Friday, October 24, 2008

On the road in Montreal

I’m back home now from my trip to Montreal. There was so much to see and do there that it was hard to decide. I did lots of sight-seeing. Highlights were the hike I took through Parc du Mont Royal. The foliage is absolutely beautiful this time of year and the fall leaves, all gold and orange and red, were falling from the trees like snow. There’s a long staircase that goes up to the top of the hill and overlooks the entire city. The view was breathtaking.

I was staying in an excellent location right in Downtown Montreal which had a ton of great museums and restaurants as well as fantastic architecture to look at. Another area that I really loved was Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) which had the Notre Dame Basilica, Clock tower, Hotel de Ville and lots of other Neo-Classical buildings to admire.

Botanical Gardens

Over the weekend I went to the Botanical Garden, the Insectarium and the Biodome. You can buy a combo ticket for all three of these places which is what I did. The woman at the ticket booth told me that I could see all of these places in one day but this turned out to be absolutely insane!!! The Botanical Garden is enormous and involves a ton of walking plus it’s the type of place that you don’t want to rush through. You could literally spend the entire day here and still not see the whole thing. It is recognized as one of the world’s finest and largest botanical gardens and I know I mentioned my previous blog that I am not much of a “plant person” but I was definitely blown away. (The one plant that I own has been sitting in a bucket of water in my apartment while I’ve been traveling and it has actually never looked better. I feel a little insulted that it has been thriving in my absence. )

The gardens and arboretum were impressively beautiful and there were also 10 greenhouses as well as various art exhibitions in some of their thematic gardens, and the Tree House which has a permanent interactive exhibit and activities for kids. If you want to see it all while avoiding the painful sensation that your legs are going to fall off, I’d recommend hopping on and off the mini-train which drives around the park. This is an especially good idea if you have kids.

I also thought that it was nice that they had a “Courtyard of the Senses.” This is a little area where everything is at wheelchair/child height and you are encouraged to touch and smell the plants and flowers. The labels are also in Braille and the path is wheelchair accessible.

My favorite garden in the park was the Chinese Garden. Most of the park closed at 5 o’clock but they kept Chinese Garden open until 9. When the sun went down, all of the lanterns lit up and it was really pretty.

The park has a free shuttle bus which will take you over to the Olympic Stadium and the Biodome which was my next stop. I guess the Biodome could be described as an indoor zoo. It has these faux-natural depictions of four ecosystems. It’s a good rainy day activity but if you’re looking to occupy your kids for an entire day then this is not the place to go. You can see the whole thing in one hour and don’t expect to see any large animals. The biggest animal I saw was a sea otter. The Madagascar exhibit was pretty disappointing too. It was basically a small room with about 3 or 4 lemurs sitting in a tree. I am a little biased though, since I was just working on the Madagascar exhibit at the Bronx Zoo back in June and it is a million times better than the Biodome’s exhibit (I’ve been meaning to write a new blog about the opening of this exhibit so check back in the near future to read all about it!).

One of the things I did like about the Biodome was the graphics in the Marine Ecosystem. They had both overhead and floor graphics and the floor tiles had a rock and water design. Placement of graphics in Aquarium settings is always tricky because everyone tends to lean on the handrail, which is the typical placement for animal ID’s, and then no one can read them. The Biodome had ID’s overhead and on the floor which was pretty clever since most people were looking down to see the fish.

After zipping through the Biodome I hopped back on the shuttle to the Insectarium. My expectations were that it was either going to be A) Creepy. or B)Gross. But to my surprise it was C) None of the Above. The museum was actually quite phenomenal. It had live insect displays as well as 160,000 fantastic mounted specimens throughout the entire space.     
From my observation, the kids absolutely loved it and so did I. The museum was extremely kid-friendly (because kids love bugs) and there were lots of low to the ground insect/kid height displays (see image on the left) which I never would have noticed if one little girl didn’t slam into my knees and start clapping and jumping up and down when she saw it. I thought these ground displays were very clever and a nice touch.

This butterfly display in the image here shows the butterfly migration from Canada through the United States to Mexico. I found this particularly interesting because I followed a similar migration pattern although not in the same order. I’d have to say the way the butterflies do it is much better.

Which brings me to my travel tips for this week….

1) I do not recommend traveling straight from a country that is typical 90 degrees every day to a country that is typically 40 degrees every day. This is very painful.
2) Tell immigration that you are a tourist even if you are traveling for business. This will save you a lot of time and frustration and will prevent you from being detained for not having a work permit while you watch from a glass room everyone else who is allowed to enter the country.
3) Become bilingual OR at least learn how to say “I am not a spy who is trying to steal company secrets” in both Spanish and French.
4) Once again…Don’t fly on Delta. If you have no other choice then arrive at the airport an hour earlier than the recommended 1 hour before your flight’s departure or else you will be running to board your flight while they are announcing your name throughout the entire airport. Their check-in process and security is always a disorganized mess no matter what airport.
So that’s it for now for my “On the Road” adventures. It’s been 8 weeks, about 15 cities, 16 flights and 10 hotels. I’m happy to say I made it home in one piece which is pretty impressive since the airline literally made me sign a waiver to release the remains of my suitcase and my shoes completely disintegrated while still on my feet. It’s been a lot of fun and an amazing experience but now I am looking forward to getting reacquainted with my couch!

No comments:

Post a Comment