Thursday, August 25, 2011

De la rue aux etoiles

The view from our window in Old Montreal
Montreal has many pleasures not the least of which is the architecture and cuisine of Old Montreal. When I was invited to read as part of the Yellow Door Reading Series I jumped at the chance to return to la belle provence. My sister-in-law T, my brother-in-law T and our niece K (known collectively as TTK) also expressed interest in the trip so we decided to travel together by car.

We stayed at Le Westin in Old Montreal - a lovely, spacious room, a pool for the kids and a great central location. Once we arrived, we had an uninspiring meal at a pizza joint down the street (slow if friendly service, undercooked pizza, not inexpensive too unfortunately) on Wednesday night. We had gotten to that point where you wander around enough and are hungry enough to settle for something that's not that great. A shame since there are so many great places to eat here. But we won't belabor the point, it could have been an off night for the restaurant and the waiting staff was very friendly, very hospitable.

Brunch at Le Cartet
Thursday morning we walked north to a place that was getting wonderful reviews and had a great breakfast at Le Cartet, 106 McGill Ave. Very fresh fruit with baguettes and jam, croissants, bagels, smoothies and poached eggs. Friendly, efficient service. It also has a great little groceteria in the front part of the restaurant.

In the rain we cabbed it up to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 1379 Sherbrooke O. While waiting for the rain to subside we slipped into The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, 3415 Redpath, a Presbyterian church built in 1931-32, to admire the stained glass (the piece below is above the altar). Pressed to "donate" towards a CD of the choir we pagans demurred and continued on to the Musée. My interest in churches in purely aesthetic.

The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul
My girls J, K and T in portico of the Church sheltering from rain
We wanted to see Le Planete Mode de Jean Paul Gaultier, De la rue aux etoiles (from the street to the stars) exhibit which was beautiful, truly beautiful. When you enter the exhibit you climb a long elegant staircase at the top of which is his name in neon. When you reach the top, in a semi-circle in front of you, are a row of twelve or fifteen mannequins wearing iconic Gaultier fashion creations. The mannequins' blank faces are superimposed with filmed images of faces with mouths that move and eyes that blink and close and widen in surprise. They appear as if they are looking at you or singing or laughing. It's a bit unnerving ... there is even a mannequin of Gaultier speaking to the audience as you enter. The clothes are an intriguing combination of punk, high fashion, S&M imagery and fin de siècle opulence. It's difficult to categorize but amazing to see up close. Exquisite detail, wonderful colours and fabrics.

There are dozens and dozens of articles of his clothing of course but also snippets of films that feature his clothing and an endless loop of a French film that inspired him to be a designer. Very beautiful, very inspiring. Our in-laws stayed on and we went back to the hotel mid afternoon.

Back in our room to rest. R and J went swimming in the pool as I prepared for the reading that night. I was to read a small section of the first chapter of Made Up of Arias. There were several other readers and a singer featured.

We decided to walk to the The Yellow Door Poetry & Prose Reading Series at 3625 Aylmer en famille. I remembered that my sister used to live on Aylmer near McGill University back in the day. I was the second reader and despite my support system I felt that I faltered. My reading was shaky and uninspiring. Of course the family was very kind, very complimentary. They said, "You always read well!" but that wasn't really so. Little things really throw me off - a new venue, if I get a sense the crowd is not "with me", etc ...

A la Porte-Jeune
The best part of the evening was Tom Fox, a classical singer, who sang some old standards. Initially I thought it was a corny selection but it was actually quite moving. He sang "Those were the days" in Russian and "Old Man River" in this tremendous voice. A skillful entertainer, he had us all singing along at one point.
Green Tea ice cream at Tatami
We walked home, casting about for a quick and inexpensive place to eat. My s-i-l had taken the little one home. Tatami Sushi, 140 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, came to mind which is right around the corner from Le Westin.

Hmm, not a good choice perhaps. The gyoza, which I prefer soft and lightly fried, were crispy hard and brown. The sushi was presented in an odd way with fresh fruit (blueberries and strawberries) and fresh flowers in a haphazardly designed manner. They couldn't serve any cocktails because they had no bartender that night. How weird! The place had such an odd vibe to it and the service was a tad lackadaisical. It seemed to have deteriorated from the last time we ate there two or three years ago. How frustrating as I came armed with a long list of good restaurants recommended by friends!

But it's great to be here with TTK regardless of what we do ...
My beloved: R, J & K

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