Sunday, September 18, 2011

Montreal: Puffins, Penguins, and Pitcher Plants

If I ate too much in Montreal, I must have cancelled it out walking. Montreal has some delightful brightly colored buildings and old architecture. Rue Duluth, off of Boulevard St. Laurent, was a street of eccentric facades with elaborate murals and a restaurant resembling a ship. We found a shop devoted entirely to things made of alpaca wool, including small alpacas.

On the second day in Montreal, Dave and I wandered the paths of Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. Inside of the conservatories, we saw the flora of the rainforests and bananas growing in a peculiar upward fashion that is apparently normal for bananas.

From across a room a spotted a large terrarium containing some of my pitcher plant Angelina’s estranged cousins.

I didn’t have to imagine the sort of insects that would get swallowed up in those pelican-mouthed plants; I saw them shortly after in the Insectarium. Most of the bugs in the Insectarium were tacked up under glass, save a few startling tarantulas tickling the sides of their tanks. Some of the tacked up critters made me wonder if Fern Gully was based on a true story.

Nature never ceases to astound me.

The Botanical Gardens provided me with dozens of opportunities to dust off my French skills, to Dave’s dismay. I used every opportunity to ask the whereabouts of the W.C. and order ice cream flavors that I don’t know the words for. Every time I got stuck, I found myself looking to Dave as though he would explain the whole situation in Spanish and everything would be alright.

We spent about a quarter of our time outdoors photographing this fat squirrel eating cookies.

After a long walk through the bonsai forest and the thrills of the shrub garden, we decided to take a dinner break. Chinese lanterns are lit up throughout the botanical garden when the sun goes down and I intended to see them glow. We asked a woman at the information desk where we could have a quick dinner before the lanterns lit up, and the woman at the desk directed us to Sherbrook, an alleged commercial street full of eateries. This barren highway called Sherbrook led to a steakhouse in one direction and tumble weeds and broken dreams in the other.

By the time we gave up on walking this road to nowhere, we were too famished to look at anything at all.

Dave and I spend the rainy last day in Montreal at the Biodome, a giant dome in Olympic Park that replicates five different ecosystems and fills them with native plants, birds, and the occasional porcupine. As with any animal sanctuary, the best room replicated the artic climate and was populated by penguins. Luckily for us, we arrived at feeding time for the aquatic birds.

The puffins are my favorite. They flap their wings like undersea pterodactyls when they swim after scattered scallop shells. When on land, Dave sees the look of British royalty in their faces, forced to endure the humiliation of sharing a room with the common mure.

You can read about food and chocolate in Montreal in my last two posts.

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