Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

It’s a short post, but a second one nevertheless. I was considering not to post about this one, since it’s not a museum, but I looked back and saw I did a religious site before, so I might as well put it in, too. I won’t make a habit of it, but this one is another beauty…

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal)

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Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm, Saturday from 8am to 4pm, and Sunday from 12:30pm to 4pm. Admission to the basilica is 6 USD or CAD (the basilica doesn’t offer change if you use USD, so it’s 6 bucks regardless of which currency you use). The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is accessible via walking, driving or public transportation. The basilica is located in Old Montreal, which is a major tourist attraction and has plenty to see, so if you are already in area, walking is the best option. However, if you are farther away, then walking isn’t a good option as Montreal is quite big and may take a while to get from one area to another. Driving is one way to get to the basilica if you are far away; however there’s no parking on site, but there are parking lots nearby and meters on the streets (not quite sure about the parking situation as I didn’t have a car). Public transportation is another option; there are few bus stops nearby or one can take the 2 train to the Station Place d’Armes and walk about 5 minutes to reach the Notre-Dame Basilica. There are several museums nearby, such as the Museum of Montreal Bank and Pointe-à-Callière, if you enjoy visiting museums (like me) or you can walk about Old Montreal and see the various old buildings (which is an enjoyable experience).

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The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal offers a 20 minute guided tour in both English and French that provides an overview on the history of the basilica. (The first tour is at 9:30am.) The guided tour is included in the admission, so it’s a good opportunity to learn more about the basilica, but if you don’t have the time or can’t understand the languages, there are leaflets in various other languages that lets you explore the basilica on your own. The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is actually the 2nd church on site; the original stone church was built in 1672. By 1800, the original church wasn’t large enough to accommodate the congregation, so the current basilica was approved for construction in 1823. The basilica is built in the Gothic Revival style; the exterior is modeled after the Westminster Abbey in London, while the interior was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Unlike many other churches, the stained glass windows of the basilica depicts scenes of Montreal’s religious and social history as opposed to biblical scenes. In addition, there is a pipe organ that is used regularly for weekend masses.

My usual travel buddy and I spent a total of 35 minutes at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal; 15 minutes for self exploration (to take pictures and look around) and 20 minutes for the guided tour. As per usual, others will take more or less time depending on how interested they are. (The lines to enter the basilica do get longer as the day goes on, so if you are interested, make the basilica the first stop of the day, so that you can experience the basilica without the crowds and not have to waste time waiting on line.) The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is splendid, so it’s well worth the admission, especially if you attend the guided tour, which is highly educational and includes some fun tidbits. Anyone interested in architecture and/or religion will definitely want to stop by and spend some time. Casual visitors, even non-religious folks, will most likely enjoy a visit to the basilica. The only ones who may not enjoy the visit as much are families with small children as there really isn’t anything geared towards the younger kids. The basilica truly is a splendor to behold, so if you are in Montreal, don’t miss out on magnificence that is the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal. 

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Expo Barbie

I finally managed to get a post out before the end of the month, so there’s hope that a second post will come along this month. Cross your fingers everyone. Anyways, continuing on in Montreal…

Expo Barbie located in Montreal, Quebec
(Barbie Expo)

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Expo Barbie, or the Barbie Expo as us English speaking folks call it, is open Monday to Wednesday from 9am to 8pm, Thursday to Friday from 9am to 9pm, Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the Barbie Expo is free, but they do accept donations that will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Barbie Expo is located within Les Cours Mont-Royal, a shopping center in downtown Montreal, so it is easily accessible by walking, driving or public transportation. Walking is the best option if you happen to be within the surrounding vicinity of downtown Montreal as you can save money and take in the sites as you walk to the Barbie Expo. If you are further away, one option is to drive, but you will have to pay for parking in the underground garage of Les Cours Mont-Royal (not really sure how much as I didn’t have a car). Another option is to take public transportation; there are several bus stops nearby, so the bus is a good idea, or take the 1 train to Peel metro station, which has an exit into the building ( however, Les Cours Mont-Royal is kinda maze like though, as I remember having trouble finding the station entrance within the building when I was trying to leave afterwards). Other museums to visit nearby to make it a fun day out include the McCord Museum and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, or just explore Les Cours Mont-Royal and shop till you drop (if that’s your thing).

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Expo Barbie encompasses quite a large section within Les Cours Mont-Royal, so there are many barbies within the exhibit. The Barbie Expo is advertised as an exhibition of haute couture, so plenty of the barbies on display are wearing clothing from leading fashion houses such as Giorgio Armani, Bob Mackie and Oscar de la Renta. There are barbies dressed as people from the entertainment industry, such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Heidi Klum and even a doll of Elvis Presley. The barbies also dress up as fictional characters from movies, such as Rose from Titanic, Katniss from The Hunger Games, and Sandy from Grease. There are many more custom-made, one of a kind barbies on display that shouldn’t be missed. In addition, the barbies feature in a few dioramas that add more color and movement to the exhibit. And if you’ve ever wanted to be a barbie, there is a full-size barbie box that you can take a photo in.

My usual travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the Barbie Expo, but as always, other visitors will take more or less time depending on their interest. (We ran into this lady who’s been visiting for about an hour each day for several days already to take a photo of each and every barbie, which is way more than my allocated 45 minutes.) The Barbie Expo is free, so it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Anyone interested in barbies and/or fashion will want to take a trip to the Barbie Expo, as it’s probably the largest collection of barbies in one setting that is accessible to the general public. The Barbie Expo is a good family day trip idea for families with girls as they tend to be more interested in barbies than boys, but why not take the boys too, they might enjoy it as well. Barbie is one of the most iconic toys in the world, and she now has her museum, so go marvel at the walls and walls of barbies at the Expo Barbie.

Jardin Botanique de Montréal

Happy Spring! It’s finally starting to feel a bit more like spring, although it might become cold again for a bit. Real life work is still overwhelming me, so I’m only at one post a month, however, I need to get back to the two posts though as the backlog is building again. Anyways, continuing in Canada…

Jardin Botanique de Montréal located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Botanical Garden)

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The Jardin Botanique de Montréal is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm, and to 8pm from Thursday to Saturday; it is closed on Monday. (Seems to be a recurring theme for museums and sites to be closed on Mondays.) Admission to the botanical garden is 20.50 CAD, which also includes entrance to the Montreal Insectarium. The Jardin Botanique de Montréal is part of the Space for Life complex, thus there are various packages offered that allows visitors to visit one or more of the museums. In addition, the botanical garden is part of the Montreal Museum Pass, so look into the pass if you want to visit more museums in Montreal and want to save some money. Public transportation is probably the most convenient way to reach the Montreal Botanical Garden as both the metro and bus have stops nearby; check out the Montreal public transportation for more information. Driving is another option, but plan to pay 12CAD for the day to park the car if you choose to drive. As always, walking is the final option; if you happen to be nearby, then walk on over to the botanical garden, but if you are further, choose another way as it will probably end up being a long walk and you won’t have time or energy to enjoy the garden. Check out the rest of the Space for Life complex for a fun full day out.

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The Jardin Botanique de Montréal is really big and contains a variety of gardens and greenhouses (thus I wasn’t able to see everything, I saw maybe half of the botanical garden.) First up is the “Japanese Garden”, which houses a variety of Japanese plants and consists of a Japanese style building. Within the building, visitors can view wall screens, Japanese art work, a rock garden and an exhibit on tea. The Japanese Garden also had an exhibit on bonsai when I was visiting (but as I visited the National Bonsai Museum in Washington D.C. a few years back, the exhibit wasn’t something to write home about, but others may enjoy it if it’s still there). This garden is really tranquil and is nice to just stroll around.

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The trails leading from one thematic garden to the next is filled with plenty of greenery and even sculptures made from wood and rocks. The “Chinese Garden” would’ve been the next area to see on my list, but unfortunately it was closed when I was visiting. (It looks quite pretty from the images online.) Next up is the “First Nations Garden”, which contains plant species native to Quebec, and food and medicinal plants of the First Nations. In addition, the garden contains a structure that has exhibits on the traditional artwork and construction methods of the indigenous population of Canada.

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Following is the “Flowery Brook and Lilacs” area, which as the name suggests has a brook surrounded by blooming flowers and a variety of lilacs. It’s another picturesque area to just stroll and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. The “Alpine Garden” contains the mountain dwelling plants from all around the world. This garden is separated into smaller sections that focuses on different parts of the world, such as the Rockies to the Arctic to the Alps to Southern Hemisphere mountains. (I really liked this garden because it contained so many different habitats at once, so there are many different colors and sights.)

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The Montreal Botanical Garden has a variety of smaller gardens known collectively as the “Exhibition Gardens”, eight in total, that focus on different plants. I missed the first five since they are on the outer perimeters of the botanical garden and are parallel to the path from the “First Nations Garden”  to the “Alpine Garden”. (As mentioned the botanical garden is huge, and I was kind of tired by then, so I didn’t feel like doubling back and forth.) The five gardens are “Shrub Garden”, “Toxic Plants”, “Medicinal Plants”, “Monastery Garden”, and ” Quebec Corner”. (I would’ve like to see the “Toxic Plants” and “Medicinal Plants”, since it would be nice to know which plants are harmful and which are useful if I ever get lost in the wild.) I managed to see the last three: “Garden of Innovations”, which is filled with colorful bloom; “Useful Plants”, which sort of resembles an elaborate backyard garden; and “Perennials”, which consists of plants that keep growing back each year. In addition, there is a “Fruit Garden” adjacent to the “Useful Plants” section. (Honestly, I’m not sure what’s in the “Fruit Garden” as I was a bit overwhelmed by the vastness of the garden, and almost ready to call it a day.)

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Last, but not least, is the “Exhibition Greenhouses”, which is comprised of ten different themed greenhouses. The greenhouses are connected together, but the whole exhibit is separated into a left wing, which contains four of the greenhouses, the right wing, which contains five of the greenhouses, and the main area, which is the last greenhouse, that is the entrance, and connects the left and right wings. The greenhouses in the left wing contain tropical rain forest plants, economic tropical plants, orchids and aroids, and ferns. The greenhouse for the ferns is really nicely set up, there’s even a waterfall.

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The right wing contains begonias and gesneriads, plants from arid regions, a greenhouse based on a hacienda, the garden of weedlessness, and the main exhibition greenhouse. (I enjoyed seeing plants from the arid regions as cacti are fascinating to me.) The hacienda themed greenhouse is very interesting and worth seeing as it transports the visitors to another setting. The garden of weedlessness is based a on Chinese garden, with penjing and gongshi on display and even a small pond. The main exhibition greenhouse was closed when I was visiting, so not sure what’s in there (maybe it’s open now). Last is the Moison Hospitality Greenhouse, which is the entrance to the greenhouse exhibits. This greenhouse contains a variety of plants, and is sort of a makeshift information and waiting area.

My usual travel buddy and I spent about 2 hours at the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, but we only visited about half the botanical garden, so you’ll probably need to double that to visit the whole thing (4 hours, give or take). However one may take more or less time depending on how interested they are and how much they want to see. The botanical garden has a lot to see, so it’s worth the admission as you can probably spend the day if you wanted, and it also includes entrance to the Montreal Insectarium. The Montreal Botanical Garden is a good family day trip idea as there’s lots of space for children to run around and to learn about different plants from different habitats. The general population will enjoy a visit to the botanical garden as it’s a feast for the eyes and has a really relaxing atmosphere. Wear comfy shoes, pack a snack and bring your friends and families to see all that nature has to offer at the Jardin Botanique de Montréal.

Insectarium de Montréal

February is a short month, so it’s going to be a short post. This post was originally going to be combined with another, but then I felt it was unfair to not highlight each place, so I decided to split them apart. Next up in Montreal…

Insectarium de Montréal, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Insectarium)

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The Insectarium de Montréal is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm, and is closed on Mondays. Admission to the Insectarium is 20.50 CAD, which is approximately 16USD, but it also includes the admission to the Montreal Botanical Garden. The Montreal Insectarium is part of the Space for Life, which means that there are a variety of packages that visitors can choose from to visit one, two or all of the museums.  The Montreal Insectarium is also included in the Montreal Museum Pass, so consider that option if you plan to visit Montreal for at least three days and there are other museums that are of interest. The Insectarium can be reached by walking, driving or taking public transportation.  If you are already near the Space for Life complex, than walking is a really good option, but if you are further away, say downtown Montreal, then look for a different option to get there as it’s quite a long walk. If you plan to drive, note that there is parking available, but it costs 12CAD a day, however you are allowed to park in any of the lots available at the Space for Life complex. It public transportation is your choice, both the Montreal metro and bus will get you to the Insectarium de Montréal, so check out the Montreal transportation website for more information. Visit the other museums at the Space for Life complex to make it a fun day out.

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The Insectarium de Montréal is located in a small building that consists of the first floor and the basement. All displays have explanations in both English and French, so most visitors will be able to understand the information. The insectarium contains two exhibits, “We Are the Insects” and “Atta Ants”. “We Are the Insects” is the bigger of the two, and takes up part of the first floor and the whole basement level.  (It’s very befitting to use the basement since bugs are typically found underground.) The first floor section of the exhibit  gives a brief overview on insects, such as the characteristics of an insect, and how insects are classified and named. Descending into the basement level, visitors can learn about the different habitats that insects can live in, when the various insects are active, the wide range of food that bugs dine on, the arsenal of self-defense mechanisms that bugs use to survive, the seduction techniques that bugs employ to reproduce future generations, and the organizations around the world that are working to protect insects. The Insectarium also has a short film playing in the basement level, however the film was in French, so I didn’t see it, thus I’m unsure as to how long it is or what the film is about. The second exhibit “Atta Ants” focuses ants and their social organization. (I didn’t spend too long as I’m not the biggest fan of ants, I was worried some might crawl on me.)

My usual travel buddy and I spent about 30 minutes at the Insectarium de Montréal, but we did skip the film and aren’t the biggest fans of bugs, so it might take another 15-30 minutes to go through thoroughly. However, as always, others’ visit times will vary depending on their interest in the subject. Admission to the Montreal Insectarium seems expensive at first, but don’t forget that it includes admission to the Montreal Botanical Garden, so it’s pretty decently priced. People who like bugs will definitely want to visit as you are surrounded by bugs in all directions. The insectarium is a good family day trip idea as it has some fun displays that are geared toward children and some that are more informational for the adults. Bugs are all around us, but often we don’t pay enough attention to them except to note what an annoyance they are, so why not take the time to learn more at the Insectarium de Montréal.

Biodôme de Montréal

Happy 2018! A bit late, but better late than never. Anyways, I started a new job recently and had to relocate, so I didn’t have as much time for the blog this month, but I hope to be back on track next month.  Anyways, continuing with Montreal…

Biodôme de Montréal, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Biodome)

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Biodôme de Montréal is open on Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm, and closed on Mondays. Admission to the Biodôme is 20.50CAD, which is approximately 16USD. Biodôme de Montréal is part of a science museum complex, called Space for Life, thus there are a variety of packages that allows one to visit one, two or all of the museums that are part of the complex (check out the Biodôme de Montréal website for more information). In addition, the complex is located near Montreal Tower, which means there is an option to see one or more of the museums and Montreal Tower. Biodôme de Montréal is also included in the Montreal Museum Pass, a pass that gives one access to a variety of museums during 3 days for a set price (The Montreal Museum Pass is worth considering if one plans to visit all the museums at the Space for Life complex.) The museum is accessible via driving, walking and public transportation. If you choose to drive, the Biodôme does have a parking lot, but it costs 12CAD per day and is about a 5 minute walk from the museum. Walking is always an option, however if you’re not in the area, it’s going to be a long walk. As for public transportation, take the 1 train to Viau station and walk about 3 minutes to reach the Biodôme de Montréal. In addition to the subway, there are various buses that one can take to reach the museum. Make it a fun day trip by visiting all the museums in the Space for Life complex: the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, the Montreal Botanical Garden and the Montreal Insectarium.

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Biodôme de Montréal is separated into four sections; each section is a replica of an ecosystem found in the Americas. The ecosystems include the Tropical Rain Forest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Sub-Polar Regions. The Tropical Rain Forest is a replica of the South American rain forest, thus this section is humid, and contains a variety of animals, including macaws, bats, and a sloth. The Laurentian Maple Forest is based on the North American wilderness. Highlights of this section include a beaver (I’ve never seen one before) and raccoons (which I’ve seen plenty of). The Gulf of St. Lawrence is modeled on an estuary habitat. This section contains a variety of birds and fishes; the highlights for me were a baby and mommy duck duo, and a stingray that kept swimming to the surface of the water. Last, but not least is the Sub-Polar Regions, which is actually further divided into two sections based on the Arctic and Antarctic.  The two sections are the Labrador Coast, where visitors can see puffins, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands, where the focus is penguins. The museum also has an amphitheater that is one floor below the main exhibits, however I’m not sure how long the film runs or what it’s about as the film is in French.

My travel buddy and I spent a little under 2 hours at Biodôme de Montréal, but as usual, others may take more or less time depending on their interest. (One might need a bit more time for the film if one’s interested and can understand French.) Admission to the Biodôme is worth it, as there is a large variety of animals to see, some more exotic than others. The way the museum is set up based on different ecosystems is interesting as it lets visitors experience what the different environments are like, and one might even forget that they are actually indoors while exploring the Biodôme. The general population will most likely enjoy a visit to the Biodôme, and it is definitely a good idea for a family day trip as most children enjoy looking at animals, so they’ll be entertained for a while, and it’s an educational experience, too. So gather your friends and family, and see the animals and habitats of the Americas at the Biodôme de Montréal.

Pointe-à-Callière

This past summer, I went to Canada for the extra long weekend that I had for the fourth of July. The decision to go away was quite last minute, so my usual travel buddy and I decided on Montreal since we’ve not been and figured it wouldn’t be as crowded since they don’t celebrate Independence Day that weekend. Turns out Canada Day is July 1st, so there was more people then we expected, but we had fun nevertheless. First stop…

Pointe-à-Callière, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History)

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Pointe-à-Callière is open on Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm; the museum is closed on Mondays. Admission to the museum is 20CAD, which is approximately 16USD, however the rates will be increasing next year, so check out the museum website for the difference. Pointe-à-Callière is part of the Montreal Museum Pass, which gives one access to a variety of museums for 3 consecutive days. The pass is 75CAD without a transportation pass and 80CAD with the transportation pass. (I got the one with the transportation pass, which is about 65USD. It was worth it to me as the trains were quite frequent and I was staying outside of downtown Montreal, where many of the sites are.) The museum is accessible via driving, walking and public transportation. If one chooses to drive, note that the museum doesn’t have a parking lot, but there is paid parking available nearby. It’s possible to walk almost anywhere, so walking is always an option , but in this case, it’s best if one is already close by, or it will be a really long walk. As for public transportation, take the 2 train to Place-d’Armes Station and walk about 5 minutes to reach the museum or take the 715 bus and get off right in front of the museum.  Places to check out nearby include the Montreal History Center and the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal or just wander around the area, it’s quite nice.

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Pointe-à-Callière  is a complex of buildings that are connected on the underground level, which is where most of the exhibits are located. Right after the ticket counter is the 18 minute multimedia show, “Yours Truly, Montreal”, that details the birth of Montreal from the ice age to the present. The show is a great introduction to the museum as it gives visitors an overview of Montreal’s origins; it is available in several languages, so don’t miss it. The first floor of the entrance building contains a temporary exhibit, “Hello, Montreal”, which is on view from February 17, 2017 to January 6, 2019. (I missed this exhibit as I was rather confused with the museum’s layout, so I’m not sure what the exhibit is about.) The underground level of the entrance building contains the permanent exhibit, “Crossroads Montreal”. The exhibit houses the ruins of Montreal’s first Catholic cemetery and the foundations of the Royal Insurance Building. Through these remains, the exhibit details how Montreal was originally an Iroquoian village that became a French missionary colony and eventually grew to become a great Canadian metropolis.

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Next up is the “Memory Collector”, which is a light installation projected onto the walls of a section of Montreal’s first collector sewer. The exhibit is really relaxing and impressive, and is a definite must see at the museum. Following is “Where Montreal Began”, which is located on the actual site of where Montreal was founded. The exhibit focuses on the French missionary settlement that was established to convert the natives to Christianity. Visitors can see the the original remains and artifacts from the settlement and learn about the settlers who left France to establish the new colony. In addition, the exhibit also contains some artifacts from the indigenous people. Of interest to me was a hieroglyphic wheel depicting the signatures that the indigenous people used to sign the Great Peace of Montreal, a peace treaty between the natives and the settlers.

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The “Building Montreal” exhibit highlights the development of Montreal from the 17th to the 19th century. The exhibit contains various artifacts from the time period, interactive games to engage visitors and a multimedia installation. Next up is “Pirates or privateers?”,  an exhibit about life aboard a privateer ship during the turn of the 18th century. Visitors can learn about the food that was eaten, the skills needed to sail a ship and the punishment that is given if they failed to obey an order from the ship’s captain. The exhibit contains navigational instruments, personal possessions, tools, weapons and loot. (The exhibit appears to be geared toward children, since the ship was filled with kids, so I didn’t go through it that thoroughly.)

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Last, but not least is the temporary exhibit, ” Amazonia. The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest”, which was on view from April 20, 2017 to October 22, 2017. The exhibit highlighted the mythology of the Amazonian societies and featured objects from over thirty ethnic groups in the Amazon basin, including blowpipes, bows and arrows, musical instruments, baskets and items required by shamans. The objects were located throughout two floors, so there was a lot to see.

My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours at Pointe-à-Callière, but I missed one of the temporary exhibit, so maybe add another half hour to see that. However, as always, other visitors will take more or less time depending on their interests. Admission to the museum is worth it, since there is so much to see and do that one can actually spend the whole day there if they wanted to. (Definitely check out the Montreal Museum Pass if you are interested in the other museums, so that you can get the most for your money.) Pointe-à-Callière is good idea for a family day trip as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, Canadian history or specifically, the history of Montreal will enjoy a visit. If it’s your  first trip to Montreal, or if you’ve been several times already or even if you live there, learn and see where Montreal began at Pointe-à-Callière.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

I missed the second posts from last month and this month, but that’s because  I’m still catching up with other things that need to be done first that was delayed by my annual trip. It’s going to take me at least 6 more months before I get to the museums from my trip, so I’ll do the destination revel now, I went to Japan, and it was awesome. Before I ramble on and on about how great my trip was, let’s wrap up in Baltimore with…

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, located in Baltimore, Maryland

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a park, and the park is open from 9am to 5pm daily. The Visitor Center and the Star Fort, both located within the park, is open from 9am-4:45pm daily. Admission to Fort McHenry is technically free as visitors are allowed to explore the park grounds and the Visitor Center for no charge, however admission to the historical area, also known as the Star Fort, is $10 per person. The admission fee is actually for a 7-day pass, so visitors can return anytime during the allotted 7-day period. The park is accessible via car, water taxi and public transportation. If you chooses to drive to Fort McHenry, there is ample free parking. If you happen to already be in the Inner Harbor, you can reach the park via a water taxi; note that if you didn’t arrive via water taxi to Fort McHenry, you cannot take the water taxi to leave. As for public transportation, take the free Charm City Circulator, via the Banner route, to the Fort McHenry stop (Stop #411). Other public buses also go to the historic site, please check the Maryland MTA site for more information. The Baltimore Museum of Industry is nearby if one wishes to stay in the area, but the various attractions in the Inner Harbor is only a stone’s throw away.

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First place visited was the Visitor Center, which contains the standard amenities, such as restrooms and a gift shop. In addition, the Visitor Center also contains three interconnected exhibits that relate to Fort McHenry. The first exhibit focuses on the origin of the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner was initially a poem penned by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore and then at dawn of the next day, still seeing the American flag waving at the fort. The next exhibit is about the Battle of Baltimore, a battle that is well remembered due to The Star-Spangled Banner in the War of 1812. The exhibit is a 10 minute film that focuses on the battle, and it is shown every half an hour. Last, but not least is an exhibit that focuses on the War of 1812. Visitors can learn about the origins, the battles and the aftermath of the war, in addition to viewing a variety of artifacts that include a canon, uniforms, and personal items of the soldiers.

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Walking through the park to the Star Fort, there are a variety of canons scattered about that visitors can take a closer look at. There are usually descriptions nearby to indicate the significance of each grouping of canons. The Star Fort is a five pointed-star shape that was popular when the fort was initially built as it allowed for a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Star Fort contains barracks and related structures where soldiers lived and worked when the fort was still in operation, but today, these buildings house a variety of exhibits. Exhibits include the Commander’s Quarters, Guard House, Powder Magazine, Junior Officers’ Quarters and the Enlisted Men’s Quarters. The exhibits contain a variety of historical and military memorabilia. (Please excuse the terrible pictures. I didn’t realize that I had my camera set to manual focus until more than half through.) The star fort also does a flag change twice a day that is pretty interesting. They allow visitors to help with the process, so it’s a fun experience for anyone interested.

My travel buddy and I spent about 1.5 hours here, which is less than the recommended 2 hours that the site suggests. I think the additional 30 minutes that the site recommends is necessary as there is a lot to see and do (I felt we rushed through a lot of the exhibits as we had to catch a bus back home). However, the time frame needed for each visitor will vary depending on interest and other external factors. The admission to the fort is kind of expensive since most visitors will plan to go once only, but it’s nice to have the option to visit again within a week (and the money supports the national parks, so it’s for a good cause even if you visit only once.) Fort McHenry is a good family day trip idea as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, American history, and the origins of The Star-Spangled Banner will enjoy a visit to the historic site. Even if one is not interested in history, the park is still enjoyable as there are walking trails and it’s right by the water.  Wear comfy shoes, pack a picnic and enjoy the day learning American history at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.