August 26: The lower part of Old Town, and the Musee de Civilization is amazing

So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).

Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).

The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.

The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.

But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g].  And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].

But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.

The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.

The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.

I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.

At the bottom of all those stairs.
At the bottom of all those stairs.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
A fou -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
A four -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century.  This is part of one of them. And it's blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century. This is part of one of them. And it’s blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they're meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of "Indian-ness."
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they’re meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of “Indian-ness.”
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town.  Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town. Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town.  There's a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town. There’s a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
See the funicular in the background?
See the funicular in the background?
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.  I love her.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac. I love her.