Two Gems In Montreal: Rio Tinto Alcan and Jardin Botanique

For web Montreal pano

Here goes another attempt at keeping up with our “on the move” lifestyle. We’ll try to fill in the gaps as we can. We have five days in Montreal and so far the weather has been warm and sunny with just a tinge of Fall that says “enjoy it, it won’t last”.

One of our ongoing challenges when we visit a city is to find outdoor parking so our truck with the boats on top will fit. We’d planned on taking the train into town then catching the Metro but when we got to the station the times for mid-day trains weren’t good. So we headed to the park that was used for the Olympics, now home to the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Biosphere, Incline Tower and Sports Centre. Good parking found.

We spent the first afternoon at the Planetarium taking in two shows. At the first one we were on the floor in bean bags (Adirondack style seating also available) for an impressive light show and in very comfortable theatre style seats for the second show, a more traditional constellation journey. The new Planetarium is about a year old and full of exhibits for kids of all ages, even those in their second childhood. One exhibit showed a piece of stone estimated to be 4.28 billion years old. This rock is from the oldest geological formation ever discovered, the Nuvvuagittuq volcanic and sedimentary formation on the eastern shore of Hudson’s Bay in Quebec Province

geology, planetarium, Montreal

Oldest Rock On Earth


Planetarium Exhibits

We considered riding the cable car up the Incline Tower for a panoramic view of Montreal until we heard the price. At $22.50 each it seemed a bit high. We had so much more to explore. Maybe next visit.

We returned to the same place and parked for our visit to the Jardin Botanique across the way. Due to construction we had to wind our way along a path following signs to the garden. With a bit of clairvoyance I said “I hope there are good signs coming back.” It was about a half mile walk to the gardens. We’d purchased tickets the day before along with our Planetarium ones so we didn’t have to stand in line. It seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the beautiful day.

This Botanical Garden is HUGE. How far we walked is only a guess but we estimate at least five miles in the garden alone.

Sometimes I’m amazed at our luck. We choose a location and arrive to find that a very special event is occurring. On our visit to the garden we found not one but two special events: Montreal Mosaicultures Internationales 2013 and the Magic of Lanterns. Referred to simply as MMI 2013 on the signs the Mosaicultures exhibition was to end in three days. It is an international show of 40 topiary sculptures scattered throughout the garden. This year’s theme was Land of Hope. The exhibition has been held in Montreal three times since 2000 and also in China and Japan. The last exhibition was in 2009. The topiaries range in size from three to over forty feet. While the large sculptures are very impressive our favorite was one of the smallest. It was a driftwood sculpture of a horse and colt called Hope (colt) and Odyssey (mother horse) by a British sculptress. She collects driftwood for her sculptures and does not alter the pieces. She then painstakingly intertwines them to get just the right fit. Look closely at the ear on Odyssey to see how she made a protrusion look just right.  According to the explanatory sign it took her months to collect just the right pieces.  another very impressive display was the Bird of Paradise Tree that towered over a reflecting pool and people below. The sign said there were eight different birds displayed: Hooded Grebe, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Green Peafowl, Bali Myna, Fuertes’s Parrot, Indian Vulture, Ouvea Parakeet and Gunnison Sage Grouse. How many can you find? Remember the picture can be enlarged to full screen by clicking over it. Click again for a further enlargement you may need to see the birds in detail.

Montreal, garden, topiary

Birds Of Paradise Mosaic

The other event was the Jardin Botanique’s annual (September) display of traditional Chinese lanterns in their exquisite Chinese garden. Each year the Jardin chooses a theme and designs the displays during the winter months. Then the lanterns are fabricated in China and arrive by June. It takes about three months for the staff to set up the displays. Be prepared for crowds with everyone jostling for photo ops. Optimistically, I’d taken my tripod for the longer night time exposures. Forget that! All I did was lug it around all day and never took it out of the bag. It is well worth the time and crowds to see this display. It’s one of the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen at a botanical garden. 

Chinese garden, Montreal

Building At The Chinese Garden

We thought the best way to share our experience would be with a video set to music. We used the following songs and artists: “Going Out Of My Head” by Smokey Robinson, “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” by The Cowsills, “Dance Into The Light” by Phil Collins and “You Light Up My Life” by LeAnn Rimes. The following movie can be viewed full screen by clicking on it. Remember to allow it to fully upload before viewing for best results. To view in full screen click on the diagonal arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the movie box.

After all day on our feet we were more than ready to get back to the car. We came out of the garden at a different entrance and started walking. We needed to go all the way around the Olympic Park to get to our parking lot. We walked, and walked, and walked for at least two miles navigating only by landmarks through empty terraces, stairways and sidewalks. Not the brightest bulbs in the pack, eh? We were never so glad to see signs pointing to the Planetarium! Finally our truck with boats appeared. Steve said “Well at least you didn’t have on a long skirt and high heels this time” referring to our walk in the dark back to camp July 2012.

There is enough to do in Montreal for six trips but we’re glad we chose to visit the Jardin Botanique on this visit. We hope you enjoyed the tour with us. Our next post will be about Old Montreal.

One thought on “Two Gems In Montreal: Rio Tinto Alcan and Jardin Botanique

  1. loved, loved the exhibition’s, pictures are great. So much too see, too little time! Sounds like a beautiful city
    Montreal. Love visiting planetariums and gardens, lucky you! you get to see and do all that great stuff.
    Our cruise up to New England and Canada was great, never got to the bay of Fundy, trips were all sold out, boo hoo, another time maybe! Halifax was so beautiful as was Peggy’s Cove.. Would love to drive the MH up there some time.. It would be an amazing journey. Take care, enjoy, Kathy

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