For some reason, I was up earlier than usual, and decided to go to Ile Sainte-Helene. The island has seen a lot different uses over the years – Aboriginal encampment, military post – but for me the one I remember most is the site of Expo ’67.

I was 6 years old when Expo was on, and I’ve never been to the site before now, but somehow the event has held some fascination for me. The optimism, the late 60s styling, the international flavour – not sure if it’s any one of those, or all of them, but I think the big one is the design.

One of the most prominent designers, of course, is R. Buckminster Fuller, or “Bucky” as he was sometimes known. His design for the geodesic dome of the US Pavilion is still standing:

Also extant are a number of pieces of statuary that I assume were on the original site as well, but don’t have labels for some reason:

I was at the park by about 8:00, so there was almost no activity – at least little human activity anyway:

Later that morning, after having made a circuit of the entire island snapping away, I visited a couple of the museums. The first was the Biosphere, tucked into Bucky’s dome. It has a number of interesting environmentally-themed exhibits, including one that had dress designs using repurposed materials. Here’s one made entirely out of books, for example:

But the best part of that museum, at least for me, was the view from the observation deck. It’s an odd feeling being inside the dome but outdoors; everywhere you look, your vision is obscured by that triangular grid. Reminds me of an old Star Trek episode, The Tholian Web:

On to the Stewart Museum, which has been improving its digs in an old military barracks and fort built in the early 1800s. There are a number of interesting artifacts dating all the way back to the first European encounters with the new world. (Sorry, no pictures – my bag had to be checked, and I assumed that meant I couldn’t use my camera phone.) However, here’s a shot of one of the exterior walls, showing some of those holes they shoot guns out of (can’t remember the name for them, can’t be bothered to look it up right now:)

After that, it was back to the mainland, so to speak. I had left my charging cable for my phone back at my lodgings, so I had no way of recharging it using my portable battery. So I made a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Apple Store on Rue Ste-Catherine.

Being a Sunday afternoon, the place was absolutely packed. My errand done, I realized all I’d had to eat that day was a snack breakfast at the Biosphere, so it was time for a good feed. Across the street from the Apple Store was Les 3 Brasseurs, a microbrewery and pub that seemed to get good recommendations. Their medal-winning house “brun” was superb, and I had a nice cordon bleu schnitzel to go with it, since it was Oktoberfest after all.

On the way home, I solved the mystery of the searchlights. It’s an interactive art installation. Passersby can control the direction of one of the searchlights, and the others “react” to its movement. Up to six of the searchlights can be controlled at any one time. I didn’t stick around to try it out, but the people who did looked like they were having fun. Here’s a little info on it.

One last note on what’s turned out to be a long post! I’m finding the sound of French around me is not as alienating as it seemed to be yesterday. In fact, it seems comforting. I do get the sense that when I do the courtesy “merci” at the end of a conversation that’s been all in English, there’s some times when I think I see a reaction flash across the person’s face that seems to say sarcastically, “wow, the anglais is throwing me a bone”. I don’t know. On the whole, though, Francophones have been very kind and very accommodating. It’ll be interesting to compare that experience with Quebec City when I get there – I’ve been told by some people there’s less accommodation.

So thanks, Montrealers, and thanks, Bucky!

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