A Day in Old Montreal (Montreal, Day 3)

Carter at the Montreal Science Centre

Carter at the Montreal Science Centre

Damn if my sister didn’t come up with the best idea of the trip: dangling the carrot of zip-lining to keep the kids in line. With that in mind, I purposely planned that activity as the last of the trip (not to mention it’s out of town and thus requires driving) and have threatened penalties of 10-15 minutes off trekking time for infractions ranging from stepping on my toe (still swollen from yesterday’s trapeze mishap) to sassy mouths. As of right now, Carter has been penalized 25 minutes and Micaela 15. They’re on their best behavior in the hopes of earning back some time before the all-important event tomorrow.

Our return to the hotel this evening has been incredibly serene, with each nibling trying desperately to keep his or her temper in check and to not, under any circumstances, make me have to repeat myself twice. They’re both also trying to figure out just how this time penalization will work, but I’m purposely remaining mysterious. Aside from a slightly surly Micaela when I mention her homework (“Mom said I can do it in the morning and be late for school. Mom said.“), it’s been rather pleasant. I must think of a way to enact such a system more often.

The kids have even gotten into a little bit of Montreal’s green spirit. They were fascinated when I pointed out the two buttons on the top of the toilet — one of #1, one for #2 — and they even agreed to reuse their towels more than once, as per the hotel’s suggestion card. Only problem is, the Embassy Suites doesn’t seem to be Carter examines alien life forms at the Montreal Science Centerfollowing its own guidelines, as we’ve found fresh towels in our room no matter how many we leave on the rack.

This morning we returned to Eggspectation, with visions of delectable breakfast goodies dancing in our heads. But our experience this time was quite a let-down. Our waitress didn’t seem to understand French or English, and our wait was far longer than our first wonderful visit Friday. At least we knew it wasn’t just us, because we heard other patrons around us muttering their discontent. But our meals — once they finally came — were delectable and left us full for our busy day. Plus the kids got a kick out of making fun of our incompetent waitress for the rest of the day. The old chestnut “I’ll give you a tip: Don’t eat yellow snow,” had them in stitches. Even recycled jokes can enjoy a second life.

Our day’s plans consisted mainly of Old Montreal and the quais, which all lay within walking distance of the hotel. First stop: Montreal Science Center, which had lured us with its exhibition of aliens. The main attraction turned out to be on the lame side, but all of us had a blast in the Science 26 area, a hands-on cavalcade that demonstrated the best of chemistry, physics, biology, and even telekinesis, the last of which was done via Mindball, a game in which you move a ball with your mind.

Alien at the Montreal Science CenterAs impressed as we were with the ingenious games for demonstrating complex concepts — a pillow bridge that demonstrated the strength of the keystone, a lever that lets you lift 113 kilograms (249 pounds), a mobile of space shuttles powered by the sun — we were surprised by the lack of explanation. Just how do you move a ball with your mind — and are you supposed to be pushing or pulling it? How do you get the vortex going? And why the heck is every third exhibit broken? The biggest disappointment was finding the tightrope bicycle closed.

Just a few wharfs away was the Labyrinth at Shed 16, an indoor maze set up in an abandoned hangar on Quai de l’Horloge. I’d read that we should prepare to spend at least an hour in there, maybe more, and we arrived with just that much time left in the day. After a rather poorly acted video introduction, we were set loose in the maze, which consisted of tarp panels for walls and the odd obstacle here and there. Four different rooms in the labyrinth contained riddles that, once solved and put together, would help us solve the overall mystery set forth in the video.

Micaela enjoying dinner in a cafe in Old MontrealCarter immediately took charge, forging ahead and shouting to us whenever he encountered a dead end, then heading back and quickly finding a new trail to blaze. The three of us got stuck going in a circle for a good 20 minutes before one of the labyrinth’s residents pointed us in the right direction.

I’ve never seen a maze of its kind. Even the Dole Pineapple hedge maze — reportedly the large hedge maze in the world — pales in comparison, both in size and difficulty. Aside from a few features that would leave them open to lawsuits if they were stateside, I’m not sure why there’s nothing like this back in the U.S. Once again, Montreal succeeded in outdoing itself.

Notre-Dame Basilica at night, Old Montreal, QuebecFor our final night in town, we celebrated with a pleasant meal at one of the least touristy restaurants we could find in that part of town, during which I let Micaela and Carter in on a few little secrets and told them stories that might get me in trouble down the road but tonight made for a memorable evening of bonding. To get even more brownie points in their favor, they even indulged me in sitting trough a full-length screening of the 3D U2 IMAX film playing at the science center.

They’re sleeping soundly now, as I too should be, as the alarm is set for the butt-crack of dawn so that we can get to the zip-line in time.

Day 1: An Egg-cellent Journée Dans La Ville
Day 2: Merde! Trapeze Drama
Day 3: A Day in Old Montreal
Day 4: Zip-Lining: Adventures in Trees

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