Mon­treal: A cap­ti­vat­ing blend of old and new at­trac­tions

There are new sites for that

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - TRAVEL - BY PAULINE FROM­MER

It’s been a big year for birth­day can­dles in Mon­treal: Not only is the city cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th an­niver­sary, but it also has its own found­ing 375 years ago to be grate­ful for. But it would be wrong to as­sume that age alone is what makes Mon­treal in­trigu­ing. The trav­el­ers who en­joy the city to the fullest look to what’s new as well as to the old.

This in­cludes sev­eral at­trac­tions that were cre­ated just for the 375th an­niver­sary but will stick around long af­ter the clock strikes mid­night on Dec. 31. The most suc­cess­ful of these is Aura, a sound-and-light show set in the city’s most strik­ing space: the Basilique de Notre-dame. Over the course of this 30-minute spec­ta­cle, de­tails of the Neogothic church — its cas­tle-like al­tar, del­i­cately gilded col­umns and star-spangled ceil­ing — are picked out by sur­gi­cally pre­cise light­ing or washed in projections that turn the church into a for­est, en­gulf­ing it in a flood of Noah-like pro­por­tions. It may sound hokey, but the ef­fect is mag­i­cal, and it’s a tes­ta­ment to the ar­chi­tec­ture as much as to the show.

Less in­trigu­ing, but still worth­while (es­pe­cially if you have kids in tow), is Cite Me­moire, a free app-based walk­ing tour through Vieux Mon­treal (the old­est part of the city). It has two com­po­nents: Dur­ing the day, vis­i­tors can train their phones at cer­tain his­toric build­ings and learn about their his­tory, some­times even see­ing recre­ations of what it would have looked like when it was first built.

Af­ter night­fall, vis­i­tors can use the app to dis­play video projections on the walls, streets and even trees of the old city. These tell the sto­ries of dif­fer­ent fig­ures through­out the his­tory of Mon­treal - the city’s first ex­e­cu­tioner, a 1950s hockey player and the so­cial rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of the 1960s.

The lat­ter sounds ex­cit­ing and is tech­no­log­i­cally im­pres­sive, but the cre­ators don’t have the sto­ry­telling chops to bring these por­traits to life. And un­like the day­time tour, which is the bet­ter of the two, the projections usu­ally have noth­ing to do with the build­ing they’re dis­played upon.

Projections also are at the core of the nightly il­lu­mi­na­tions at the Jac­ques Cartier Bridge (ti­tled “Liv­ing Con­nec­tions”). It’s a pretty sight, and one that vis­i­tors can ma­nip­u­late: Tweet the hash­tag #Mon­treal on Twit­ter, and a shoot­ing star will zoom across the bridge.

See A BLEND, page C8

PAULINE FROM­MER

A twisted take on the Mona Lisa is just one of the many com­pelling mu­rals in Mon­treal.

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