Montreal Saturday Sept.27
I wonder how many gazillion photos and videos are taken each day? We certainly took more than our share today. Another gorgeous day, sunny, slight wind, and temps ranging from 60-80. We were up and out to spend the day at the Olympic Park/Biodome/Olympic Tower/Botanical Garden all right next to each other.
The 1976 Summer Olympics were held in Montreal, and as usual for such events, bunches of money were spent to spruce up the town and build new arenas, etc. Olympic Park was the host area for most of the games. The Tower was built as part of the stadium, the velodrome was converted to today’s Biodome, and other facilities were constructed in this Olympic Park area. When we visited today, construction maintenance was visible in many areas. I will not go into details about the stadium; it has had numerous construction issues and its major tenant, Major League Baseball Expos departed at the end of 2004 for Washington D.C.
Our first stop was the Olympic Tower. We arrived in the parking lot at 9:07 A.M. and were the first car parked in this cavernous, underground parking garage. The Olympic Tower is the tallest inclined structure in the world-this claim is Guinness World Record certified. It is at a 45 degree angle! The Leaning Tower of Pisa is only 5 degrees. It is 540 feet high. The glass enclosed funicular that takes you to the top can hold 76 people. We were the only two in our ride up.
Picture taking was great. The glass on the enclosed cabin was clean, although the glass at the observatory level 540 feet was pretty buggy. The windows do swing open and window cleaners attach a safety harness when they lean out to clean the glass. (I asked, not that we observed them doing it.) Smog in the area was quite visible over the downtown but still you could see in all directions.
Of course this is not cheap. Montreal must not subsidize its civic attractions. The cost to visit the Tower, the Biodome and the Botanical Garden was $50 for one person plus $15 for parking. We made sure to make a full day of activities here.
The Biodome could be summarized as an indoor conservatory and zoo. It has separate regions such as tropical rainforest, Canadian forest, sub-polar regions and a display about earth’s formation and fossils. As we walked along the pathway, we also watched the numerous families enjoying a day’s outing.
Back outside, we wandered around Olympic Park. Olympic Park now consists of the Tower, Biodome, the stadium, planetarium, ice arena, outdoor stadium, tennis courts, sports clinics and outdoor entertainment areas, etc. We walked over to the corner where the Olympic Rings and logo were now located.
For lunch, we went exploring down the major street that brought us to Olympic Park. On our drive here we had not been focusing on restaurants, simply destination. We picked a direction and luckily came across a local restaurant within two blocks of Olympic Park. It was a nice combination of fast food burgers (Ed) and sit down breakfast service (Chris). I took one of the basic options listed on the display board and managed to order and pay without confusion. The place was crowded, one set of four guys who were in loading up on lunch were from a team working on setting up logistics for Sunday’s Montreal Marathon. We had just heard about it and will need to adjust our Sunday activities to not get caught in street closings.
The Montreal Botanical Garden is across the street from Olympic Park. The largest area of display is more like an arboretum with walking paths through various species of trees and shrubs. Indoors, they have displays of bonsai, tropical plants, desert plants, etc. The University of Montreal has a section devoted to biodiversity.
Back outside, the Gardens have a Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, and First Nations Garden. Special display gardens included sections on toxic plants, medicinal plants, perennials, useful plants, shrubs, lilacs, etc. We spent several hours wandering around the gardens and under the tree-shaded canopy, periodically relaxing in the chairs and benches scattered throughout. Other people had the same idea, we came across individuals just sitting and reading in their favorite chair.
There was a dilemma though. The Gardens have an illuminated display in the Japanese and Chinese Gardens beginning at dusk. That was still a few hours away. In addition, the car was parked a few blocks away in the huge underground garage that might not be inviting to walk to when it was dark. We decided to walk to the car now, find another restaurant for a light snack and re-park the car in the Gardens parking lot.
Down the street in the other direction we found a Tim Horton’s and shared a sandwich and their hot kettle chips. Dessert was a donut and milk. Back at the Gardens, we parked in the lot easily and returned for more strolling and sitting. We chose a bench facing the setting sun and with many like-minded folks, most of whom had cameras, waited out the sunset.
As dusk was coming on, we headed back to the Japanese and Chinese gardens. Wow. All of a sudden all of Montreal had arrived at the Gardens. This night of illuminations is a big deal. Throngs were crowding the paths. Where did they all come from? The areas we had just inhabited, while people were present, were nothing like this. Well, they were coming just for the evening display and paying full price. Even when we left at 8 P.M., there were several hundred people still lined up to get their tickets.
The Chinese garden area was bright and colorful with lighted lanterns and fanciful lighted animals decorating the pathways. We slogged along in the slow-moving crowd, taking our pictures and waiting for others to take theirs. The Japanese garden was shadows and light, soft music and lights fading in and out on trees and shrubs. The Garden website, listed below, has a brief video highlighting the illuminations that you might be interested in. (The show runs from Sept. 5 to Nov. 2.)
Moving our car was a smart decision. It was dark and the lot here was swarming with cars driving around the aisles waiting to pounce on an open spot. Our ride back to the hotel gave us a chance to experience urban traffic, including bicyclists (it was still 70 degrees out) of whom only two of 30-40 were using lights. Teamwork driving was essential to spot street names, bicyclists, road work, etc. Luckily we have practice at that.
Ed and Chris Sunday 9/28 9:30 A.M