Friday, August 28, 2009


My first stop in Monteal was Saint Joseph's Oratory, one of the National Historic sites of Canada. It all started with André Bessette who built a small chapel (now known as the Chapel of Brother André) on the side of a mountain near Notre Dame College. After a few enlargements, Saint Joseph's Oratory had become a complex that consists of a Crypt Church and Votive Chapel on the 1st level, the Exhibition on Brother André with a big terrace on the 2nd level, and the basilica on the 3rd level (take a 360 virtual tour to get to know each part and their relative locations). As the name indicated, the Oratory is delicated to Saint Joseph, Jesus's father, a patron saint of workers, which is relatively rare to see when many others are delicated to Notre Dame, the Holy Mother. The basilica that stands today was completed in 1967 and its dome is the third-largest in the world of its kind after the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro and Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. From a small chapel to nowaday the largest church in Canada, it was the healing power of Brother André that poured many pilgrims (handicapped, blind, ill, etc) in to his basilica. In the Votive Chapel, there is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who came to the basilica and were healed. Pope John Paul II deemed the miracles to be authentic and beatified Brother André in 1982.

I like the fact that everyone can find a shrine that is delicated to a Patron Saint/gardian of workers, the afflicted, etc to pray to in the Votive Chapel, otherwise God would be too busy to listen and to answer to every prayer. This Oratory used to be packed with pilgrims who were sick searching for a miracle recovery and now is packed with tourists who come for its magnificence. Despite the fact that the wooden stairs, from the parking area to the Crypt Church for pilgrims to kneel and pray, were preserved, it's rare to see one kneeling down and praying. On my way out, I saw a man kneeling on the wooden stairs, step by step, he prayed sincerely. A young man dressed nicely, healthy and handsome looking, had a great profile, drove an expensive car... it seemed he had it all and I wondered under what circumstances a man like him would pray in such devotion. It seems people in desperation no mater what they believe in, they all end up doing one thing: physically torturing themselves. I am not a religious person and not trying to blasphemy, but I don't know if such acts are specifically required by Christianity, Buddhism, Lamaism or any religions to make the prayers heard or it's just a consolation, a final resort the pilgrims try because they can't know for sure if God really hears them.

Notre Dame Basilica is by far the most beautiful church I've ever seen. From outside, the Gothic exterior of the basilica is average so I wasn't sure that I wanted to pay CAD$5 to get in at first but I did. My stereotype on most basilicas is that they are usually dark, colorless, white marble columns, majestic but stern and the only color inside seems coming from the stained glass windows. I was blown away by the colors and details of the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal. The stunning wood carving pulpit, gilded columns and the altar, all bathed in lights that sifted through stained glass windows from the ceiling and the side; dim fluorescent lights and warm candle lights flatters the hues of cobalt blue, green, red, and gold of the sanctuary. The cobalt blue ceiling and countless gilded stars create an illusion of a stary night sky at the moment when the sun has just set and the shining gold hues faded away leaving the blue blending into the dark. The heavenly glow sapphire blue in the background of the altar, where sculptures for the Eucharistic theme can be found is the highlight of the sanctuary that you'll have to see for yourself to believe how much detail there is.

In the back 0f the basilica, the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur gives a totally different atmosphere. If the basilica is an illusion of early stary night fall, the chapel will be the break of dawn. Brighter, but no stained glass windows that I could find, the natural light comes from the vaulted ceiling and the 2 levels crafted linden wood reflects the light on sculptures and vivifys them that makes the chapel look more like a modern gallery. The Notre-Dame Basilica de Montréal has more to offer, a wedding, concert (Pavarotti had a concert there in 1980) and sound and light show, visit their website for more info. I didn't have enough time to stay longer for its sound and light show. Instead, I went to Just for Laughs Comedy Festival at the St Denis theatre on St Denis Street with the St Denis family.

I enjoy the Just for Laughs TV show, yes we got them in Taiwan too, they always put the green monster crying " mommy, it's over!" at the end of the show and I feel the same way, it's too short and I want some more! But after watching the same seriers over and over again on TV, I just want to pick up the phone and call the producer to file a complain: it's supposed to be Just for Laughs not Just for Yawns, can't you guys come up with some other ideas? and then call the cable company threaten them that I am going to cut the cable if they are going to play the same show for the next 3 months. I was hoping to see them making some kind of jokes some where in Montréal when I found out the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival was held in Rue St-Denis on July 3-26. Rue St-Denis was closed for the event, bright color painted stilt walkers, musical performances, men made up as devils were wandering in the streets at night, etc, it was more like a carnival to me. I went for a comedy gala that was hosted by Lewis Black with the St-Denis family. I didn't get the jokes sometimes because of language barriers and cultural differences, and I was truely sorry for that I kept bothering my friend with the question "who is that guy they are making fun of?" It seemed to me that sarcasm was the only way the comedians could do to make people laugh in the gala. I don't know since when sarcasm has become a form of humor and has been practiced worldwide. I guess it's just like the funny clips they made in the streets, watching people embarrassing themselves is funny; I wonder would the term Schadenfreude and Sarcasm be catagorized into those happy words or they've already in that category?

Parking in downtown Montréal was a nightmare! The street parking with coin operated meters were money suckers, it's a design to evict cars from the city and to increase revenue of the government exponentially as the ticket for an expired parking could be outrageous. It's difficult for me to estimate exactly how long I would stay and tour around an area, given the fact that I could only pay my parking at the exact block where my car was parked, so I fed the machine as much as possible before leaving and kept watching my time anxiously. A friend of mine gave me his parking spot on Rue de Bullion where parking is free for those who live there. I parked my rental car there overnight anxiously because of the notorious car vandalism stories in downtown Montréal. The next morning I went to my car, from far away it looked still intact, a good sign, but soon I saw ticket on my windshield, a CAD$42 ticket for parking there after 9:00AM on Saturday! I was only about 30 mins late and I had a New Jersey plate on my car, come on gave me a break! I wish I had found this great article regarding parking in downtown Montreal on trip advisor earlier.

I went to the Biodome but it was full of kids lining up to get inside, so I gave up and walked toward my car then I realized that I'd just paid CAD$ 10 for parking and it's good until midnight, it would be a great change to experience the metro system in Montréal. I bought a one day pass from a ticket booth, CAD$ 9, a single ride $2.75. Unlike the one day pass in NYC, the man gave me a paper that had the month and date of purchase scraped off. By showing the ticket to the staff in booths , they would open the gate for you to get in or out. The metro system in Montréal is a modern, artistic underground city, shopping malls built just above the railway, you can buy almost anything you want without stepping out of stations. I can see how people move in this underground city in a harsh long winter.

Situated between the St Lawrence river and the downtown skycrapers Old Montréal is a lovely historic tourist attraction, a picturesque area where artists are inspired to create their artworks. Restaurants, gift shops are often seen in the painting as background, it's mesmerizing by looking at the painting and the street: are those people in the street the creation come to live or they are walking into the painting.


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kyle said...

This totally cool!

I haven't been to the place but I buy stuff on Web shopping montreal, hopefully soon!

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