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Friday, 21 August 2009


Hello Ctein,

"And speaking of nice, something I consider a signature hallmark of Canadian culture (and, yes, that includes the Quebecois, no matter how much the Anglophiles like to make jokes about them)"

That's a two way street. You would'nt believe what french speaking Quebecers have to say about english speaking Quebecers. But face to face, we get along quite well.

And speaking of canadian culture, it's almost seen as a myth in Quebec. There was a debate about two years ago and I remember hearing some members of Montreal's cultural scene declaring that canadian culture simply did not exist!

Hope you enjoyed your stay in Montreal.

PS: Did you mean Anglophones or Anglophiles?

Dear Andre,

Anglophones or Anglophiles... could be either [s].

Regarding culture, there's always the fish-in-water thing. People just take for granted what they've always lived with, even if it's unusual and distinctive in the extreme. They see it as unremarkable and not worthy of note. The cultural equivalent of, "I don't have an accent; YOU have an accent!"

Americans for example, when polled, by and large say the US is pretty average, culturally, among the western nations. On the "better" side of average, to be sure (ahem), but not all that abnormal.

Not a view much shared by other nations.

Yes, had a lovely time in Montreal. Bayla and I are talking about going back for another week a year from now.

pax / Ctein

Hey! Thanks for the nice words about Montreal and us Montrealers (from a daily reader of TOP). Hope you enjoyed your stay. :-)

I've had people (yes, American people) actually apologize to me for being in my way when they see me standing there with my camera waiting for them to move so I can make a photograph. There was really nothing for them to apologize for - they had as much right to viewing whatever as I did. They were just nice people. Nice, like rude, knows no national boundaries. I've found both in abundance wherever I've traveled.

I have photographed a few churches here in England, and if you are genuinely interested people involved with the church are very helpful.
I recently visited Hanslope Church (Buckinghamshire) on an open day where the public were allowed up the tower. I asked if I could climb into the window recess in the belfry to take my shot and the guy helped me up.
While I was up there the 18cwt (916kg) tenor bell was rung and the whole tower swayed about.
Weee! When the bell stops moving, the tower takes about another four sways before the movement is no longer detectable.
Image stabilisation just saved the day, with one shot out of several sharp enough. Lots of movement blur on the tenor bell.

Of course many believe that there is no culture in Canada outside of Newfoundland. You should visit there and try shooting the polychromic houses in The Battery!

I can testify to how incredibly nice they are at the cathedral. I was there in 2001 (before the photography bug/addiction/gift hit unfortunately). I'm a minister (Congregational) and they treated us like royalty although we were just there as tourists. A guide insisted on showing us to some otherwise off limits balcony areas and we were left to stay as long as we wanted and explore to our heart's content. Thanks so much for reminding me of what was a memorable, wonderful morning in stunning surroundings. You've made me want to go back with my camera.

Also, it was so helpful to have such a precise description of the photography rules for this site. It seems more and more places have specific rules, often enforced by people who understand rules but not photography. The Detroit Institute of Arts, for example, will not allow "cameras with detachable lenses". So I can't use my D300 but I could use a Canon G10 (if I had one). Even my little P&S Nikon takes 10 MP images. (Here endeth the rant).

Thanks again for a great post.

You wrote: "...I have been strongly tempted to emigrate North, but it's not going to happen in the foreseeable future..." I was also *very* strongly tempted after Election Day, 2004. Unfortunately, if one is over a certain age, Canada won't consider admission. A perfectly reasonable position (why take on people who will burden the social contract when they haven't spent much time contributing to it during their working years), but disappointing nonetheless.

I don't know how old you are but, if you would really consider such a move, better hurry!

My wife has some cousins moving to Montreal soon. When we visit them, I'll make sure to plan an hour or so at The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (hurray for copy 'n' paste!) to take on this photographic challenge.

Great colours in those pics, Ctein. Will we have a Polychrome III post?

That Montreal cathedral looks like a stunning place, Ctein. Just trying to deconstruct the space's lighting from your images could take an afternoon.

Thanks for posting this interesting piece. It makes me want to visit Montreal, a place I've not visited since...1980?

Posted by: Sal Santamaura : "Unfortunately, if one is over a certain age, Canada won't consider admission. A perfectly reasonable position (why take on people who will burden the social contract when they haven't spent much time contributing to it during their working years), but disappointing nonetheless.

I don't know how old you are but, if you would really consider such a move, better hurry!"

I was surprised to see this maximum age reference!

Well here is the Canadian citizenship program outline straight from the maple leaf's mouth. They don't explicitly say that 54 is the maximum admission age but they do reference that age as a top limit.

I'm surprised to learn this, particularly since I've spent a great deal of time in Canada over the past 30 years. No oldsters allowed?!

Dear Folks,

Since this is NOT in my plan for the foreseeable future, I'd prefer this not devolve into a discussion of how I could emigrate to Canada. It's kind of you all, but it's wasted energy.

Short version: I can likely qualify under several programs; I did look into it.

Regarding age: I think you're confusing the age range which is *required* to take a citizenship test with who can become a citizen (which is not the same as emigrating, not-so-incidentally).

Anyway, I really appreciate everyone trying to look out for me. Please, no need to put so much energy into it.

pax / Ctein

For all those who may contemplate a visit to Montreal, here's an additional incentive:

The Montreal Jazz Fest, largest of its kind in the world. The 31st edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
will take place July 1 to 11, 2010.


For more on the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal that Ctein visited:


Montreal Tourism Office:


Welcome to Montreal!

Dear Miserere,

No, a third installment is not planned. I've got something different (and semi-OT) for next time.

'Sides, it wouldn't be Polychrome III, it'd be Polychrome 25.

(yeah, I did seriously consider a third installent just to use that title)

pax / Ctein

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of Canadian urban beauty. Unfortunately my personal travels must be confined to the intermountain and the southwestern regions of the US for now.

Texas has a number of painted churches that are much less grand than this cathedral but feature beautiful interior painting somewhat similar to this. The Texas churches are popular subjects for many serious photographic artists.

Hi Ctein,
Fun for me to read about Montreal as I live just North of it and have my office there.
As it is always greener in the neighbor's field, when I travel and do photography it is always down in the States, mostly the Southwest and California. As I have an interest in architecture, I always try to visit churches and have numerous pictures of old California Missions and New Mexico numerous churches.
If you come back to Montreal, I would suggest you take a look at it's most spectacular building. That is Habitat 67 (Google Image that, you'll see).
It is remarkable.
And also, as many Canadians do, if you want to see a very photogenic city, don't miss Quebec City. This is a VERY beautiful city! (on UNESCO World Heritage list). It's location has a lot to do with it. From there, you have to get to Ile d'Orleans and the Charlevoix region. And as an added feature, restaurants there are great.

When I lived in Canada (out east in Halifax)I never managed to visit Montreal and I can see I missed something. I often visit cathedrals here in the UK and often try to imagine them in their medieval glory. In a few small local churches the painting survived under coats of white wash. One is not far from me at Chaldon in Surrey. The topic (Doom) is rather less uplfting than these images from Montreal.

The other lost polychrome is that covering Greek and Roman statues that we now admire in the "buff" so to speak. They and those medieval church goers must think that we live in a rather monochrome age


I had the pleasure of hearing a live orchestral-choral performance at the Notre-Dame Basilica when I was a student in Montreal, in the mid-90s. There's a very nice organ there and the acoustics were great.

As for its age -- by Canadian standards, a church built in the mid-1800s is pretty old. In 1850 the provinces that were to become Canada had a population of maybe 2-3 million people, tops, and Montreal was a small city of 50,000, not all of them Roman Catholics.

My wife and I visited Montreal in May of last year. It is quite a beautiful church. I'd recommend skipping the cheesy movie/lightshow they do at night though.

Another fascinating church there is the chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, built in 1771 overlooking the harbor. Called the sailor's church, it has a lively history.

"Now suzanne takes you hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From salvation army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour"

Just to complement Arthur's comment, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church is the one Leonard Cohen refers to (...our lady of the harbour) in his song "Suzanne".

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