All in all, this was a wonderful insight into 18th Century Montreal and its life.
Lately, Austin's been into things that are from the 'olden days', things like old radios and turntables, old coffee grinders, old anything! This all stemmed from an afternoon spent at my uncle's house when Austin asked about the table under the phone and my uncle proceeded to show him that and other things that he dug out of nooks and crannies in his home. It was a great afternoon of wonder and inquisitiveness for Austin and it also sparked a desire in him to classify things in his everyday life as either modern or from the olden days.
So when a few weekends ago we saw that there was an 18th Century Market being held in the Old Montreal part of town, with artisans showing off their wares and produce, we headed over to see and we weren't disappointed. There were people dressed in period costume, and people selling regional produce, including a pine tree beer which was very interesting and probably not something we'll go back for too soon!
It was very nice walking around at a leisurely pace, stopping here and there to watch people making different things from the 'olden days'. Austin was particularly intrigued with the lady weaving the chair seat. We stood for nearly half an hour near the chair lady and she'd still only woven the first third of the seat. Whenever someone asked her how long it took her to make a chair, she'd answer 'depends how much I'm chatting with the other women'! But I'm guessing that it would take her at least a couple of hours to finish a chair, and that's just the seat. Festivals like these are good reminders of what things used to be like and how much time everything used to take.
Other artisans we saw were the weaving ladies, very delicate and detailed work; the silver spoon man, melting silver in his oven and pouring it into the mould then separating the two pieces and producing a spoon (reminded me of my dad melting lead when I was a child, to make sinkers for his fishing expeditions!); and the potter was pretty cool with his foot pedal turntable. Musicians wandered around the stalls playing traditional Quebécois music and acting out mini scenes with other people dressed up who were obviously in on the act! We tried some freshly squeezed raspberry juice and watched the children's game of collecting the corn ears in a basket on their backs. Austin would have had a go except that it was really hot and he couldn't wait in the line long enough!
All in all, this was a wonderful insight into 18th Century Montreal and its life.
Montreal is meant to be one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world and boasts hundreds of kilometres of separated cycleways in and around the city. So this sunny Father's Day, upon Daddy's request, we went into the city, hired bikes and went for a cycle.
The plan had been to cycle along the Lachine Canal south of the city, but when we were getting fitted for our bikes, the hire place guy suggested a ride over the bridge to the two islands and then back along the Estacade, a picturesque cycleway along the eastern side of the river. We'd brought our picnic lunch so we liked the idea of exploring the cycleways of the islands as they were meant to be good.
So off we set. Austin rode on a 'giraffe' on the back of Michael's bike and at first we thought he might be a bit wobbly, but the bike hire guy reassured us that the bike couldn't tip over, we would feel a slight swaying motion with Austin on the back. I had a ride after lunch with Austin on the back, and I can tell you now that it was really hard to stay straight. After only two minutes and lots of semi-trailer-jack-knifing movements I handed it back to Michael.
We warmed ourselves up riding along the cycleway in the Old Port before heading across the bridge to the first island. We met up with the Grand Prix raceway and had some fun racing along the track past pit lane and back again. At one point we were overtaken by an ambulance as it raced past. I did wonder if it had to go that particular way to get to the incident it was going to, or if it chose the raceway because they could go super fast!
We rode on through the cycleways to the other island, passed the La Ronde fun park and found ourselves a picturesque grove to have our lunch in. We were enjoying the rest immensely until a wasp decided it liked our sandwiches, at which point (flashbacks to France here for me!) we got back on our bikes and started heading the long way home.
Most of the cycleways we took were outside of the city itself, across the river on the two islands of St Helene's Island and Notre Dame Island but on our way back to the bike hire shop we cycled through some city roads. The separated cycleways were great and relaxing to ride on (flashbacks to when we lived in Holland and experienced firsthand the way cyclists can rule the roads!) and even when the unique cycleways ended and we had to share the road with cars and trucks, it was a relief to feel that we were respected by motorists and not going to be yelled at if we did something silly or not!
It was good to experience cycling in Montreal considering its reputation and I wouldn't feel at all scared to cycle to work or around Montreal with the way it's set up for cyclists. It really is a great place to cycle!
How to get there
There are lots of places to hire bikes in Montreal. We went to Ca Roule Montreal on Wheels because it was right in the Old Port and a good place to start a cycling trip. For a google map of where we cycled, follow this link.
For information on where to cycle in and around Montreal, visit the Go Biking website.
Montreal's Botanic Gardens are amazing! Well, they were when we went and saw them as the gardens had been taken over by the Mosaicultures Internationales 2013 and were a sight to see indeed.
I'd been getting the Facebook feed for the plant sculptures at the Botanic Gardens for a while and knew that we would definitely be going. I didn't know we'd be going when everyone else in Montreal decided to go! We took advantage of the signs suggesting that we avoid the long queues for tickets and get in in less than 5 mins by buying them online on our smart phone, and after 15 mins and 2 failed attempts we finally waltzed past the poor saps still waiting to pay at the counter!
The sculptures were simply awesome, out of this world, jaw-droppingly beautiful works of art. Every one was made of different coloured plants carefully positioned to create stunning animals and giant people, each telling a story related to the theme of the event this year, Land of Hope. Most were bigger than life-size and grand as any marble sculpture in my opinion! See below for some of my choice ones.
The gardens themselves are a massive sprawling land of greenery and water and many different landscapes. You walk through shady forest paths and out onto open grasslands bordered by meandering ponds (can ponds meander?). Along the way there are many forks in the trails and lots of park benches to rest your weary legs or have a well-earned snack. It's also a lovely place to have a picnic and kids are not left out. There is a playground with shady seating around it and of course an ice cream stand a short walk away.
Thanks goodness for both the playground and the ice cream stand I say! Austin was not in the mood for sculptures on the day we went, which was surprising because he's always dead keen to build his own out of anything he can find at home and leave them up for days! Even Grandma and Grandad experienced being hit by the Austinator when we stayed with them before we left, complete with step ladder and random boxes and toys, and in their kitchen of all places! So we thought Austin would be excited about seeing sculptures made out of plants, and he was, when he saw them on the website, but in real life, I don't know, maybe he was just too overwhelmed. Who knows? Anyway, he didn't like them and just wanted to wander off the path and into the forest to climb trees (prohibited in the gardens). The playground was a nice break for us from chasing after him and the ice cream stand a great bargaining tool (bribery?) for after lunch!
How to get there
The Botanic Gardens are located on the corner of Rue Sherbrooke E and Boulevard Pie-IX. Metro: Pie-IX and buses 185 to Sherbrooke and 139 to Pie-IX. There's also a Bixi station at the entrance. For more information on the Botanic Gardens go to http://espacepourlavie.ca/en and follow the links. For more on the Mosaicultures Internationales 2013 visit http://www.mosaiculturesinternationales.ca/en/.
One day soon after we arrived, Austin and I made a very long trip by Metro and bus to get to the Children's Museum for a day of imaginary play fun. Situated in Laval, in the western suburbs of Montreal, the Children's Museum is a great place to take children aged up to 8 or 10 years old to experience lots of different professions and their tools. The museum houses lots of real life relics including an ambulance, police car, part of an airplane and much more. The whole place is set up so that children can go from one setting to another and touch and play with everything; there's nothing that's off limits in this place!
When we got there, they were just starting the morning entertainment. Two of the staff had dressed up as pirates and were acting out a skit in the pirate ship to the fascination of the twenty-or-so children sitting around watching. Everything was in French so Austin was a bit overwhelmed and only stayed for a couple of minutes before wandering off to the ambulance.
The warehouse building has two levels of activities that children can explore and we managed to cover everything once before having lunch and then starting over again! Each area has props like clothes, hats and pretend objects. For example, in the supermarket, there are mini shopping trolleys and baskets, pretend meat, fruit and vegetables and canned and boxed food. There's no actual food in the boxes; they've filled them with pieces of wood or sand to make them feel real!
There were other fun areas including a farm where children can pull on rubber teats to milk the cow, or sit up on the life sized wooden horse. There was a mechanic shop with a digger that worked and foam bricks to build a wall with. There was even a part of a real plane complete with simulation flying screen and lots of lights and buttons for kids to play with!
Two of Austin's favourite areas were the ambulance, and the supermarket. I thought the best setup was the construction site with the digger and foam bricks and real drills!
But Austin's favourite by far was the room with the broken wall and framework like on a building site. In this room they had lots of ping pong balls that you could put in four different tracks and watch them all go around and end up in the spinning tank. Austin was fascinated and spent ages collecting all the balls and giving them to me to put on the tracks.
This place is definitely a place to spend a day but it is also exhausting for the parents. I felt like I was following Austin around all day and there's nowhere for parents to sit and just watch from the edge. We both slept very well that night!
How to get there
The Musée pour Enfants de Laval is located at 3805 Curé-Labelle Blvd Chomedey Laval H7P 0A5. Bus 61 takes you there from Montmorency. There's plenty of parking.
You can see more pictures and read more about the setup here: http://www.museepourenfants.com/