Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Travelogue – staying inside

Rain today, though it held off long enough for me to get my umbrella out of my car and allow me to get to my first event. Today was mostly indoor stuff. I'm glad I had enough indoor stuff to do.

That first event was a visit to the Quebec provincial Parliament Building. I was pleased to see an active community garden out front. The visit included a tour of the two chambers. A couple things I learned: (1) The Quebec Senate had been made up of appointees by the Crown (Queen or Governor General) similar to the British House of Lords. Back in the 1960s they – politicians and voters – noticed all the Senate did was approve what the House had done, so they abolished the Senate. The chamber is now used for committee hearings. (2) By British tradition (started in London and copied across the Commonwealth) the Lower House of Parliament was painted green and the Upper House was painted in a dark red. Back sometime around 1970 the rooms were painted dusty blue and rose. The reason is simple – television. Human faces don't look so good in front of a green wall or a dark red wall. Here is the back of the Lower House chamber. I didn't get a photo of the front because renovation work is being done.

I've now seen more of the capitol building in Quebec than I have in my home state of Michigan. I may have to do something about that soon.

By the end of the visit the rain was coming down steadily, though not strongly. It is one of those rains that settle in for the day (or, given tomorrow's forecast, two days).

After lunch I went to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel. I thought my guidebook implied they gave tours, but they don't. The concierge I spoke to said I would be welcome to look around the public spaces. Which I did. Here is the Front Desk with its backlit marble.

The hotel was built in 1892 and added onto three times so that it now has 600 rooms. A check of Orbitz shows I could get a room there next week for $420 a night.

I went into lower town for the Museum of Civilization. A couple of the rooms didn't interest me (Detroit had recently done an exhibit on film animation and I thought did it better than this place did). An exhibit that did catch my attention was about Quebec history (though I read lots of signs and watched videos and ignored the old artifacts).

In American History classes we learn about the British defeating the French on the Plains of Abraham (now a big city park). That was discussed in the museum in Montreal and at the Citadel. In Quebec history that is known as The Conquest. Various signs and videos (and 250 years to think about it) question whether this was only A Bad Thing. The British helped get the economy going. The British legal maxim of innocent until proven guilty was better than the French maxim of guilty until proven innocent. And being under British rule protected Quebec from the turmoil of the French Revolution that came about 25 years after The Conquest. Other reasons were given. But the cost was the locals felt they were under an occupying force and were a permanent minority.

There was an uprising in 1837-38 that pushed for Canada to move away from a monarchy and to become an independent country. It was crushed. It wasn't until after WWII that a push for Quebeckers to take charge of their own destiny and demand equal rights for French speakers got underway.

Other exhibits included a display of statues from the Greco-Roman collection from the Berlin State Museum. This was mostly figures of Greek and Roman gods.

Another display was about the native people of Quebec. The final display was about popular art – art made by people because they want to, even if they aren't trained in art.

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