I thought I’d change up the title a bit. Time for the last full day in Montreal — Olympic Park, adventures in souvenir shopping, Jardins de Lumiere, and I go to mass for the first time in years — *insert shocked emoji*
I’m what many may call a “Christmas Catholic,” meaning that I never go to mass except for unusual circumstances. However, the day before, while sitting in the pews waiting for my tour to start, “I thought, ‘I’m in Montreal. Why not go to mass in this beautiful basilica?’ ”
So this is why I was up at 07:00 in Old Montreal. I found it more beautiful early in the morning no people around. Plus it was was cooler and less muggy, so I guess I was in a better mood this time. To my dismay, the mass was actually held in the small chapel behind the main basilica. I would have loved to attend a mass in the main basilica, surrounded by beautiful stain glass windows, hearing the big ol’ organ play, and staring at the multicolored altar. But the smaller chapel was still really nice and I loved that it was air conditioned, so I really shouldn’t complain. One thing I learned that day is that a Catholic mass will be said in the native language, which means that I sat and pretended I understood French and repeated everything in English. I may not have understood any of it, but if you’ve gone to a Catholic mass once a week for 18 years, you catch on eventually.
After breakfast, we hopped on the green line to the Olympic Park, site of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. The area of the park also includes a botanical gardens, soccer stadium, and biodome. FUN FACT: The stop for the park is “Pie-IX,” which sounded like “penis” when the robot lady announced the stop. My inner child giggled.
We got tickets to the Biodome, botanical gardens, and the Montreal Tower. The Biodome felt like a small zoo/aquarium to me, with a river otter, penguins, and aquarium, among other exhibits. The guy giving the talk at the big aquarium tank made me feel smart when I was able to identify a skate egg. We ran through it pretty quickly.
So the Montreal Tower has a really pretty view, but there’s not much else to it. If you like being at the tops of tall buildings, this is the activity for you. But besides a bunch of greenery and a distant view of downtown Montreal, there’s not too much to do here.
It got hot, and we got hungry, so we hopped back on the train and found a place for lunch. Afterwards, the Bestie, still sick, said she wasn’t feeling well, so she went back to the hotel, and I went back to Old Montreal. I decided to take this time to do some typical souvenir shopping for the folks back home. Did I hunt long and hard for some trinkets made in Canada and have special meaning? No. I walked right across the street to a generic souvenir shop and bought items printed with Canadian pictures and sayings, but probably manufactured in China. At least I bought them in Montreal. This particular shop I visited had assorted shirts, bags, mugs, shot glasses — pretty much the typical tourist fare. Oh, and props to the lady cashier at this store, who checked out two customers at a time and deftly navigated between tourists (especially those with no sense of personal space and one who decide not to use a basket and instead left items at the counter to purchase for later. Best believe I made sure my stuff was separated from hers).
So the guy who sold us our tickets at the biodome told us about an event called “Jardins de Lumiere” going on at the botanical gardens. Translation: The Chinese and Japanese gardens have lit up displays, similar to the one at the right. Most of the plants (which I assume to be integral in both “botanical” and “garden”) aren’t lit up, but I enjoyed the event anyway. There were no other lights around besides small path lighting, which I felt made the displays stand out. If you get a chance to see it, I would highly recommend it (no sarcasm). The displays alone are gorgeous and something I had never experienced before. I did trip over rocks and bumped into people stopped in the middle of the paths to take pictures. Also, please don’t do that. The paths are small, and we’re not all skinny. Be considerate. Oh, and there were a crapload of bugs there. Yeah, it was hot and muggy, and mosquitoes are attracted to sweat (which I had copious amounts of), so learn from my mistake and invest in some bug repellant.
The Bestie and I had a great time at the garden, but we did get lost trying to find our way back to the train station. We ended up walking the long way around and found the image to the left. If I had a better camera, or knew how to work my DSLR in low light, I think it would have come out better. We also wound our way through the crowd coming out of the soccer game (we figured Montreal lost since the fans were pretty quiet. Or maybe Canadian soccer fans are calmer and don’t throw beers from the top tiers of the stadium). By this time, it had started raining, so we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.
We weren’t prepared enough to have brought umbrellas with us, and too cheap to buy some.