Having said that, I personally relished the trip from start to finish, especially the journeys to and fro in the business class coach of the train (we'd bought "supersaver" tickets) with full meals and wine on board. After feeling unwell after Christmas I had my appetite back by the other end of the week.
Our New Year's Eve supper at the Plein Sud restaurant on Ave. Mont-Royal didn't seem to reach quite the same height of perfection as it had on December 31st, 2010, probably because we were expecting that it would. From the chef's point of view the menu wasn't quite so ambitious. The restaurant was more crowded this year; maybe he feels he has established his reputation and doesn't need to make so much of an impression these days. We sat at exactly the same table for eight as before. I gather the magret de canard au foi gras didn't taste as good as last year's beef, although my choice, dos de morue grillée à l’unilatérale, crème de langoustines, turned out to be a superb dish.
|New Year's Day skaters, Montreal|
At midnight when the New Year began we were all at the Old Port with our feet in the snow (slippery ice not far below it), watching the fireworks go off to cheers from the thousands of Montrealers celebrating. We had hiked 3km from the Avenue Mont-Royal, down St.-Laurent Blvd (aka The Main, Mordecai Richler's hangout) with all its nightclubs, the queues outside spilling off the sidewalks into the street, the girls in their mini skirts oblivious to the cold, or pretending to be, their high heels slipping in the slush. That style of dress didn't suit many of them. Walking through the fumes of marijuana and noticing the rows of ambulances lying in wait we speculated as to what it must be like inside the clubs. None of us had any desire to find out. Chris and I felt more at home once we reached the edge of China town where the people looked more demure.
|Wall of cuddly toys, Big Bang exhibition|
This year's special art exhibitions weren't as grim as last year's Otto Dix show. Chris was taken by the ironic painting by the American artist Mark Tansey that shows a cluster of artists with outdoor easels trying to capture the impossible, a shuttle lift-off from Cape Canaveral. We found the modern art––the Big Bang collection of carte blanche ideas from twenty different Quebec artists, plus the permanent exhibits––both provocative and entertaining, and while we were looking round the museum, John, Jill and Laurie turned up to join us there. We were all impressed by the En Masse black and white graffiti room and by the colourful wall of stuffed animals juxtaposed with (facing) a medieval stone Head of Christ,
"Cet incroyable Tête de Christ du XIIe siècle nous désarme par l’intensité pénétrante de son regard. En face, des centaines de peluches nous dévisagent."
After that we went to look at the French impressionists and expressionists.