Shopping arcade or art gallery? Le Centre de Commerce Mondial in old Montreal

Who knew that a little piece of Berlin was ensconced safe and sound in a shopping mall in old Montreal?  Say what?  Traipsing along the cobblestone rues and avenues of this French-Canadian metropolis, my pink-sneaker clad feet were beyond tuckered out, sore and blistered, as per the usual sad state of affairs.  You’d think that after having meandered for decades on end traversing the globe, my endless kilometre long journeys would have at least prepared me for packing those handy dandy bandages and orthopaedic soles.  You’d think, but alas, no such luck or even a smidgen of common sense accompanied my suitcase stuffing, as truck-loads of travel mags and journals comprised the bulk of my luggage, with nary any room for those oh so cumbersome practical necessities.

Who says with age comes wisdom?  Not me!!

So here I was, one hobbling mess, literally stumbling feet first into any edifice that was closest in proximity, my raw and blistered appendages oozing quite the liquefying blood hued sludge, on the lookout not for shops, but instead, chairs, chaises and benches!  Yes.  Chairs!  Now that’s a first – where the hunt for cushy seating takes precedence over the quest for discounted bargain basement reduced designer satchels.  Yikes!!  Sinking to an all-time new low of not shopping till I dropped, I was instead reduced to scouting out the plumpest and cushiest of chaises, in desperate straights to plop and drop on the nearest bench, eager to prop up my dogs and take a load off my feet.

Envisioning languishing the afternoon away over a cuppa tea (heck - better make it a lunch time vino instead!) with tootsies comfortably sprawled on several white plastic recliners, my vision of a day of carefree indulgence was, alas, not meant to be.

For you see, I had unsuspectingly ambled on through the doors of le Centre de Commerce Mondial Montreal (The Montreal World Trade Centre), and had set foot onto what can only be described as a mélange of historic brick, modern glass, trickling fountains, and so much more.  Comprising a total of 11 architecturally preserved buildings, their exterior facades restored and incorporated into a stunningly modern layout, le Centre de Commerce is a magnificent showpiece that successfully marries both design and ingenuity.  A juxtaposition of both old and new equally balance and highlight the other, resulting in a visually arresting display of art, history and imagination.  The stunning glass-domed roof bathes the entire complex with natural sunlight, its promenade flanked on both sides with offices, shops and restaurants.

And the piece de la resistance, a massive black granite reflective pool, creates the illusion of a mirror-like sheet as shimmers of dancing light bounce playfully off the water.  A serene and tranquil parcel of paradise amidst the hustle and bustle of urban living, the perfect spot to rest, contemplate or merely observe.

Anxious to kick off my heels (Keds, actually) and meditate with the best of them, my respite was short-lived, as my curiosity was further piqued by what other wonders this art gallery of an arcade had to offer the unsuspecting wanderer.

And, lo and behold, there it was.  The.  Berlin.  Wall.  Gifted by the city of Berlin in 1992 to la ville de Montreal for its 350 anniversary, the graffiti coloured slab of concrete sits smack dab in the centre of the complex and is a permanent fixture in the Trade Centre.  A visual reminder of oppression and the struggle for freedom, this fragment of history is a testament to the tenacity of people worldwide to never give up and envision the impossible.

One part shopping arcade, one part art gallery, one part historic, one part modern – le Centre de Commerce Mondial Montreal offers us a glimpse into the past while at the same time catapulting us into the future, onward towards a continual journey of delight and discovery.

And to think, had it not been for my raw and bleeding tootsies…..

Come stumble along with the best of us - skedaddle around town - oftentimes disoriented and clue-less - on a mission for a patio with a view, - on the hunt for a chaise lounge - yet somehow discovering art and history along the way.

Next week –Stay tuned!! – Where oh where in la belle province do my pink-sneaker clad feet take me?

Yikes!! – Actually, the week after next, which is Wednesday September 10th, is when I will be posting my next blog post.  Due to work commitments and various Pink Sneaker projects, I will adhere to my summer-time posting schedule and post every second Wednesday.

Coming soon – Travel tales of the Kid’s escapades in Portugal.  Stay tuned!!

Stairs? What stairs? My digital jaunt in search of Montreal's fabulous wrought iron staircases

It’s amazing that I never noticed.  It’s as if I had been stumbling with blinders on for most of the first 25-odd something years that I resided in la belle province, oblivious to the architectural wonder of this French Canadian metropolis.  It’s amazing that when you’re a local, you quickly acclimatize to the sights, sounds and wonders of your hometown as you scurry on by, without even batting an eyelash, let alone stopping to glance at this or that monument or place of historical interest.  Yet, when you’re a tourist, or even a “pretend” one at that, you rapidly acquire a keen appreciation of your surroundings as you immerse yourself in the feel and culture of the present locale, as if viewing it all for the very first time.

Camera in one hand and pen and paper in the other, I embarked on a shutterbug journey along the paved rues, striving to document curious places of interest as well as snapping pics of visually appealing landmarks, when I was abruptly halted in my tracks by the mesmerizing sight of………you guessed it……..staircases!  Yep, that’s right.  You read this correctly.  Staircases? Like, seriously?  But these were no ordinary set of steps….

The kaleidoscope of painted stairwells added just a hint of embellishment to the countless residences that peppered the tree-lined streets, spirals of wrought iron practicality unique to Montréal.  Spellbound, as if transported back in time to a by-gone era, I remained transfixed to my spot on the pavement, marvelling at the sense of awe that a set of steps was able to evoke.  Perhaps it was the turquoise hued balcony, a splash of colour amid the concrete greys that first piqued my interest, or perhaps it was the set of curvaceous stairways that caught my eye, nonetheless, I had succumbed, seductively seduced by these elaborately formed escaliers.

An extension of the personality of one’s abode, these architecturally pleasing exterior balconies personify the soul and charm of the city, and are, if I dare say, works of artistic expression.

With that being said, the not so ordinariness of the colourfully painted steps sent me on a mission like none other, as my pink-sneaker clad feet spent the remainder of the day darting up and down the boulevards, eager to add image after image to my ever expanding digital portfolio.  Needless to say, languishing over a vino or two on a quaint outdoor patio was not meant to be, the promise of a refreshing beverage now relegated to late afternoon, a much anticipated reward for a bevy of National Geographic worthy snapshots.

And, hey, if that watering hole just so happened to be on either the second or third level, accessible only by one of those wrought iron spiral set of steps, well, golly geez, what’s a pink sneaker clad ol’ Auntie to do but make that mad dash up…and then down…and then up again…. and well, you get the picture….

So, come meander along with me on my jaunt around la ville, a wacky ol’ Auntie on the hunt for ornate and elaborate Crayola coloured balconies and staircases, on a digital journey of Montréal’s much-beloved wrought iron escaliers.

Next blog will be be posted on Wednesday August 27th, as per my summer-time posting schedule.

Where oh where in la ville de Montréal will my pink-sneaker clad feet take me??  Stay tuned!!

All posted pictures have been photographed by me and my handy dandy point and shoot camera - Miss Pink Sneakers photographer extra-ordinaire!!