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Posts Tagged ‘Montreal Museums Prestige Pass’

Despite this being Montreal’s archeological museum, built around the original city center, the temporary exhibits are what entices repeat visits. My favourite was an Easter Island exhibit, which included a large concrete replica of an Easter Island head in front of the museum and an incredible documentary about Westerners removing some of the massive statues from the island on barges, which ended with the haunting phrase along the lines of “the women sang songs lamenting their stolen gods.” The brand new samurai exhibit is just as enthralling, with an impressive array of samurai armor, weaponry, and cultural paraphernalia. The temporary space is not large, but the space is well-used. Construction for expanding the museum is underway. The museum also organizes two worthwhile outdoor events during the spring and summer – the Cultural Feast in May and the 18th Century Market in August.

Visitors can watch a short and somewhat corny introductory video to Montreal history, and can tour the ruins in the bottom level, which stretches under the street to exit at the gift shop. This makes the museum a popular destination for student field trips.

The belvédère at the top of the museum, which is accessible via the elevator and stairs without a museum pass, provides a nice view of the old port and has view holes which point out landmarks. The view is especially nice on a clear day. The cafe, l’Arrivage, is also accessible without a museum pass, and is worth a visit, especially for brunch. I would recommend having brunch around 11am before the restaurant gets crowded, and then enjoying the rest of the museum.

Metro: Place d’Armes

350 Place Royale and De la Commune

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I decided to join the Friends of the Montreal Botanical Garden (Les Amis du Jardin botanique de Montréal) because two visits via the Prestige Pass aren’t nearly enough. This is a sizable space and there’s always something different to see. Last week I managed to catch the annual “Butterflies go free” exhibit, where visitors can enter a room filled with numerous free-flying butterflies and moths and watch them emerge from live chrysalides. In a week or so I’ll return to see the tulips in bloom. Then it will be time to see the magnolias, forsythia, and azaleas. Later in the summer, the lanes and arches of roses will be in bloom, as will all the other plants and flowers on the grounds. Even when it’s snowing outside, the green house has a nice collection of cactus, orchids, begonias, ferns, and more, though one has to watch out for bottle-necking.

There are plenty of benches in scenic spots, overlooking ponds with various birds and an arboretum, perfect for resting or picnicking. My favorite area is the hilly rock garden, which has various mountain plants and flowers.I’d recommend bringing your own snacks or even a lunch or dinner to enjoy somewhere around the grounds, as the garden restaurant is little more than a cafe.

The Insectarium is located on the botanical garden grounds, but it is currently closed for renovation until the summer. One should always check first to make sure that it will be open before planning a visit. Last year labour disputes closed it to the public on a couple of occasions (apparently the insects remained well looked-after during those times).

Because the Olympic Stadium is easily visible from the botanical gardens, you can use the “white elephant” as a navigation guide while inside.

metro: Pie IX

4101, rue Sherbrooke Est and boulevard Pie IX

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One of the most impressive contemporary buildings in Montreal is the Grande Bibliothèque, which was built directly over the Berri-UQAM metro and finished in 2005. It can be entered directly from the metro – a huge plus when the weather is less than hospitable. It was the product of an international architectural competition and is now one of the world’s most popular francophone libraries, and also houses the Quebec national archives. Most of the materials available at the Grande Bibliothèque are in French but at least the dvd and cd collection is equally bilingual.

The open and inviting building is a modern masterpiece of concrete, glass, and unfinished wood. There are two airy laptop pavilions with free wi-fi, several reading terraces, and open elevator shafts so everyone can enjoy watching the exposed glass elevators go up and down. Artwork displayed in the open areas are changed periodically.

If you’re just passing through, I recommend visiting at least twice – admission is free, after all. Spend the first time gawking and wandering about on your own, and then come back a second time as part of one of the free 1-hour bilingual guided tours or using one of the free audioguides to see whatever you might have missed yourself. After watching a 16-minute documentary on the construction of the building, I found a new appreciation for the library I visit weekly.

Metro: Berri-UQAM

475, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est and rue Berri

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One of my goals this year is to visit every one of the 35 museums on the Montreal Museums’ Prestige Pass. The $220 ($200 for the card, $20 for courier service) is quickly made back after 5-6 double visits, so it’s a smart investment for any resident or long-time visitor as it can be used for up to a year after it is purchased.

The project starts today, as I was finally at home to receive the courier delivery of my shiny new Prestige Pass – it even comes in a little box! – and bilingual Montreal Museums Magazine, which I will be using to plan my visits. The Prestige Pass cannot be bought in person, unlike the other museum passes, which can be bought at most of the museum locations. The magazine is very useful, as it has pictures, descriptions, and visitor information for all of the museums, as well as maps and suggested walking tour routes. Because this information might sometimes change, I will double-check the museum info on their websites prior to visiting. After enjoying the sights, I’ll write a review for each museum, and keep a running list on a special tab at the top of my blog’s home page. The project starts today, and will end on April 1, 2012 when the pass expires. Wish me luck – I’m so excited!

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