Montreal, Monday Sept. 29
The Montreal Underground was talked about as a marvel of shops, offices, and restaurants below ground level linking downtown buildings. Without having seen it, we envisioned something grand; some combination of Twin City skyways, Calgary Plus 15s, a San Antonio river walk only enclosed. Maybe we should have left our expectations behind and have just approached it without pre-conceptions.
There were areas of light, open shopping and restaurants. But they were more limited. We had difficulty finding the entrances. We had a map indicating where entrances were supposed to be. Even with that, signage (to us anyway) was difficult to find.
In the afternoon,we spent 15 minutes wandering around Montreal University’s Sherbrooke Hall where map indicated an entrance should be. Eventually we asked two service workers for assistance just to get out of the building and back onto the street. They directed us to a door we had not used, thinking it was only an emergency exit. Well, it did have French words that seemed to indicate that. Evidently, the alarms only rang at night and on weekends.
When we entered at the convention center first thing in the morning, another supposed entrance, we again needed to find a guide to inform us where it was. Here, the entrance led to a series of underground tunnels without shops, restaurants, or anything. The tunnels were wide and modern, but not many people. After several blocks of wrong turns and dead ends, we made our way to an area of shops, etc.
This, Place Villa Marie, was under a series of modern high-rises and was an obvious shopping area. It even had a Dunkin Donuts where we re-grouped. We decided to head outside and enjoy city architecture. This was the newer downtown, instead of Old Montreal of tourists, with offices, churches, plazas, etc. We wandered for quite a while, making our way up to McGill University and its Redpath Museum.
McGill is well-respected and large. Redpath Museum goes back to the early days of the institution when an wealthy trustee had the museum built as an inducement to keep the then President John Dawson from accepting an offer from Princeton. Evidently Dawson had a passion for science and was a collector of some renown at that time. Building the museum for Dawson’s collection was sufficient to keep him here. The museum is noted for a large collection of items but for a visitor it was less than exciting. But as a destination, it got us out walking for several hours to reach it and get back.
Returning was going to be via the Underground and that Sherbrooke Hall entrance mentioned above. After that abortive effort, we went back outside and eventually found Complexe Desjardins, another complex of high-rise offices with a lower level of shops and restaurants. From here, we had better luck returning to the Convention Center which was only a few blocks away, again by underground tunnels without shops, etc.
So, our day was spent, kind of, doing as we expected, exploring the Montreal Underground. My advice to future visitors, forget it unless it is freezing outside. And check out maps in advance; unlike the Twin Cities skyways, the Underground leaves large swaths of the downtown area unconnected.
So ends our Montreal portion of the trip. We leave you with two photos of Montreal icons that we saw from a distance, without personally viewing it. The Biosphere is a dome left over from the 1967 Expo with environmental displays. The cross is 100 feet tall and is on top of Mont Royal, looking down on Montreal and McGill University.
Ed and Chris 9/29 10 pm