Avant-garde and au revoir :)

Finally! I made it to the Musée des Beaux-Arts for the half-price entry to the Jean-Paul Gautier exhibit! In case you weren't sure, Jean-Paul Gautier is a French fashion designer of fairly wide reknown. I've never been a huge fan of his because his work is typically very costume-y...I'm usually more of a Dior New Look kind of girl, if you know what I mean...if you don't, that's okay.

However, this was my first real opportunity to get so close to haute couture...it was incredible. In fact, I would say that this was one of the best museum exhibits I've ever been to. If the previous exhibit I posted about left me confused, this exhibit left me inspired. I guess, as my sister, Dr. Laura, would say, Gautier was speaking a language I could understand. Really...the amount of work and the artistry was absolutely amazing. Éclablouissant...as they say in français. These photos really don't do it justice...

On another note, believe it or not, the program here is almost over. Only tomorrow's "graduation" ceremony remains...that and getting our grades. Today was a great final day, however, as far as classes were concerned. We had some great presentations by colleagues and an amazing workshop about the legends and stories of Quebec followed by a farewell dinner.

Storytelling...je suis tombée amoureuse là...
I will spare you the platitudes about how quickly time passes, but I will most certainly miss the day-to-day interchanges here; functioning completely in French; talking with other people that are as passionate as I am about what we do for a living; learning new things just by walking out the door; and above all, realizing that laughter is a worldwide language. Merci, Quebec and merci à mes collègues...vous me manquerez tous.

More to come...my travels aren't quite at an end...I will not be posting again until next Wednesday, so mark that date on your calendar. I'll be traveling to northern Ontario for some family fun (I'll update you when I get back to an internet connection) and then I'll be finishing off my Eastern Canadian tour right here in Quebec! À plus tout le monde!
Singin' in the Rain
Got our diplomas this morning! Hooray!


Yuk, yuk, yuk...amen!

Since we've been a bit immersed in our final class project for the last few days, I am going to revert back to some outings we actually had last week that I haven't shared yet. Don't worry, we presented our project today, so there's more fast-breaking excitement to come soon!!

Last week, we went to explore the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal. Now it may seem that Notre-Dames are a dime a dozen...and indeed, they do seem to pop up everywhere. However, having been into a large number of Notre Dames myself over the years, I can say with confidence that this one is truly magnificent.

Apparently, the origins of the building date back to the mid-1600's although the current structure doesn't resemble the original at all. During a 19th-century remodel, the inspiration for the interior decoration was taken from Sainte-Chappelle in Paris, one of the most incredible religious buildings in the world. Feast your eyes on a few more pictures of the high Gothic style...

I found some of the stained glass extremely interesting as they depicted more "New World" images than I was expecting. For example, several windows told the story of the founding of Quebec, complete with colonizers and native people. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the New and Old Worlds. The guys in the picture with me below did too...
At this point, you may be wondering about the "yuk, yuk, yuk..." part of the title...or maybe not. In any case, we were fortunate enough to have received tickets from the program's organizers to a stand-up comedy show that was part of the "Juste Pour Rire" ("Just for Laughs") festival that is a big deal here in Montreal. The show was called "Le Cabaret des Maudits Français" ("The Rotten Frenchmen's Cabaret"), which references the sometimes strained relationship between the French and the French-Canadians. The French often seem to feel superior to their "country bumpkin" cousins from Quebec and the Quebecois seem to feel like the French are snobs who have no real reason to think they're such hot stuff. In any case, the show was all French comedians from France, presenting to an audience full of Quebecois...hmmmmm.... I know there are some readers out there thinking..."how funny could this show possibly be? The French aren't funny!" And I have to say, I had my doubts going into it.

Male French Majorette...hilarious!
However, those doubts were completely unfounded. The show was hilarious!! I was so proud of the fact that I understood the majority of the jokes, even though they were delivered in rapid-fire french that the evening would have been a success regardless. It was truly funny, though. Had the comedians been from Quebec, however, I don't think I would have had as much luck with my comprehension. Even after 3 weeks, it's still tough to decipher sometimes!
Maybe you had to be there....
No, we're not at a dentist's appointment...we're supposed to be laughing!


True Nature of Quebec

Don't worry, I'm not going to get too philosophical here...I'm talking about real nature. We had a chance to visit the Botanical Garden of Montreal this weekend, which was beautiful, then got the heck out of the city on Sunday for a road trip into the countryside of Quebec. It was a breath of fresh air...literally.

Le Jardin Chinois
The Botanical Garden was amazing! They have recreated Chinese, Japanese, First Nations, Rose, Alpine Gardens among others...all were stunningly beautiful. While we wandered and enjoyed the natural beauty, I had to shake my head over the incredible amount of work it must be to keep the garden in such tip-top conditions when the growing season here must be insanely short. On top of that, the winters are brutal...these plants must need a LOT of care. And they receive it...it shows.

Yesterday, it was in the 90's and humid in Montreal...so we hit the road to Les Cantons de l'Est, a region that makes wine, grows yummy things to eat, and is lovely in a pastoral, small-towny kind of way. We had an awesome time and chilled out, literally.

Our first stop was the Musée de Chocolat in a tiny town, that wasn't so much a chocolate museum, but really more of a chocolate shop with some educational placards. This suited me just fine...I don't actually care anything about the origins of chocolate as long as its destination is my mouth.

After a quick chocolate stop, we continued on to a beautiful vineyard, where we were able to sample the wine William and Kate drank over dinner while they were in Quebec! Woo hoo...I was feeling better already. You don't see views like this in Montreal.

Even though we were out of the city, it was still hot and sticky, so we headed to a nearby lake, where we were able to picnic alongside the lake. After waiting the requisite 20 minutes (more or less), we hopped in to swim and cool off with masses of folks from the area. Ahhhhhhh!
Before my sailboat envy got too bad (There were Lasers! I couldn't help it!), we hit the road again, thoroughly refreshed and raring for more adventure. While there probably aren't many people who would classify blueberry-picking as high adventure, I have to say that it was the highlight of the trip for me! Blueberries are far and away my favorite fruit and I've always wanted to pick them. So, when we "stumbled upon" (ie...I researched the address ahead of time and made sure our route passed the farm) a u-pick blueberry place, I was out of the car in a flash. I can now attest that blueberries do indeed grow on a sort of floppy bush and they taste better right off the branch!

After the blueberry picking, we went to one more vineyard where I picked up some ice wine, which is made from grapes that are allowed to freeze on the vine. This causes the water and the sugar in the grape to separate, making for a really sweet, syrupy dessert wine. It was delicious! Since it takes 7 times more grapes to produce ice wine than regular wine, it is generally pretty expensive...buying it directly from the vineyard was a steal in comparison! And look at all I learned in the process!

All in all, the nature of Quebec surprised and delighted me this weekend. It was nice to get a gulp of breathing room before embarking on our last week of the program! Don't worry, though...more to come!