design staff at the Musée des beaux arts have not lost their sense of style and panache. However whoever made the choice to use a light gray type on a dark gray background for the labels should be shot – in the display lighting they were difficult to read. At first I thought it was me being a cranky old man but several people have confirmed that they found them a challenge.
- And since I’m bitching I do wish they had timed entry for the exhibition. The crowds on a Friday afternoon made it almost impossible to spend any time examining the displays or in some cases getting close to them.
- Our friend Don Andrus had a very successful vernissage at the intriguing Gallery VU in Verdun – an area that is on the verge of gentrification. I already own two of his works – lovely birthday gifts from Don and his wife – and if I had a spare bit of cash there was one that would have made its way from the gallery to our walls.
I had not been off the Island in over 18 months and I confess that the first day I was in the downtown area I was just a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully I wasn’t wandering around sporting an open mouthed gawk at the tall buildings and crowds of people. Though as my friends Linda and Yves remarked I had really only traded one island for another.
On this day in 1911:The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincenzo Perugia, a Louvre employee.