Novelty and deja-vu in Montreal

Montreal is a little like Paris in an alternative universe. It doesn’t look quite the same, it doesn’t feel quite the same, but there’s an undeniable French feel about the place. On the positive side there’s a lot of stylish architecture, there’s some great food and there are people wandering about with cool attitude. On the negative side they’ve also adopted the worst of the French style – dog poo in the streets.

Montreal does have its own style. There are many solid buildings of grey stone with rounded Cinderella-turrets. There are streets of houses with outside stairs leading up to above-ground entrances: Is this due to snow, something to do with the foundations, or servants’ entrances? We just don’t know yet. The place is clearly defined by its major seasons, with so many things being closed for the Winter season and a whole underground environment waiting to blossom.

Today we walked through Montreal again and down to the river to visit the Montreal Science Centre. The Centre does not claim to be a museum and in that nicely does not over-reach itself. It’s a huge space on a pier reaching out into the river, but there are only a small number of cool exhibits. The rotating exhibition was about dinosaurs and was surprisingly interesting. Scientists have recently found that juvenile Tyrannosaurus had basic feathers – that’s quite amazing. The core theme of the exhibition was about feathers and how new discoveries have changed our view of dinosaurs.

Then there was a section on TV. While allowing you to create a TV segment as science reporter the exhibit also demonstrated a great deal about how to selectively report a subject and how directors pick footage to make a point. Upstairs we, again, saved the world from environmental melt-down in a nice interactive area using huge touch-screen tables and went through a hands-on exhibit that managed to find a subject-area for each letter of the alphabet. It also managed to find ways to demonstrate scientific principles which even we, who have now seen so many science museums, found novel.

Now if only the locals would apply the same sense of innovation to the issue of dog poo on their streets!

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