MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada: Three Days in May, Day 1


Tulips near entrance to Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I have only just realized that the name Montreal is actually the French version of “Mount Royal” which is the wooded hill (not really a mountain) that rises in the center of the city. I also just realized that Montreal is an island, sitting in the middle of the mighty St. Lawrence River, which explains its history as a seaport and trading center and the cobblestone streets and old houses, now a thriving tourist center, adjacent to the old port.  I had never visited Montreal, so when my husband, Art, had a business trip scheduled there, I decided to tag along.
Place d'Armes in front of Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal
We arrived in the rain, reminding me that spring comes late to northern latitudes. Tulips were blooming, birds singing, and trees just coming into bud. So, because it was wet and cold, we set off on our first day for mostly indoor sightseeing. After a hearty breakfast, we attended mass at the Notre Dame Basilica, just a short walk from our hotel at the edge of downtown.
Intrerior of Notre Dame Basilica
 One can visit the Basilica at other times of day, but we wanted to hear the choir and pipe organ and to experience the Basilica as a living entity. While listening to the music and the service (in French) we took in the splendor of the giant blue dome, elaborate wood carvings, colorful paintings and stained glass. One can’t help feeling uplifted in such a magnificent place.
Tropical Butterflies at the Insectarium
For the afternoon, we got a ride (via Uber) to the Botanical Garden, about a twenty minute trip on the eastern part of the city, located across from the Olympic Stadium. We stopped first at the Insectarium, an amazing collection of butterflies, moths, beetles and all sorts of insects. 
Stick Insect
Among the live insects on display were various stick insects, so well camouflaged that at first it seemed that the display was just a web of leaves and branches–until the insects moved their thin stick-like limbs and bodies. The mounted insects, grouped by type, location, adaptations for survival, provided the opportunity to marvel at the enormous variety of life on earth.
Begonia Greenhouse in Botanical Garden
 From the Insectarium, we walked through the Botanical Garden to the greenhouses–each devoted to a different plant type and habitat. Some, like the desert and semi-tropical plants, reminded us of our garden at home in California, and the last one displayed bonsai trees, some more than fifty years old and still miniature.  We were particularly fascinated by the greenhouse devoted to nothing but begonias. We never knew there were so many kinds.
Begonia leaves
The greenhouses are at the main entrance to the Botanical Garden where there is also an extensive gift shop and a coffee shop.
At Bonaparte Restaurant
We finished the day with an elegant dinner at Bonaparte’s in Old Montreal.
We stayed at the Hyatt, at the edge of Montreal’s downtown and within easy walking distance of Old Montreal and most of the museums in the city.
   

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