As most major cities, there are distinct neighborhoods with specific flare creating their uniqueness. Here in Montreal, one can find Little Italy and China Town to name a couple, but one non-ethnic area called Plateau Mont-Royal & Mile End. A visit to this area was on the list of suggested places according to our exchange partner. We had heard there were interesting shops, unique architecture and many homes had unusual staircases leading up to the second floor.
Ron attended services at the Anglican Cathedral; it was supposed to be a high mass, but in French. He wanted to experience the organ and choir. Initially, I had planned on going with him, but then settling my butt at Starbucks directly across the street. Ron chose to sit at the very front of the church, while I chose the non-committal, easy escape, back of the church pew. I was not certain when I would make the great escape, but the warmth kept me in place. This was the temperature, not the atmosphere. It could have been the atmosphere as well, but this was a French service, so how would I know?
When the service started, there were less than 20 people in the entire church, including the single usher. This lack of attendance contributed to my staying; I felt guilty leaving more empty space in the cathedral. Out of respect, when the rest stood, I stood. When everyone sat, I sat. With everything in French, it was easy to ignore what was happening, take in the architecture of the building and wait for it to be over.
With Ron’s spiritual need satisfied, our goal was to check out this gentrified area of Plateau Mont-Royal & Mile End. The official tour guide and the young woman working at the tourism office, both praise its accomplishments. Our young helper went on to impress this area has the neighborhood feel with small independent stores, bakeries, and restaurants without a chain outfit name in view.
Before we left the downtown area, a public building had lights catching our attention. We walked in to see the Christmas decorations. There at the guard’s desk was a young man monitoring a number of CCTV screens, barely paying attention to us as we meandered around the halls. On our way out, I asked if I could take a photo of the reindeer on either side of the entrance. He became totally flustered, admitting he had no idea. First, it was yes, then no, and then sure take a photo of whatever you want. I reassured him that the doorway was nothing special as far as security, so it should not be a problem. After I snapped my photo, he was on the phone to see whether photos this was acceptable. By the time he received his answer, we were gone.
By the time we reached the Plateau Mont-Royal & Mile End area, the temperature and the sunlight added to early Sunday closing hours, gave us reason to plan a return visit Monday for further exploration. The area did look intriguing. The contrast between old and new buildings was phenomenal.
Like other parts of the city, huge windowless walls that would otherwise be drab, are the canvas for huge lively murals. There is such a range in style, color, theme (if one is identifiable at all) and attitude. It is definitely individual choice as to whether these are beauties or just the best.
It seems the idea behind the strange staircases is to save space on the sidewalks. Why the stairs for the upstairs apartments are not inside the building is a mystery. However, as they are, it does make for an interesting view from the street. That said, I would not like to be the one moving the furniture; I would not even want to lug groceries up there.
As we walked around the area, we walked through a park. This was an interesting installation of public art. Straight back chairs situated in a semi-circle each had some object under it: a soccer ball, lunch bag, purse, book, all in bronze. It really raised the question when is art functional? Are thechairs usable or are they just art pieces? Not sure, I did a selfie with the chairs in the background. I turned out pretty good, I think.
Okay, there have been Christmas decorations on the streets, in buildings, but still it really hit home that the holiday season was quickly approaching when we saw a Christmas tree lot. All of those trees trussed up, ready to make it home with some person or people who will decorate it and make it a showpiece.
Reading about a church with a chapel dedicated to AIDS victims, we were curious to find it and see what they did. St. Sulpice’s Church does indeed have such a chapel, which they claim is the only one in the world. Within the church itself, there is a small indented side chapel. On one wall are the names of AIDS victims on a bronze wall plague. There are photos of some who have died on another wall. Unfortunately, it is all in French, so it is difficult to decipher exactly what the meaning is on each wall. The chapel itself is the usual religious chapel with a statue of Christ on a back wall altar. It is encouraging to see a Catholic church giving space to victims of this disease.
One final note, we returned to the metro to find an usual escalator. We have seen many moving sidewalks, especially in airports, but never have we seen one on an incline used in place of a traditional escalator.