After spending much time in western Canada we had some real trepidation about going into Quebec. Many of the travelers we encountered spoke about how difficult it was to get by in Quebec unless you spoke French. We were told that there is actually a "language sign police" that makes sure all businesses have their signs in French. We discounted much of what we were told and continued on into Quebec. Our first stop in the Province was in Montreal. The first thing we noticed was that their traffic signs were ONLY in French. Not a good sign for us Anglephones (English speaking people). I was driving along and a large sign at the side of the road said "Traveaux 4km", a little later a larger sign said "Traveaux 3km". I told Bob to hurry and get out the translation book we had bought because shortly I would either run over "traveaux" or fall into it. I was kind of concerned that maybe it said "bridge out". Turned out it was their word for road construction. Whew! We stayed in a campground outside of Montreal called Camping Alouette. Very nice! Everyone in the office was bilingual. It was interesting to watch them talk to me in English and turn around and talk to the next person in French. Although I had taken French in high school I figured that mine had exceeded its expiration date. Anyway I could pick up a couple of words but nothing more. Since we were staying outside of Montreal we decided to take the tour bus which originated in our campground into Montreal. We had heard from several people that the streets in Montreal were very difficult to negotiate with a large vehicle. When we got into town we were dropped off at the tour bus station in order to decide which tour we wanted to take and purchase our tickets. We decided we would take an overall tour of Montreal which would allow us to see the most areas, and then we could decide later, if we wanted to come back and do a more complete tour on any one thing. The tour was given in both English and French by our guide. The tour took us past many beautiful old buildings in the city. As we went though the old port of Montreal the streets did indeed get very narrow with many twists and turns. Several times our bus driver ended up driving on the sidewalk just to make a turn. One of our stops was the Pointe-a-Calliere. The Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. There, presentations were rather unique in that you went down into the basement of the building and could see what appeared to be an excavation site. They had dug the site and then walled it in behind glass so you could see what the foundations of the original building would have looked like. It was very well done. The admission for this was included in the price of the bus tour. We then all herded back onto bus for a trip past a fascinating floral display called the Mosaiculture Exhibition. Really beautiful floral displays. We were sure we would return to investigate that more fully. Then we drove out of the city towards the Mount Royal Park. It is a lovely park and allows one a gorgeous view of the city. After driving for awhile we arrived at a Catholic Shrine called Saint Joseph's Oratory. This Shrine is one of the world's most visited. There was a Brother by the name of Andre who was a doorkeeper at a monastery in Montreal. He found that he was able to heal people in St. Joseph's name and as the word got out many people started coming to him asking for healing. This, of course, interrupted the tranquility of the monastery so Brother Andre undertook the construction of a shrine devoted to Saint Joseph in 1904. The shrine now consists of a primitive chapel, a votive chapel, a crypt and a basilica large enough to accommodate 10,000 worshippers. Leading up to the front of the basilica was a long stairway of wooden steps. It is said that if someone said a prayer on each of these steps, while praying on his/her knees, that the boon would be granted. I could only imagine the desperation that would drive someone to push themselves to kneel for that long a time. Inside the shrine, near Brother Andre's Crypt were a number of crutches and canes from people who claimed to no longer need them because they had been healed. Back into the bus and back into Montreal where we went past the Bio-Dome. This was an intriguing looking building that displayed four natural ecosystems inside a huge dome. I was certain this would be on our list of sites to see later. Next we crossed the bridge across the St. Lawrence river and drove by the Bio-Sphere. This was a building built by America for the 1967 Expo. This is the only museum about water in North America. It is particularly dedicated to the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, along with an emphasis on better understanding and protection of these vital resources. Unfortunately we would not get a chance to get a better look at the Biosphere but I would recommend it, if you get in the location and have the time.
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