Monday, October 30, 2006

It's expensive, but the service is bad

That would be an accurate description of the bus service in Montreal. How we came to learn this is unfortunate. We decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, so we strolled to the Metro station, only to discover that the trains were not running, due to "complications." "Take the bus" the woman told us. That sounded sensible until we tried to take the bus. The bus did not come. And did not come. When it finally did come, we had to pay a lot of money. Then we had to transfer to another bus, which never came, so we walked and walked and walked in the freezing weather.

The Botanical Gardens were not in bloom, but there was plenty to see, nonetheless. Both the Japanese Garden and the Chinese Garden are beautiful, especially the Chinese Garden. We didn't make it to any of the greenhouses, to our dismay, but we did see a wonderful First Nations garden, and we visited the insectarium. I could have spent the entire day there, looking at the social insect exhibits and the scarab beetles. This was an amazing museum.

But the best was yet to come. As the sun set, we walked along a lantern-lit path to the annual festival, "The Magic of Lanterns." This year's theme is "Chinese Celebrations." "The Magic of Lanterns" is too stunning to even describe. Hundreds of lanterns, made in Shanghai and shipped by boat to Montreal, represent everything from acrobats to penguins. Most of the lanterns are placed over water, so the view is of both the lanterns and their reflections.

It is hard for me to get a feel for Montreal, and I'm sure that part of the reason is that I have been so ill since I arrived here. It is hard for me to function with this cold, and cold medicine is doing very little for me.

But I think there is more to it than that. All that I have ever heard is that Montreal is "like Paris." Not. Yes, many people speak French here, but that is about the only similarity I have found so far. Montreal is lovely, but not in the way that Paris is. What could be?

We have encountered some odd stairways here; they seem to have been designed for snakes rather than people. There is also a scarcity of trash receptacles (but a minimum of litter), a bigger scarcity of pharmacies, and no right of way for pedestrians. The trees are beautiful, and many of the apartment buildings are very attractive.

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