… that banks would stop employing cashiers who wear low-cut tee-shirts. When this one today leant over the counter to give me my US dollars in a fashion so that we could count them together, I was totally distracted and I have no idea how much she gave me.
It’s definitely bad for my health, all of this.
Last night was slightly better. I slept all the way through until the racket from the fridge and the air-conditioning awoke me at about 04:00. But I soon went back to sleep until the alarms went off.
Breakfast for some reason didn’t start to be served until 08:00 so I had plenty of time to attack the notes from yesterday, and I’d even finished by the time that they opened the dining room, which is always encouraging.
Afterwards, I had a shower and washed my clothes from yesterday. I’ll be washing myself away at this rate if it keeps on like this.
A little later, I went out into town, stopping off for a bottle of water and to explore the shopping mall just down the road.
And why is shopping in North America so boring? Well, when you’ve seen one bunch of shops, you’ve seen a mall.
I’ll get my coat.
Down the road at the foot of the hill by the Parc Viger is this beautiful building.
Dating from the early years of the 20th Century, it was formerly the Montreal Technical School but today it’s the BANQ – the Bibiliothèque and Archives National de Québec.
I’ve taken shelter there from the rain once a few years ago, but I’ve never actually visited it. However, it is my destination for this morning.
While you admire one of the most beautiful interiors that I have ever seen, let me tell you my story.
Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a few years ago I wrote a pile of stuff about the Chemin du Roy, the road that was built by Pierre Robineau de Bécancour and Jean Eustache Lanouiller in he early 18th Century to link Montréal and Québec
I wrote at the time that I would one day have to visit the National Archives to find the original maps of the route, because much has been lost in the subsequent 300 years.
So here I am.
But I’m in for a massive disappointment.
There are indeed record of the route, that’s for sure. But they are held at the archives site in Québec, not Montreal. So I need to go there instead.
And where are the BANQ archives in Québec? Why, on the campus at the University of Laval of course.
Ring any bells?
But all is not lost. It wasn’t a total waste of time.
I’ve been wondering for years about the track arrangements at the Gare Viger – how the platforms were actually laid out in relation to the buildings, and here I struck gold.
On the wall was an exhibition of the area, and one of the exhibits was a map of the area 100 years or so ago which showed everything that I wanted to know.
The station was subsequently modernised and extended, and this meant that the track layout needed to be changed.
And while I wasn’t able to see a plan of how the station layout was configured afterwards, there was a handy aerial photograph hanging on the wall that showed at least some of the train sheds.
So I might not be any the wiser, but I’m certainly better-informed.
The Gare Viger dates from the turn of the 20th Century. But before this, there was an earlier Canadian Pacific railway station in the eastern side of the city – the Gare Dalhousie.
It was from here that the first trans-continental train set out in 1886 (and we’ve all noticed that, once again, the Maritime Provinces have been totally ignored by the official Canadian History. According to them, there’s nothing except eskimoes and indians east of Montreal and they don’t count for anything)
After the opening of the Gare Viger it became a freight depot and then an industrial warehouse. However it’s recently undergone a programme of renovation and they have done a good job here.
It’s now a circus school, and seeing as it was formerly a Canadian Pacific building, that is quite appropriate. Clowns should feel right at home here.
Down on the docks Oakglen is still there, as we might expect, but we have another bulk carrier down at the far end.
She’s the Gullwing, a Maltese bulk-carrier of 39000 tonnes and was built in 2011, although you might not think it.
She’s come in from Quebec after an exhausting tour around the Pacific, and were I going to visit my friend Rhys I would hop aboard because according to the port authorities her next stop is Charleston in South Carolina.
Also in the far end of the harbour was a huge MSC container ship.
No chance of reading its name from here unfortunately but according to the port records, there’s an MSC Alyssa in port and she seems to fit the bill.
She’s of 61500 tonnes and has arrived from Liverpool. And were I to want to go back to Leuven for my next hospital appointment I would immediately leap aboard, because her next port of call is Antwerp.
The brats still aren’t back at school yet in Montreal, and so the children’s entertainment is in full swing.
I was impressed by the pirate ships, and even more impressed by the fact that the kids were being allowed to swing on ropes and slide down zip wires and all of that.
Can you imagine that in the stupid nanny-state UK where the ridiculous Health and Safety rules are such that you even need a fire safety certificate to wave a flag at a football match.
But I haven’t come here to waste my time.
I had it on good authority that there was a cruise ship in town ready to do a voyage down the St Lawrence and the Eastern seaboard of the USA, and so I went for a look.
And here we have the Seabourn Quest, all 32,500 tonnes of her and built as recently as 2011, which is quite modern for a cruise ship. We’ve seen some thoroughly ancient and disreputable ones in our time.
Unfortunately the quay was heavily guarded so if Strawberry Moose and I want to nip aboard, we’d have to buy some tickets.
The little tender alongside her is the Juno Marie.
She’s officially described as a tanker, and being small like this, her task is very likely to be to fuel up the larger ships in the docks as they arrive so that they are ready to set sail as quickly as possible.
There are a few of these little tankers in port and we’ve seen at least one of them before.
When I was here last October I’d finally managed to make it to the real centre of the city where it all was happening back in the 17th Century but I didn’t have time to go far.
One of the places that I hadn’t seen was the old Ursuline convent, or what remains of it.
This organisation of the “Grey Nuns” was founded here in Montreal in 1737 by Marguerite d’Youville and they ended up over time with quite an impressive range of buildings here.
Their claim to fame is that they were the first female religious organisation to undertake the full range of social and charitable aims.
There had been many people engaged in these tasks before, and we’ve talked in the past about people like Marguerite Bourgeoys.
But they just had their little niche of interest, not the whole range.
There was a large hospital on the site too, as well as a very large and impressive church, if the old drawings are anything to go by.
But as the city expanded northwards and eastwards away from the river, and as the port of Montreal expanded along the banks, it was deemed necessary to make a new road network connecting the two.
And so the Ursulines had to go, and so did some of their buildings.
Luckily, not all was demolished. There are still some remains of the impressive buildings that are now classed as Historical Monuments.
And if you look very carefully in the roadway, you’ll see lines of granite setts – there are a couple in the photo here.
When they were doing some roadworks a while ago they came across the foundations of the old walls that had been demolished. They have marked them out on the road with the granite setts so that you can see the extent of the former buildings
As I was making my way round to the Place d’Youville I noticed this building in the distance.
Whilst the building itself is impressive, the exciting thing about it is that over the door is carved the legend “Grand Trunk”.
This was one of the earliest of the main-line railway companies that was involved in the “railway wars” in Canada at the end of the 19th Century.
This was their magnificent Head Office in the Rue McGill, built 1899-1902.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long. The Grand Trunk was one of the biggest losers in the Railway War and it was coming back from a very unsuccessful fund-raising trip in Europe in 1912 that its president, Charles Hays, was drowned on the Titanic.
The company quickly went bankrupt and was taken over by the Government, forming part of the Canadian National rail network.
Montreal these days is basically a very large island, but back in the 16th Century it was several small ones.
The original settlement was on a small island bounded by the St Lawrence River and the Riviere St Pierre.
That latter river was eventually built over, and today, it’s the Place d’Youville, named for our friend Marguerite.
When we were here in October last year, you will remember seeing the excavations that were taking place just here.
This was the site of the city’s first indoor covered market which later became the Parliament Building for the country.
However the building was destroyed in 1849 in the riots that followed the passing of an Act emancipating the rebels of the 1830s and was never rebuilt. The Government of Canada moved elsewhere, much to the chagrin of the Québecois.
A fire station was erected here in 1903 – 54 years too late to save the Parliament building unfortunately.
Today the fire brigade has moved elsewhere and the building is now a museum. I would have liked to have gone for a look around but I was rather pushed for time.
I still have quite a lot to do today and it’s late.
While I was standing by the side of the road taking photographs, I was interrupted by a street washer.
Mind you, he didn’t let me interrupt him, and carried on with whatever he was doing.
As a result, not only did I have a complimentary shoe-wash I had a complimentary ankle wash too and that certainly different. And it wasn’t just me either. Several other passers-by were in the same boat.
Further interruptions were the order of the day too.
While I was a-wandering a little further on (which is rather better than walking by St Paul’s), I heard the familiar wail of a diesel locomotive siren in the distance so I legged it rather rapidly down the street.
Not rapidly enough, as it happens. I was defeated by the pair of locomotives, 4707 and his friend, disappearing into the distance down towards the dock.
And when I return home and have access to myJane’s Train Recognition Guide I’ll tell you all about them.
Instead, I went back to the Place d’Youville and to photograph the stele. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that last year when I was here it was all fenced off and it was impossible to take a proper photo.
So having done that, Bane of Britain wandered away from the site, without actually going over there to read the plaque to discover what it says.
I really don’t know why you lot pay me, honestly I don’t.
You DO pay me, don’t you? All you need to do is to click on one of the links at the side and make your next order from Amazon that way. I receive a small commission on your orders, but it costs you nothing at all.
I’m not sure at all what was going on here.
There I was, standing on the edge of the kerb and three or four fire engines pulled up, one after the other. Their blue and red flashing lights blazing away.
They performed some kind of danse macabre in the street and I’ve no idea why. There was nothing like any emergency that I could see in the vicinity and they didn’t seem to be in too much hurry.
I turned my attention to the building that I had come here to see – the old Customs House.
Ideally situated at the exit to the harbour, nothing could come into port without paying the appropriate duty to the Government and this was where they did it.
The Customs people aren’t there now- they’ve moved on down the road into a new modern building that is 10timesasbig, even though trade in the port has declined.
By now, my stomach was thinking that my throat had been cut and I needed to organise some food.
Not round here though as I still had some important things to do.
So onto the Metro at Victoria-OACI and off to Namur (the Metro station, not the town in Belgium) and the big Walmart there. But leaving the metro station was really difficult. The way that the doors are positioned there was a howling gale every time someone opened one of them and it was something of a struggle to pass through.
It all seems to have changed there. New buildings and the like and I couldn’t at first get my bearings. But there’s a Subway at the bottom end of the shopping complex so I installed myself there.
The restaurant next door had a free wifi service so I was able to patch in there and pick up the news.
It was a long hike to Walmart from there – longer than I remember it being – and it was something of a disappointment when I arrived. It seems to me that there are fewer and fewer items on the shelves these days and the place is looking rather untidy.
There weren’t all that many customers there either and I’ve no idea why.
There wasn’t as much choice as I was hoping but I managed eventually to kit myself out with the remainder of the articles that I need. Whether it’s all suitable I really don’t know, but I can’t do any better than this.
But here’s a shop that I hadn’t seen before, even though the staff tell me that they have been here for four years.
It’s called the Bulk Barn and it’s very reminiscent of the old “Weigh and Save” shops that we had in the UK in the late 70s and 80s.
And I’ll make a note of this place because they had everything in there that I could possibly use, including dehydrated vegetables for travelling purposes.
I’ll have to check to see if there are any of these places anywhere else on my route around Canada in the future.
By now it was rush hour and time for me to be heading off.
I was lucky that I was on the train because had I been in a car I would probably still be there now judging by the amount of traffic on the Boulevard Decarie.
Total gridlock and that’s the kind of thing that makes me glad that I don’t live in a city these days. How would I cope with all of this.
Back at my hotel I organised my suitcase yet again to take into account my recent purchases. This suitcase is becoming rather uncomfortably full.
There was some work that needed to be done, so I caught up with that, and then decided to go out for tea.
I walked the entire length of the rue St Catherine Est from my hotel almost all the way down to the bridge and I was not alone.
Apparently the students from McGill University are having their induction week this week and it’s party, party, party. Hordes of them freaking out all over the place.
It made me feel quite old to watch them. These days they don’t look anything like 18 year-olds at all and that’s all very confusing.
But the big surprise for me was the pizza place that was advertising vegan pizzas – yes, vegan pizzas! I’ve never ever seen vegan pizzas advertised in a mainstream pizza place before so I went in to give the place some support.
And delicious it was too.
That was me organised (such as I can be) for the day. I retreated to my hotel and decided to have an early night. I need it too after all of this.