Sunday, March 20, 2011

Montréal & Vermont, Part 2

Day Three: Thursday
After a lazy morning once again full of Brenna's fabulous cooking (she made me absolutefavoritefoodever, eggies in a basket!*) we hit I-89 heading North! The drive was thankfully rain-free, navigating was easy, and crossing the border was a total non-issue. It was Austin's first time out of the country so that was a wonderful experience to share in!

After two hours we finally arrived in Montréal itself and, after a little negotiating with the road signs and stopping at the wrong hotel, we made it to our actual destination. The room was, as aforementioned, totally sweet. In some respect I felt like we were missing out on the "real" traveling grit (i.e. we were in the Westin, not a hostel) but both Austin and Brenna haven't traveled much so easing into Montréal was perhaps the best option. And we paid for the room post my Dad's incredible deal-striking abilities, so while we may have felt very spoiled it really meant sacrificing snack food for the rest of the semester. So, you know. We're still young and broke. 

After taking some time to settle in and unpack we hit the streets. Le Westin is in a prime spot on Rue Saint-Antoine in Vieux Montréal, so the streets were all cobbled and winding (and one-way) and the shops quaint and beautiful. Most marvelous for me was the close proximity of the Basilisque Notre-Dame de Montréal, the sprawling and beautiful cathedral just two blocks from the hotel. 
The exterior of La Basilisque Notre-Dame de Montréal

As a former student of Art History (thank you Mr. Watson!) I have nourished a longtime love and passion for Gothic architecture. Most Art History kids find it stuffy and boring (admittedly, cathedrals come right before the Renaissance in Art History survey courses) but I love the sweeping pointed arches and fenestrated rib vaults and flying buttresses (yes, it actually is a technical term, and if you want explanations ask in the comments!). There's something terribly romantic in the desire to ascend to the heavens, to create works of art that are worship in and of themselves. Ever detail of a vraiment Gothic cathedral is ornate and decorative which can be overwhelming but also is really complex and incredible to see- because there is so much to see! The obsession Europe had with upward architecture in the 14th and 15th centuries is neither wholly commendable or not, and these intricacies involving the construction of cathedrals make them all the more intriguing for me. Why do we believe the heavens are above us? Didn't we learn from the Tower of Babylon not to try to build a physical means to God? Why were the people of Amiens and Chartres so willing to pay everything they had to constructing a building they probably did not see finished?
The rose window in the ceiling.
The altar in the main sanctuary.
Whatever you believe, cathedrals are impressive and beautiful and complex buildings to experience. While the Montréal cathedral was no Notre-Dame de Paris it was lovely. The cathedral itself was constructed between 1883 and 1885 under the design of Henri Bouriché. My favorite part of the building surprising was not the main sanctuary, but the chapel behind it. In 1978 there was a fire that consumed the original Chapelle de Sacre Couer, so in 1982 it was rebuilt. The chapel allows for much more natural light (as opposed to the tradition "lux nova" or "sacred light" of the stained glass window variety) and is bathed in a golden hue. At the altar there is this enormous slab of bronze, cast in which are the very post-modern march of humankind towards the Holy Trinity. The 32 panels that comprise it were designed by the Montréal sculptor Charles Daudelin. While this chapel was by no means my preferred stuffy Gothic style it took the best aspects of cathedrals and made it modern and warm and divine. 

Brenna sitting in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.

After my wanderings inside the building we headed out, walking around Old Montréal for a while longer before heading back to the hotel. We dolled ourselves up for dinner and headed out into the cold in search of a cheap-ish meal. We finally settled on what turned out to be a Canadian chain called "Les 3 Brasseurs" where I had a great beverage but a terrible quesedilla. But, you know. You get what you pay for! 

Being tired and still thinking about the desires of humanity to go upwards into the sky (there it is, my mind in the clouds again) we decided on an early nightcap and went back to the hotel around ten. 

That's all for now, folks! Stay tuned!
-the wandering writer

current jam: "cathedrals" jump, little children (are you really surprised?)
best thing in my life right now: writing this and not my religion essay...oops.
days until departure: 77

*Ty if you're reading this, BE JEALOUS.

1 comment:

  1. I like how they call themselves a Canadian chain, but all their locations are in Montreal. Haha