Friday, June 28, 2019

Port Dover/Port Stanley/Pelee Island 2019

At the last minute, we were invited by our friends Kevin and Olena to spend the Canada Day long weekend with them on Pelee Island where they had rented a cottage, after their original travel companions had to cancel.  Happily accepting, my husband Rich and I decided to extend the trip by a day.  We would leave on Friday morning, first stopping first in Port Dover and then Port Stanley on the shores of Lake Erie.  We had visited each of these port towns before, in 2010 and 2013 respectively and really enjoyed ourselves so we decided it was time for a return trip.  This would also break up the drive to Leamington, where we would meet up with our friends early Saturday morning to catch the 11am ferry for the 1.5 hour ride to Pelee Island.

From our previous trip to Port Dover back in 2010, we still have fond memories of our fresh perch meal at the Erie Beach Hotel and so we made reservations to have lunch there again.  Not much has changed since our last visit.  The famous perch (or pickerel) meal still comes with toasted celery bread and our own personal “Cove Room Salad Cart” which offers multiple salad choices whose recipes date back to the 1950s.  These included the horseradish jello (my favourite and much better tasting than it sounds), marshmallow and mandarin orange salad, sliced cucumbers in mayonnaise, green bean salad, cole slaw, and a plate of pickles, beets and pumpkin cubes.  The perch main course comes with either 3 or 5 fillets of perch, a heaping bowl of tartar sauce, choice of potato and steamed (overly cooked) vegetables.  The only thing missing from our previous meal here was the group of elderly waitresses dressed in their 50’s style uniforms,  white aprons and rubber sneakers that seemed to come straight out of the movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  Too bad they have now been replaced with much younger wait-staff in sleek, black uniforms that just don’t give that same cool retro vibe.

As hinted at by its name, the Erie Beach Hotel is situated on a boardwalk strip leading to the Port Dover beach.  The strip is lined on both sides of the road with shops selling t-shirts, beachwear and tacky souvenirs, as well as ice cream parlours.  In honour of Canada Day, Rich bought a rosy red coloured t-shirt with a maple leaf and the words “True North Strong and Free” emblazoned upon it.  After our lunch, we visited the Ice Cream Tank for dessert and claimed a couple of Muskoka chairs under a shaded patio to enjoy them.   When we saw that they offered Moosetracks, we thought we were eating Kawartha Dairies Ice Cream but it turns out that the flavour “Moosetracks” is offered by multiple creameries including London Ice Cream Company which supplies for this parlour.  I had a double scoop of Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mudpie and Coffee-Ferrero Roche, which Rich also chose along with a scoop of cinnamon.

Prior to our lunch, we spent some time wandering up and down Port Dover’s Main Street, which boasts many fun shops and eateries.  It was an extremely hot day so we started rating and ranking the stores based on the strength of their air conditioning.  Trish’s Bakery failed the test as the hot ovens made the small enclosed space even hotter than it was outside, but the bakery did offer “butter tart bars” which Rich coveted.  We withstood the oppressive heat just long enough to buy a couple to heat later in the day.  By contrast, the Dover Cheese Shop had very strong air conditioning, which was required to keep the cheeses cold and so we lingered as long as we could, slowly “browsing” all the offerings in the shop.  We tried their feature lavender flavoured cheese but preferred the bright green wasabi gouda, which we bought a small chunk of to eat later.  We also bought some cauliflower crisps and “maple moonshine” candy-coated pecans.  We ended up snacking on all of this for dinner at our hotel since we were too full from lunch to eat a full dinner.  We wandered into C-Squared Home and Décor to look at antiques and furnishings, Cozmic Candy store to check out the old-fashioned candies and chocolates for sale, and On the Fringe Leather and Accessories, which specialized in wardrobe for motorcycle riders.  For some reason, Port Dover has become a haven for motorcyclists.  A contingent of them congregate in the town on any month where the 13th day falls on a Friday.   We were informed by the clerk at the cheese shop that on Friday 13th, only motorcycles are allowed into Port Dover.  No automobiles are allowed unless the driver holds either a resident or work license and the license is only good for 2 people per household!

Following our afternoon in Port Dover, the plan was to visit Port Stanley, wander around its Main Street, watch a play at the local theatre and then spend the night there before heading to Leamington in the morning to meet up with our friends and catch the ferry to Pelee Island.  Since this was such a last minute trip, we could not find availability in a Port Stanley hotel that suited our needs and price point.  Instead, we booked a room at the Comfort Inn in nearby St. Thomas, a 15 minute drive from Port Stanley.  Our intentions of touring the streets of Port Stanley also fell by the wayside since it was too hot to be outside.  We bought tickets for the evening showing of a Norm Foster comedy called Lunenberg, ducked into a coffee shop for an iced frappe and then headed to our air-conditioned hotel where we would chill, rest and eat our Port Dover snacks before returning for the show.   We had watched other plays by Norm Foster in the past, but Lunenberg is by far our favourite.  The writing is both hilarious and touching with three well-rounded characters played by 3 excellent actors who had great fun delivering Foster’s witty dialogue.   The Port Stanley Festival Theatre is located on the main drag and has an upstairs terrace with a great view of the harbour.

Early on Saturday morning, Rich and I wolfed down a bit of the free hot breakfast offered by the hotel before setting out for the 2 hours drive from Port Stanley to Leamington where we were to meet our friends Kevin and Olena at the coffee shop across from the ferry dock.  The plan was leave our car at the Leamington ferry parking lot and travel to the island in our friends’ van.  Imagine our surprise when we pulled up for gas just outside of Leamington and found Kevin pumping gas at the pump right next to us!  When we arrived at the ferry dock, we were shocked and a bit alarmed to see the area inundated with rather large scary-looking bugs that we later learned were called “fish flies” or “May flies”.  As their name implies, the end of June is very late in the season for these bugs that show up for just a few days per year and then die off.  Luckily the bugs do not bite and will fly away if you swat at them.  But it was still really creepy to see so many large bugs congregated on the parked cars, light poles and walls at the dock and on the windows and walls of the Pelee Islander II ferry that took us to Pelee Island.  We continued to see these flies throughout our 2.5 day stay on the island but learned to ignore them.  We did not realize their power and impact until the Monday when we were due to depart the island on the 4pm ferry, but that story will have to wait until the end of this blog.

Our reservation for one vehicle, four passengers and four bicycles on a bike rack was for 11am but we were told that we should arrive and be online to board at least 1 hour in advance or else our spot might be given away.  We got there just before 10am and got into line as advised.  Very shortly after, we were told to drive onto the ferry, park the car in the lower hull and exit to the seating areas above.  We happened to be parked right behind a gorgeous vintage 1935 Auburn that we would see again later on the island.  As we settled into our seats, we were surprised by how many people were already on board since we thought that we were quite early.  Olena and I decided to go up to the top deck to get some fresh air and wait for the ferry to depart.  To our surprise, the ferry started sailing and it was only then that we realized that somehow, we had made it onto the 10am departure!  The sailing was so smooth that Rich and Kevin did not even realize for a while that we were moving.  This was all very fortuitous since it gave us an extra hour of vacation time on the island.  We also got lucky with the weather which had been calling for rain the whole week leading up to the trip, but miraculously the forecast changed at the last minute and we were treated to three warm, sunny days!

Pelee Island is the largest island on Lake Erie and is the southern-most point in Canada.  Its climate is amongst the mildest in Canada and the community is mostly agricultural based, growing soybeans, wheat, corn and grapes.  It is 19km in length and 6km in width with a circumference of about 28km of relatively flat roads that are good for cycling.  There are several restaurants and ice cream parlours, a winery, an excellent bakery and several public beaches on the island.  We landed on the West Dock and our cottage rental was a very short distance from there.

The cottage  that our friends rented, called “On Pelee Time”, was situated on the west shore of Pelee Island and we could see the waters of Lake Erie just across the road.  It was huge with four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a powder room, a fully stocked kitchen, dining room table and large living room area.  But the best feature was the screened in porch that allowed us to get fresh air while providing protection from the bugs.  We enjoyed this area so much that other than sleeping at night, we spent most of our time at the cottage in this space.

We ate all of our meals on the porch, and sat there to read, listen to music and chat with each other.  At night, the bugs came out in full force and the sky was visibly filled with swarming mosquitoes and fish flies.  Accordingly I was perfectly happy to stay indoors at night since we could comfortably watch the sunset from within the porch. Rich and I could even watch the Canada Day fireworks which were being launched at the West Dock just down the road from us, although we didn’t have as good of a view as Kevin and Olena, who braved the bugs to go to the docks and captured some beautiful photos of the firework displays bursting in the sky over the glimmering water.

Our cottage was perfectly situated to watch the Canada Day Parade since the vehicles and floats gathered in the field right next to us and the parade passed right by our porch window.  It was here that we saw the 1935 white Auburn again, since it was participating in the parade.  There were cars decked out with Canadian flags, balloons, streamers and other decorations.  A Tractor pulled a float loaded with what looked like a group of farm-hands while a Shriner’s Hospital truck and a golf cart decked out like a Hawaiian dancer with a grass skirt went by.  Trailing the procession were several people on foot dressed like birds.  It wasn’t a very long parade but it was fun while it lasted.  It was interesting to see people holding  both Canadian and American flags (including one flag that seemed to be an amalgamation of the two).  Americans come to Pelee Island via a ferry that leaves from Sandusky, Ohio.

We went for a bike ride on each of our 2.5 days on the island and managed to cover most of the trails along the circumference as well as a few offshoot paths. The first day was supposed to be a scouting expedition as we were looking for a nice beach that we could go to the next day, as well as eateries and other points of interest.  We started north along the west coast and thought that we would ride around the coastline of the entire island.  But we took a wrong turn while coming back down the east coast and ended up taking one of the roads that cut through the middle of the island.  It was actually a blessing since it was so hot that day and we would have tired ourselves out for the next day’s ride, when we explored the lower half of the island.   We saw some interesting sights including a tree decorated with a bunch of sneakers tied together by their laces and a little miniature of a country home named “Vin Villa” with the sign “For Rent – Perfect for Small Family”.  We passed by the island cemetery and saw a plaque dedicated to William McCormick, a member of the Legislature of Upper Canada and a founding father of Pelee Island, building its first permanent settlement in 1834.  We also saw some beautiful scenery including a lovely pond filled with lily pads.

In our search for a nice beach, we were disappointed to find that the beaches closest to us on the west coast were closed due to high water levels washing out the entire sandy parts of the beaches, leaving either small pebbly surfaces or worse, large rocks.  At several of these washed out beaches, we were so hot that we took off our shoes and socks and waded into the water to cool off.  When we rode along the east side of the island, we finally found a beach with enough sand to lay down a beach mat, so we decided to return here the next day.  When we arrived, we found nice sand and warm, shallow water but unfortunately, the water was filled with moss and dead fish flies!  Rich and Kevin wandered out for a quick dip while Olena and I lounged on the beach but the guys decided it was too buggy and shortly after, we packed it in and returned to the comfort of our cottage porch. 

One of the first places that we encountered on our initial bike ride was “The Bakery” located at the north-western part of the island.  Here we found a wide array of pastries as well as lunch options including pizzas, savoury pies and salads.  You could buy frozen lasagnas and other take out food items to reheat and eat later on.  If we came back to Pelee Island, we would not have to bring as much food as we could just buy a few meals from The Bakery and just supplement with fruits and vegetables.  As a little treat, Rich bought a butter tart and I chose the chocolate peanut butter cup with the graham cracker crust that was so delicious that we decided we had to return for more.  We stopped by again on our last morning to get the chocolate peanut butter cups for all of us and also decided to get their breakfast croissant.  This was a freshly made-to-order warm croissant with fried egg, melted cheddar, shaved ham topped with house dijonaise.  It was delicious!

We also found Pelee Island ArtWorks, a small shop selling souvenirs and gift items as well as refreshments!  I was ecstatic when we came across it towards the end of on our first day’s bike ride since I was out of water on a scorchingly hot day and was in desperate need of a cold drink.  Sadly, the “Closed” sign dashed my hopes, but we did return the next day when the shop was open and Rich bought some local strawberry rhubarb jam (yum!), wisely foregoing the rhubarb, pineapple and ginger jam (Bleah!).  The shop also offered internet services which would help Kevin and Olena, who got spotty Rogers cell service, but Rich and I didn’t need it since our Bell cell service worked perfectly.  I found this interesting since we did not have good cell service when we were in the Port Stanley/St. Thomas area.

Following the disappointment of not being able to get refreshments from the Artworks shop, we came across salvation when shortly after, we came across the Pelee Island Vineyards Winery, which appeared as if an oasis in the desert.  The first thing we encountered after entering the winery was a big ice cold dispenser of lemon infused water.  We spent several minutes there, greedily gulping down the water and refilling our water bottles multiple times.  While the others went for free wine tastings, I settled into a large Muskoka chair and was soon blissfully taking a quick nap.  There is a photo of me sound asleep while my insensitive husband is mockingly pointing at me, but this photo will never see the light of day unless the perpetrators want to start an “embarrassing photo war” of epic proportions!  The winery was the perfect place to cool down and rest before the final push back to the cottage (a mere kilometer away but it would have felt much further had we not been able to stop).

On our last day, we returned to the winery for a closer look at the huge metal contraption in the back, which we spotted during our bike rides.  This turned out to be an old no longer functioning brandy distiller that the owner had found and bought as a curiosity piece.  We took some photos inside large wooden barrels and then watched sympathetically as an employee stood in front of a blazing wood burning oven preparing pizzas on another super hot and sunny day.  Out in front were samples of the vines of different types of grapes used to make different types of wine, but none of the vines actually had any grapes on them, so there was not much to see.  Kevin and Olena bought a case of their favourite wine from their tastings—the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc VQA which was nicknamed the “Ladies” wine and showed an image of women in long skirts picking grapes on its label.  This is described as a light and crisp white wine with apple and citrus flavours.  Rich was going to buy some wine as well, but then the fish fly debacle (remember that?  The story is coming soon …) quashed that idea.

Our second day’s bike ride around the lower part of the island actually turned into more of a hike, as we found a hiking trail that would take us around the southern-most tip of the island.  We locked up our bikes and headed onto the forest, not knowing what quite to expect.  We saw much flora and fauna as we marched through the woods, including a variety of trees and plants, different types of birds, “terrestrial snails”, little wiggly snakes and a cricket frog in a bright slime-green marsh.  We also saw many giant trees that had been uprooted by inclement weather.  The terrain of hard-packed soil eventually turned into sand as we got closer to the coast.

Our intended route was a loop that would take us south along the west side of Fox Lagoon by the Fish Point Natural Reserve, follow near the eastern edge of the point to reach south-most spot on the island, and thus also in Canada, then return north along the western edge of the point to get back to our bikes.  This plan hit several snags.  First of all, we thought we took a wrong turn and fell off the trail since we couldn’t get as far south as we thought we should.  Thank goodness for our Bell cell service and Google Maps or we might have no clue where we were at some points.  As it turned out, we did reach the south-most point of the island but it was much further north than usual since the high waters had covered the long sand bar and part of the tip of the island.  To prove it, Olena bravely wandered out into the water before we called her back, fearful that the waves would sweep her away!  Soldiering on, we walked on the beach along the western edge of the tip, grateful that we had escaped the bugs in the woods.  Since she was already wet, Olena strolled in the water while we walked on the sand beside her.  This was a lovely walk until we discovered a short distance away from completing our loop that the water levels had gotten too high and we were unable to continue along this coast line.  Not willing to blindly cut across the wooded interior in search for our starting point, we decided to turn back and retrace our steps.  This turned out to be a longer hike than we expected, but still an enjoyable one, full of different terrain, sights and experiences.  When we got back to our bikes and finished the ride of the lower part of the island, we came across mulberry bushes and happily feasted on the fruit before continuing on our way.

Now finally, for the fish fly story.  All during our stay, we were wondering why the island seemed so empty since the weather was fine and it was the Canada Day long weekend.  We found out the reason a few hours before our scheduled boat ride back to the mainland on Monday afternoon.  Apparently either late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning, the massive influx of fish flies clogged the water cooling system of the Pelee Islander II, taking it out of commission for several days.  This was one of the larger ferry boats that could take up to 40 vehicles in one trip.  The second large ferry boat, the Jiimaan, was sent as a replacement but in an amazing stroke of bad luck, it also ran into mechanical issues early Monday morning shortly after picking up a boat load of passengers from the mainland.  These people were truly unlucky since they were stranded in the middle of Lake Erie for 5 hours and required food supplies to be transported to them while they were trapped.  This all happened while we were blissfully enjoying our time on the island.  By the time we found out what happened and checked on our return ferry reservations, we learned that only the small Pelee Islander I ferry boat was in service and since it could only take 10 cars at a time (as opposed to 40 for each of the two larger boats), there was a massive backlog of vehicles trying to head home.  It was not looking possible for us to get our car onto the ferry that day and we mulled the possibility of staying over an extra night.  Unfortunately Olena had to get back to work the next day, so we needed a plan B.  It was decided that Kevin would stay overnight with the car and most of our gear including our bicycles, while Rich, Olena and I traveled back as “walk-on” passengers, since the bottleneck was the vehicles and not the passengers.  Then Rich and I could take our car parked in Leamington to drive Olena home while Kevin would search for an extra night’s accommodations and return the next day.  We sadly left Kevin and made our way onto boat for the 5pm departure (delayed an hour from our originally scheduled 4pm booking).  Imagine our surprise when we got a text from him about an hour into our sail.  The Pelee Islander II had been repaired, passsed testing and was ready to set sail again at 6:30pm.  Miraculously, Kevin made it as the second last vehicle to board this ship and would land shortly after 8:15pm, a mere 1.5 hours after us.

We had always planned to have a final meal at Birdie’s Perch “Bus-taurant” in Leamington prior to our drives home, so we decided to go there while we waited for our reunion with Kevin.  Serendipitously,  I had read an ad for Birdie’s Perch in the LCBO magazine just prior to our trip and it sounded so much fun.  The restaurant is located in the bottom of an old double-decker bus, while the top deck was turned into restaurant seating.  Too bad it was way too hot for anyone to sit up there, so we joined the other diners at the tables outside, shaded by umbrellas.  The place was packed and as it turns out, it would take us over 45 minutes to get our food since there were so many people who had ordered ahead of us.  This worked out perfectly since we were waiting for Kevin anyway.  Had we not had the fish fly experience, we probably would not bothered with such a long wait and would have missed out on some deliciously fried perch, crispy fries and excellent cole slaw.  Kevin arrived just in time to eat his share while it was still fairly warm.  As the perfect end to our Canada Day long weekend adventure, we were asked to take part in a Canada Day video made by the owners, where we all sang “O Canada” while waving our water bottles or anything we could get our hands on.  Thanks to Kevin and Olena for inviting us to a fun-filled weekend!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Montreal 2019 - Old Town/Port, Museum des Beaux Arts

While the main purpose for our trip to Montreal was to attend the MURAL Street Art Festival, my husband Rich and I allocated some time to also visit the Old Town and Portland areas as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, which we could get into for free using our reciprocal visit privileges from our membership with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  After spending our Friday morning on a scouting trip of the route of the festival in preparation for our walking tour the next day, we continued east along Boulevard St.Laurent towards the Old Town.

As we got near the old town, we encountered Parc de la Presse, named after the nearby La Presse newspaper. A group of sculptures by Elisabeth Buffoli called “Les Touristes” can be found in this small park. The white plaster-cast figures depict a middle aged couple, a man and his child who is pointing up at something, a roller blader and a dog, who are all enjoying the serene setting.  The work was created to celebrate Montreal’s 375th birthday. Just east of Parc de la Presse is Place d’Armes, Montreal’s second oldest public square.  A monument of Paul de Chomdey, the founder of Montreal sits at the centre of the square, which is surrounded by such architecturally stunning buildings as Notre-Dame Basilica, Saint-Sulpice Seminary, the red-bricked New York Life Insurance Building featuring a clock tower, the Art Deco-styled Aldred Building and the Neoclassical-styled Bank of Montreal Head Office with the Pantheon-like façade and gorgeous interior.

A cute pair of statues titled “The English Pug and the French Poodle” by Marc Andre J. Fortier flank two sides of Place d’Armes.  In one corner, a dapperly dressed Englishman holds an English Pug as he looks up haughtily at the Notre Dame Basilica, a symbol of religion for French Canadians.  At the other side of the square, an equally arrogant French woman in a Chanel suit holding a French Poodle is turning her nose up at the Bank of Montreal, a symbol of English Power.  The dogs have no socio-political agendas or prejudices and just want to play with each other.  Nicknamed “The Two Snobs”, the work cleverly satirizes the cultural divide between English and French Canadians.

Walking north on Rue Saint-Paul, we planned to walk between Rue Saint-Pierre and the Bonsecours Market, an area that is full of little shops, eateries and many small private art galleries.  On the recommendation of a friend, we stopped at Le Petit Dep (The Small Depot), a charming high-end convenience store and café where we could rest and have a cold drink before starting our art gallery trek.  We ordered a chocolate-coffee ice cream milk shake to share, since we didn’t want to spoil our upcoming dinner, but it was so good that we quickly ordered a second one.

There were so many art galleries along this stretch that we literally crisscrossed Rue Saint-Paul for blocks on end, going into one gallery after another.  Most of them specialized in contemporary works including drawings, paintings, collage and sculptures.  We saw many interesting works but after a while, the various galleries blended together so we didn’t really know where we saw which piece.  However two galleries stood out for us since in each case, we saw items that we really liked and semi-seriously considered purchasing.

The first was Galerie Blanche where we were intrigued by the life-sized bronze sculpture of a Rubenesque woman savouring a selection from a box of chocolates which she holds in her hands.  We found out that the Montreal sculptor is Rose-Aimée Bélanger who specializes in creating feminine, rotund but sensual subjects that she likes to call her “rondes” (rounds).  Bélanger was actually commissioned in 2002 to create an outdoor sculpture, resulting in “Les Chuchoteuses” or “The Gossipers” depicting three seated women deep in conversation with one another.  We would see this sculpture when we continued our walk north on Rue Saint-Paul.  Wandering deeper into the gallery, we found another of her works, a medium-sized (16inches tall) bronze called “My Last Cigarette”, depicting a woman seated in an arm chair, seductively puffing on her cigarette.  I really liked these bronzes but at 6 figures for the large one and 5 figures for the medium sized one, they were obviously out of our price range for an impromptu purchase.  However the gallery owner tempted me when he showed us several smaller pieces (around 7-10 inches tall) that went for low to mid 4 figures, including a scaled down version of the woman eating the chocolates.  This was still quite a bit of money to spend on a whim and we would need to pay for shipping on top of that, but it at least gave us pause.  As we do with any large purchase that we are considering, we decided to think about it while we looked at more galleries and if we still felt the need after that, we could return and negotiate a price.

As it turns out, a few galleries later we found something that we liked even more and was much more within our impulse-buy price range.  As we were casually browsing the works in Galerie Le Luxart, we came across a mixed medium work by Leila Labelle called “Haute Couture: Midnight Ball” that immediately caught our attention.  It consists of a watercolour and acrylic based painting of a woman in a beautiful blue gown but the top part of the gown and her hair ornament are created with handmade papers and fabrics that ruffle and pop out 3-dimensionally from the canvas and are adorned with tiny Swarovski crystals and pearls that glisten when light is shone upon them.  The canvas is made to look like wallpaper with the use of gold leaf, more crystals and other accessories.  Labelle’s background in fashion design is apparent, as her Haute Couture collection “presents a vintage fashion narrative inspired by the High Fashion companies of Paris including Coco Chanel and Dior”.  I have always wanted a 3-dimensional mixed-medium painting and I fell in love with this piece.  The price was significantly less than any of the sculptures that we were mildly considering (and had already started to cool on) and felt even less expensive in comparison.  The clincher came when we were told that the work would be shipped free of charge.  We made the decision to buy the painting before even leaving the gallery (although we did walk around a few times while we thought about it).   The piece was delivered to us a week later and came with a certificate of authenticity.  I have named my lovely lady in blue “Annabelle” and she sparkles when the light is shone upon her.

At the end of our stroll north along Rue Saint-Paul, we came to the Bonsecours Market and the Old Port area.  We thought the market would be a food and farmers market, similar to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.  Instead it seemed to be mainly souvenir and clothing stores which did not interest us.   We continued on to the waterfront where we saw people zip-lining down towards a giant Ferris wheel, some food trucks and two rows of tents containing gift and souvenir shops set up by the water.   We found a bench and sat by the water for a while before heading off to dinner.

We arrived in Montreal late Wednesday night and spent the next  day touring the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which consists of five pavilions and a sculpture garden spanning across three buildings located along Rue Sherbrooke.  The original Beaux Arts building (now called the Michael and Renata Hornstein Pavilion – orange section on the map) was erected in 1912 and now houses the collection of Islamic, Asian, African and Columbian Art.  In 1976 the building was extended to add the Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion (green section) which now contains the Decorative Arts and Design exhibits, many of which were donated by the Stewarts.  The modernist-styled Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion (red section) was added across the street in 1991 and special temporary exhibits are now shown there.  Added in 2011, the Claire and Marc Bourgie (blue section) Pavilion resides in a renovated late 19th Century Revival church with Tiffany stained glass windows.  It houses the collection of Canadian, Inuit and Quebec art while the outdoor sculpture garden is situated on the street along side of it.  Finally in 2016, the Hornstein Pavilion for Peace (purple) was the latest addition, timed to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary and displays International art (mostly European and North American).  Even though we had allocated most of the day to inspecting the exhibits in this museum, there was still too much for us to see it all.  Accordingly we prioritized and chose the areas that we were most interested in, leaving the rest for a future visit.   We decided to concentrate on International and Canadian modern and contemporary art, Decorative Arts and Design and the Sculpture Garden. 

Usually all the buildings and pavilions are connected by underground passageways but access to the older sections were closed for renovations, so we had to go outside and cross Rue Sherbrooke to get into them.  The passageways between the pavilions are lined with art.  An Inuit totem pole can be found in front of the entrance to the Bourgie pavilion Canadian Art Pavilion.  American pop artist Jim Dine’sAt the Carnival” (1996) consists of three giant painted wood carvings inspired by the armless Venus de Milo, rendered as cubist-shaped headless forms.  American George Segal’s 1990 installation called “Graffiti Wall” that features three male figures shown together but also isolated from each other.  Segal’s ongoing themes of loneliness and disenfranchisement in blue-collared, working class America is also on display in another installation called “Woman Sitting on a Bed” (1993) found in the International Contemporary Art section.  Often also referred to as the “Black Room”, the work depicts a darkened room where a nude middle-aged woman sits on a rumpled bed with her back turned towards us, lit only by a stark overhead light.  The entire space is painted black as Segal interprets the depressive side of the American experience.

We started in the Modern Art section of the Peace Pavilion for International art where we saw works by iconic artists.  The “Tripod vase” (1951) was created by ceramist Suzanne Ramié using earthenware glazed in white before Pablo Picasso used blue paint to add facial features on two sides.  The face on the front is accompanied with a set of hands to give the appearance that the woman is leaning on her elbows while holding up her head.  The face on the back cleverly uses the curved handle of the pitcher to represent the nose.  Salvador Dali designed a silver chess set (1971) for the American Chess Foundation at the bequest of his fellow surrealist artist and chess lover Marcel Duchamp. Except for the rooks, which were modeled after the tower-like salt shakers from the St. Regis Hotel in New York, the chess pieces were made as replicas of the fingers of Dali and Gala, his wife and muse. Sculptor, painter and furniture designer Niki de Saint Phalle is known for her vibrantly colourful, large-scaled sculptures of whimsical animals, monsters and rotund female figures.  She created two arm chairs named Clarice (after her friend Clarice Rivers) and Charly out of painted polyester, each designed to look like a seated person whose arms form the arms and legs form the arms and legs of the chairs.  The seat of each chairs represents the symbolic “lap” of a comforting parent.  Between the two chairs is a table and stool decorated with the heads of comical snakes.  Icelandic artist Gudmundur Gudmundsson (aka Erró) is known for his pop art collages.  His work “Christmas White House” (1974) uses Chinese Socialist posters and magazine clippings to depict the fictional conquest of the USA by Mao Zedong and his Red Guard, one of whom is shown guarding the White House at Christmas time with a decorated tree in the background.

The most interesting work in the International Contemporary Art section is the large “Jewellery Case” with many drawers, made of cypress wood and shaped in the form of a grenade.  Created in 1999 by the artist collective “Los Carpinteros” (the carpenters) from Havana Cuba, the juxtaposition of a piece of decorative art created with a military form is quite unexpected and jarring.  American pop artist Tom Wesselmann gives 3-dimensional physical form to his quickly drawn scribbles an doodles by having them recreated as large-scaled “steel drawings” cut to precision using lasers.  Using just a few strips of enamel-painted cut steel to represent his “Standing Nude (Variation #7), Wesselmann's piece feels surprisingly provocative, especially with his emphasis on the breasts and pubic hair of the figure.  German artist Stephan Balkenhol’s giant head sculptures (1990) take inspiration from the large bronze busts created in Roman times, but he modernizes his giant heads of a man and woman by carving them out of wood, yet leaving the carvings rough and unfinished, as well as placing them on table-like stools instead of pedestals.  Tom Stella ‘s “The Pitchpoling” (1990) mixed media sculpture pays tribute to and is based on Chapter 84 of Herman Melville’s iconic novel Moby Dick, which describes the great whale being pierced or pitchpoled by a small harpoon.  Viewing the abstract, colourful sculpture from various angles, you can see the curves and fins of the whale as well as the roiling waves. The title of Mark Tansy’s “Action Painting II” (1984) seems to hint at the “meta” nature of this work, as opposed to the similarly named gestural artistic style of the Abstract Expressionists.  His green/grey toned painting depicts a space shuttle rocket lifting off in the background while a group of artists sit or stand in front of canvases on easels, trying to capture the event.  Is the titular action the flight of the rocket or the act of the people trying to paint it, or the act of Tansy depicting this fictional scenario?  In the same vein, Tansy’s earlier work “Action Painting I” is a black and white rendering of a single female painter capturing the moment when a car crashes and overturns in a ball of smoke.
We saw some very interesting Canadian Modern/Contemporary Art on the bottom floor of the Bourgie Pavilion, which we were able to reach via one of the underground passageways.  I was fascinated by the upside-down bronze sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, balanced precariously by the tip of its flame.  Montreal sculptor Michel de Broin created “The Abyss of Liberty” in 2013, reducing it to human scale to further minimize the majestic nature of this iconic symbol.  This upturned work is a metaphor of the political climate in the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001, reflecting the attack on freedom and democracy.  I also liked how the sculpture was lit from above so that shadows of the statue were cast in multiple directions on the floor.   Quebec painter Serge Lemoye ‘s acrylic painting of legendary Montreal Canadians goaltender Ken Dryden (1975) has almost an abstract feel, yet its subject is immediately recognizable.  Ottawa-born Marc Séguin’s “Woman and Moon” (2003) is part of a series of works depicting horrors and disasters of the contemporary world.  Once again inspired by the events of 9/11, the image of a woman falling from the sky memorializes on the victims who jumped/fell from the Twin Towers.  We saw the works by a couple of famous Canadian artists whose names we actually recognized.  Michael Snow’s repeated images of a walking woman in mid stride are ubiquitous as we have seen examples in many art galleries including the AGO back home in Toronto.  This one, called “Four Grey Panels and Four Figures” (1963), consists of the silhouettes of four identically shaped women, rendered in different colours and backgrounds, facing both to the left and to the right.  By contrast, the works on display by Jean-Paul Riopelle are a departure than the usual Abstract Expressionist “dab” paintings that he is mostly known for.  Here two paintings from his “Morning at Cape Tourmente” series (1990) called “Pheasants in the Aviary” and “Whirlygoose” depict images of birds on top of abstract backgrounds.

The main special exhibition on display featured the works of French fashion, jewellery and perfume designer Thierry Mugler, who has designed for fashion houses in Paris, London, Barcelona and Milan as well as costumes for various theatre groups, the Cirque de Soleil, director Robert Altman and singers including George Michael and Beyonce.  In 1985 he was commissioned to design over 70 costumes and accessories for a new production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth for the state-run theatre, the Comédie-Française.  In addition to sketches and sample costumes, this section of the exhibit featured a video called “The Incandescence of Lady Macbeth” which shows her descending into madness as her regal gown burns and disintegrates, leaving her in a  simple chiffon nightgown.

The exhibit offered room after room of Mugler’s creations, which were mostly fabulously vibrant and flamboyant, and does not match my impression of the meaning of “ready-to-wear”, which is how the fashion houses that he once worked for were described.  Even his versions of black evening gowns were uniquely accessorized with fancy headgears, feathers, sequins, lace capes and more.  He did not shy away from cleavage as illustrated in one “low-cut” gown where the front of the dress was hooked onto two nipple rings attached to the mannequin’s exposed breasts.  This was a far cry from the elegant yet relatively modest black dress that he famously designed for Demi Moore to wear in the movie Indecent Proposal.

My favourite parts of Mugler’s collection were the outfits that went beyond mere flamboyance, venturing into the theatrical or even fantastical realm.  One section was clearly inspired by sea as emphasized by the background images in the room.  There was a shimmering, tight-fitting gown that looked like a fish or mermaid while another that reminds me of a coral or sea urchin or some sort of sea plant.  I particularly liked the costumes inspired by and using various parts from vehicles.  There were several bustiers made with motorcycle or car parts such as the headlights, hood ornament, rear-view mirrors, front grill, odometer, compass and other dials.  One even had an ignition key attached to it while another was made entirely from the treads of rubber tires and a third had metal fenders extending backwards like wings.

Shown as a complementary feature the to Thierry Mugler Retrospective, “Montreal Couture” highlighted the works of 10 local artists, designers and collectives including Denis Gagnon, Phillip Dubue, Helmer Joseph, and Ying Gao.  Some of the pieces rivaled Mugler in creativity and audacity.  There was the bohemian “gown” made by assembling many small pieces cut from blue jeans and other materials, all held together by safety pins.  Several elegant dresses were made totally out of sewn together zippers, and the bright orange jump suits looked like the prison outfits worn by newbie prisoners in the show Orange is the New Black.  But most outrageous of all was the ensemble created by the collective provocatively called “Fecal Matter”.  I thought the short pink mini-dress, made out of plastic and vinyl with long detachable sleeves and a huge large bow that is worn as a backpack, was actually quite pretty.  But the accompanying thigh-high flesh-like “Skin Heel Boots” made from silicon, nylon, polycarbonate and fibreglass were the most grotesque and creepy items of clothing that I have ever seen.  The boots were shaped and moulded to replicate a pair of human legs and feet, except for the addition of horn-like heels and spikes protruding from the calves that turned these limbs into abominations.  It was a real shock to see these boots displayed next to the pretty pink dress, which probably was the point of the piece.  I enjoyed playing at the table where I could dress up little miniature mannequins to create my own sartorial creations from pieces of material.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Outdoor Sculpture Garden consists of 22 sculptures by artists including Barry Flanagan,  Jaume Plensa, Aaron Curry (whose work I thought was Alexander Calder’s), Mimmo Paladino are Anthony Gormley are positioned on both sides of Avenue du Musée, which runs eastward towards the Desmarais Pavilion, flanked by the Bourgie Pavilion to the north and the Horstein and Stewart Pavilions to the south.  The sidewalks and wide pedestrian road of the Avenue itself seem to be used for rotating art installations, as can be seen from images on the internet of past works.   My favourite sculpture along this stretch is the humorous welded bronze ostrich-like bird on roller skates named “Fanny Fanny” (1990) by César Baldaccini.

Sculptures are also found in front of each of the major Pavilions including one of Dale Chihuly’s iconic glass designs in front of the Horstein building, Jim Dine’s bronze “Twin Hearts” in front of the Desmarais building and David Altmejd’s “The Eye” in front of the Bourgie.   The cow sculpture by Joe Fafard can also be found in Toronto on the grounds of the TD Centre as part of a larger set of cows grouped together to form “The Pasture”.  I thought I recognized that cow when I first spotted it in the sculpture garden on the Avenue du Musée!

The last section of the Museum of Fine Arts that we explored was Decorative Arts and Design, and there were so many beautiful and fascinating pieces to look at.  We liked the three animal inspired chairs that were each so unique in its shape and material.  There was the Elephant Chair (2004) by Parisian Bernard Rancillac, made with reinforced polyester fiberglass and steel which was painted white.  The chair's back formed the elephant’s head and ears, the arm rests formed the trunk and the elongated seat represented the trunk.  French designer Hubert Le Gall’s Whale Chair (2004) has a metal frame covered with polyurethane foam and brown velvet, while Italian designer Riccardo Dalisi’s “Banc Mariposa” (1989) is a painted steel bench shaped like a butterfly.  We were intrigued by the strange light bulb sculpture (2012) by Pieke Bergmans of Netherlands that was made of blown crystal that was attached to a long-armed folding desk lamp.  From one angle the bulb looked like a comics “speech bubble” while from another, it looked like a whale (am I seeing whales everywhere?).  A unique sleigh, possibly from Germany, dates back to the 16th Century and is painted and gilded wood, iron and velvet for the seat.  Interestingly, it was a gift to the museum from the Canadian Pacific Railway.  There was a large case full of jewellery including Montrealer Maurice Brault’s “Venus de Caliari” brooch made from coral, turquoise, pearl and gold.  Our friend who likes cows would have liked Jessie Bromm’s Landscape II (2011), made from sandcast glass and various materials.  Bromm specializes in making miniature scenes.  Finally I really liked Karl Schantz’s vase made from blown cased glass and glass powder which looked so much like it was from the Art Nouveau era even though it was made in 1978.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is an excellent museum with a huge collection that we have just scratched the surface of.  We will have to resume our exploration of it on our next visit to the city.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Montreal 2019 - Street Art Festival

After years of talking about it, my husband Rich and I finally took a quick trip to Montreal to attend the annual MURAL Street Art Festival.  While there, we also intended to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts as well as tour the Old Town and Port areas.  The plan was to take a VIARail train from Toronto Union Station to Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale) and stay at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel which is attached to the train station.  To our surprise, we found out that the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was fully booked and settled instead for the nearby Best Western Europa, about a 10 minute walk away.   In looking for rail tickets, we found that if we traveled outside of normal “business travel” hours, we could actually get business class seats for less money than Economy Plus seats.  We lucked out and found a good deal for the dates that we wanted to go (leaving late Wednesday afternoon at the beginning of June).  A one-way Economy-Plus ticket from Toronto to Montreal went for about $192 regardless of what hour you traveled.  The business class seat was $205 if you traveled in the morning, but only $132 if you traveled after 5pm.  This was only $22 more than an regular economy seat!   The price for the 6pm business class return ticket on Saturday evening was only $110.  It was a no-brainer for us to choose the business class seat, which came with many perks.  We were able to access the business class lounge where we could wait for boarding in comfort with TV, newspapers and magazines, hot and cold drinks and fruit at our disposal.  We also were able to bypass the lengthy economy-fare line when boarding and waltzed right onto the train after showing our tickets.  Once on the train, we had nice wide seats with lots of leg room and a little table between us.  And our fare included free drinks, a complementary meal and an after dinner chocolate and aperitif.  We each had a glass of port and enjoyed our chocolates as we worked on crossword puzzles to pass the time during the 5.5 hour trip which made several brief stops along the way.

Once we arrived at the Montreal Central Station and walked through the Queen Elizabeth Hotel en route to our Best Western Hotel, we found out the reason why the Queen Elizabeth was fully booked.  It was not because of the Street Art Festival, but instead, the Formula One Grand Prix race was also being held this same weekend.  The lobby of the Queen Elizabeth was filled with paintings of race cars alongside actual cars themselves.  Several of the streets around our hotel were blocked off in preparation for the racing festivities and had more fancy race cars on display, as well as kiosks selling racing souvenirs.  We saw the black and white checkered flags hanging from lamp posts and strung above buildings all through the downtown core.  We also spotted some fancy vehicles cruising the downtown streets.  We arrived in Montreal on the evening that the Toronto Raptors were playing Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors and we made it into our hotel room just in time to catch the second half of the game.  We usually have no use for the television in a hotel room and rarely turn it on while we travel, but I was grateful for it on this evening.  Following the Raptors victory of this game, we heard loud revving of engines late into the night from our hotel room and were not sure whether this was in celebration of the Formula One race or the basketball game.

Although it would have been convenient to stay at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel due to its proximity to the train station, the Best Western Europa was still a fairly good location and was less expensive to stay at, so in the end it worked out for us.  Despite being on the same street as two massage parlours, the hotel was in a fun area, surrounded by shops, eateries, art galleries and public art.  For breakfast one morning, we bought delicious chocolate almond croissants from the nearby French pastry shop Christian Fauve Pastries.  We were close to the McGill University campus around which several cool sculptures were spotted.  A fun bronze sculpture of a frazzled student sitting atop a bench looking at his laptop can be found at the corner of Rue Sherbrooke and Avenue McGill College across from the Roddick Gates.  Created by Cédric Loth, it is titled “Steve Jobs est Mort” (Steve Jobs is Dead) and features an Apple laptop with an etching of Jobs and the titular words on the screen.  To one side of the student is a squirrel and an open bag from which a hamburger box and an overturned container of McDonald's fries have spilled out.  A soda cup with a straw sits on his lap in front of his laptop. The squirrel is scurrying away with the top of the hamburger bun in his mouth. The sculpture was created shortly after Jobs’ 2011 death.  In 2014, the street artist Sautu temporarily augmented the sculpture to add his own social commentary.  He affixed a satirical warning message over on the computer screen stating "Too Much Time Wasted On Social Media" with a cheeky "Do Something Else" button below it.  Inside the McGill campus grounds, after passing through the Roddick Gates, can be found the multi-coloured metal sculpture called “Human Structures” by Jonathan Borofsky.  On loan from the Vancouver Art Biennale to be part of Montreal’s own Open-Air Museum exhibition, the sculpture consists of 64 interconnected humanoid figures in a bright rainbow of primary colours forming a pyramid.

Located beside the McCord research and teaching museum running along Victoria St. between Rue Sherbrooke and President-Kennedy Avenue is the 9th annual installation of “Urban Forests”.  This is a temporary pedestrianized area populated with sculptural “trees” as well as carpeted “lawn”, picnic tables and benches.  Each year features a different design and colour scheme.  In the past, colourful reds, purples and blues have been used.  This year, the trees are decked out in a glimmering gold hue accompanied by golden-yellow tables and carpet.  As we walked through the area called “Little Burgundy” (La Petite-Bourgogne) towards the restaurant Liverpool House for dinner, we got a preview of some of the street art murals that we would see as part of the Street Art Festival in the next couple of days.

Liverpool House is the sister restaurant of Joe Beef, which is considered to be one of the top restaurants in Canada and recommended by many celebrity chefs including Anthony Bourdain.  You need to book many months in advance to get into Joe Beef while it is much easier to get a reservation for Liverpool House.  Given that the two restaurants have similar menus including some of the most popular offerings, we did not feel like we were missing much.  As our “high-end” meal for the trip, we set aside our diets and ordered with abandon.  For appetizers, we shared the Foie gras breakfast sandwich entrée from the regular menu.  It consisted of a toasted English muffin, cheese, poached egg, peameal bacon, and foie gras slathered with hollandaise sauce and maple mustard, the epitome of decadence!  From the daily specials, we selected the soft shelled crab on a bed of cucumber salad.  For mains we ordered the grilled sword fish in a chemoula sauce (garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and cilantro) topped with sautéed seasonal vegetables, as well as the famous lobster spaghetti that was raved about on TripAdvisor.  The portions of the apps and mains were quite large, but we could have finished them without issue had we not made the mistake of also ordering the white asparagus au gratin as our “vegetable side”.  Everything was so delicious (and so pricey) that we did not want to waste a drop, but the volume of food was overwhelming.  We considered skipping dessert, but ended up sharing a slice of the Neapolitan torte.  My only complaint from the meal was that my stomach hurt afterwards from eating so much!

Originating in 2012, Montreal’s MURAL Street Art Festival runs for 11 days in the beginning of June, with artists from around the world participating by creating new works over the course of the event.  The bulk of the art can be found on the sides of building walls along Boulevard St. Laurent, running from Rue Sherbrooke to Avenue Mont-Royale.   We signed up for a guided tour on the Saturday of our stay, but decided that we would go on a quick scouting trip on the Friday.  This would allow us to leisurely take photos ahead of time and therefore be able to concentrate on the information relayed during the tour.  We found Boulevard St. Laurent blocked off from traffic with food, clothing, art and souvenir kiosks lining both sides of the street, as well as live art, music, exhibitions and artist demonstrations.

Since we were in town for the first few days of the festival as it was just ramping up, the streets were not that busy yet, which allowed us to wander around at leisure.  In addition to the murals and street art, we spotted various sculptures including a set of pink hippos, a giant white rabbit and a David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust-like bust.  From the upstairs window above a shop one shop was the mannequin depicting Michael Jackson infamously dangling his baby.  Below that was a large image of Santa Claus with the caption “F*** Xmas, I want to come now”.  People with warped senses of humour must own these buildings.

Along the main drag, street artists were set up with surfaces to paint or spray upon, including sheets of plastic, pieces of dry wall, sides of panel trucks, and even one person who was painting her own dress.  Some artists who were assigned large walls to create their murals upon were in their initial phases of production, from prepping the surface, sketching out the design or painting the final images.  Many stood on ladders, cranes or cherry pickers that helped them reach the tops of the walls.

As we wandered around, we saw many murals that were already completed, either prior to the start this year’s festival, or as remnants from previous years.  My favourite piece was a long rectangular mural covering the base of a building facing an alleyway near Milton St.  It was created in 2017 by Montreal female street artist Mono Sourcil (translated as “Single Eyebrow”) and depicts a large collection of her trademark images⁠—caricatured depictions of humans, robots, Sci-Fi aliens and monsters, often drawn with just one eyebrow.  I loved walking along the mural, looking at all the distinct images painted in a colour palette of pale greens, pinks, maroon and black that give them a creepy feel.  Given the temporary nature of street art which is intended to eventually be painted over, the fact that this work is still intact, untouched and untagged several years after its initial creation attests to the admiration and respect that the street art community seem to give it.

We were really impressed by the large-scaled murals that we saw, many of which reflected significant artistic talent as well as wit, charm and sometimes social commentary.  While most of the works have a cartoonish slant, some are incredibly detailed and even realistic in their rendering.  When we took the tour on the last day of our stay, we learned about some of the techniques that the artists used to create such mammoth works while maintaining proportions, depth and perspective.  It would be difficult enough to produce these images on canvases, but to apply them to huge immobile walls and have to navigate obstacles like pipes, windows, doors, bumps and cracks while scaling heights and braving the outdoor elements requires more skill and ingenuity than the generic term “graffiti” may be credited with.  It is wonderful that street art is becoming a more accepted form of public art around the world, as we have experienced by taking graffiti and street art tours in international cities including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Dublin and New York City.

While I do like image-based street art, I am much less partial to graffiti writing of what I consider illegible words, although I do see the difference between a well constructed piece that includes multiple colours and depth as opposed to a quickly scrawled tag.  During our stroll along the Mural Festival area, we came across the second of two dueling tributes to singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen who passed away November 2016.  In each case, he is wearing his trademark fedora hat.  We first saw the 20-storeyed grey-scale rendering of Cohen at 1420 Crescent Street when looking through the upstairs window of the Museum of Fine Arts.   It was created by Montreal artist Gene Pendon and American street artist El Mac, replicating a photo taken by Cohen’s daughter Lorca.   A smaller 9-storeyed mural sits on the side of the Cooper Building on Boulevard St. Laurent, right in the middle of the Mural Festival territory.  Created by artist Kevin Ledo, it is more colourful and more in line with its street art setting.  There has been debate in Montreal over which mural better captures Cohen’s essence but I think they are both fine works.

Our guided tour of the Mural Festival was led by Ryan, a graffiti artist from Miami, who encouraged us to take his tour in that city if we were ever to visit.  Ryan led us through narrow gritty alleys to see where “real graffiti” was made and we were able to watch as one anonymous artist was spray-painting his piece, adding shading for depth.  We watched the artist Miss Van from Toulouse France as she painted over images that she originally drew on the wall using a projector to shine her original sketch onto the surface.  I found an image of Miss Van’s completed mural on the internet.  The artist Leon Keer drew a sketch on the ground that looked like a flat representation of a bathroom, along with a set of foot prints with the instructions to stand there to take a photo of his work.  When we did this, suddenly this “anamorphic” work popped up into space and appeared to be 3-Dimensional.  We arrived to see that the artist Germ Dee had started to sketch his cartoonish characters over a previous mural done by the artist Scribe in 2017.  It was interesting to see the work of one artist begin to overlay another’s.  Again I found an image on the internet of Germ Dee’s finished work, which had totally covered over the original image underneath.  Several other huge works in progress had markings delineating different sections in a "paint-by-number" fashion. 

We also found cool examples of works by street artists in art galleries along Boulevard St. Laurent, including Station 16 which had items on sale from a variety of artists.  I liked the sculptural pieces by the artist Denial, including “Billions Served”, depicting a gun sticking through a McDonald's French fry box. He also made 3 attached candy dispensers labelled “Yes/No/Maybe” which accepted quarters and dispensed actual pill-shaped candies.  The pill theme continued with pills made from spray-painted wood which he titled “Micro Dose Pills”.  The pills are labelled with the names of large commercial corporations such as CocaCola, VISA, Microsoft, Rolex, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Facebook, Netflix and more.  The artist Jaune expanded the concept of sculptural diptychs by creating two blocks of wood each spray-painted with his trademark construction workers, who are tugging on a physical piece of string that spans both blocks and dangles beyond them.  Abagail Goldman’s seemingly innocent diorama of a home with a large lawn is ominously titled “Snip Snip”.  When you look closely at the two figures at the edge of the lawn, you see that the man has actually stabbed the prone and bleeding woman with his garden sheers.  Goldman cheekily coined the term glass “Die-orama!” to describe  her miniature scenes of horror set behind plexiglass cases.  The artist WhatisAdam creates silkscreen prints repurposing the iconic image of a maple syrup can but labels it “Pure Maple Sizzrup”.  I had to look up what sizzrup meant and discovered that it refers to a drink made from codeine-based prescription cough syrup, soda and Jolly Ranchers Candy, meant to produce feelings of euphoria while also acting as a sedative.  Also named “Purple drank”, it produces a cough syrup high.

On our two visits to Boulevard St. Laurent, first for the scouting expedition and then the guided Mural tour, we had the opportunity to check out some of the eateries along this stretch.  The first day, we stopped for quick bite at the famed Schwartz’s Deli and shared a smoked meat sandwich (ordered "full fat" of course!) and a can of cherry cola.  The next day after the tour, we needed to kill time before picking up our luggage at the hotel and taking the train back to Toronto.  We chose the patio of Shaker Kitchen & Mixology since it gave us a good view of the main strip of the street art festival and we were tempted by the vast choices of mixed drinks on offer.  There was a two-paged spread of alcoholic and non-alcoholic fruity drinks and six different types of Sangria.  I chose the strawberry melon sangria made with red wine, Smirnoff raspberry vodka, watermelon puree and soda while Rich had a white wine-based grapefruit sangria with Tanqueray gin, white cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and tonic water.

For appetizers, we had mini lobster pogos and nachos with guacamole, bacon bit, sour cream and salsa.  For mains, I had the spiced tuna tataki with Asian mayonnaise and peanuts accompanied with a salad and fries while Rich had a burger and fries.  The food was just OK but it served our purpose to find a place where we could linger for a while and rest our feet, and the drinks were refreshing on a hot day.