Montreal Adventures

Montreal Adventures

Quebec, Canada

Twenty years ago, I never would have imagined myself learning French! I began learning French towards the end of September (2018), hoping to gain a better understanding before heading father north in Quebec than Montreal. You can visit Montreal without previous knowledge of French because the city is famously bilingual, speaking both French and English.

I’m still obsessed with learning French! Ever since the day I began learning French I’ve steadily been teaching myself daily. Sometimes, I even give myself tests (the homeschooler in me can’t help it). I cannot speak it very well yet, but my reading comprehension is coming along nicely. My listening skills? I struggle, but I’m getting better daily. It will be interesting to see how Montreal changes for me with my new knowledge of the French language.

  • Montreal, Quebec is the second largest French speaking city in the world, after Paris, France

I found myself dreaming in French.
words falling, tumbling from your lips. I was reading the words as I heard you speak. words. falling. I felt accomplished because I understood.

Montreal, Montreal, Montreal!

I love New York, mais j’adore Montréal !

Every time I’ve been to Montreal it has been for live music.
It began in November 2012. Messe des Morts. A music festival that has become my favorite tradition.
… but my first time in Montreal, the things that I remember the most are crepes and Mount Royal.

Mount Royal

  • 764′
  • Montreal was named after Mount Royal
  • No building in Montreal is allowed to be taller than the Mount Royal Cross
Me at the Mount Royal Lookout, November 2012
Mount Royal Cross view from our hotel room, August 2016
Mount Royal Lookout City View, March 2018


I don’t think I have ever been to Old Montreal when it wasn’t winter (April is still winter in Quebec). Quite honestly, I like it that way.

Nathan & Montreal City Hall, November 2012
A nice view of the Clock Tower and Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Old Port of Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River, April 2015
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, April 2015
Montreal City Hall, November 2015
The Battle of Trafalgar on Nelson’s Column near Montreal City Hall, November 2015
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, March 2017
The Old Seminary of Saint-Sulpice is the oldest building in Montreal, built in 1683, March 2017

Public Art

I absolutely love all the different expressions of art you can see during a weekend in Montreal.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal)

August 2016
Visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, November 2016

Le soleil noir de la mélancolie

The black sun of melancholy
Monsters of the unconscious, from Goya and Blake to Redon and Munch

“In the 1750s, the young English philosopher Edmund Burke distinguished between the Beautiful (which he asserted had a calming influence on the individual) and the Sublime. He stated “terror is in all cases whatsoever… the ruling principle of the sublime… is Astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended with some degree of horror.” While giving these responses physiological foundations, Burke also anticipated the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century, with its emphasis on the individual and personal creative imagination, and its fascinations with the intentional evocation of strong personal sentiment and the impact of commingled thrill and terror on the reader, listener or beholder. From the nightmarish visions of the human soul explored by writers like Mary Shelley (author of the 1818 novel Frankenstein) and Edgar Allen Poe to the complex explorations of the dark fantasies of the human subconscious with the emergence of psychoanalysis in the later decades of the century, the “heart of darkness” within mankind (as it was termed by Joseph Conrad in his 1899 novel by that name) became a popular subject for writers, composers and, of course, visual artists.”

La mort: Mon ironie dépasse toutes les autres ! 1889
Odilon Redon
French, 1840 – 1916
March 2018

Residential School Totem Pole
“Torn from their families and placed in residential schools run by various religious orders between 1820 and 1996, Canada’s Indigenous peoples were victims of a cultural genocide, recognized by the Government of Canada on May 29, 2015. This totem pole pays tribute to all the children – Joseph included – all too familiar with the humiliations and suffering meted out at these institutions. The totem is a token of reconciliation and commemoration. It is the symbol of the Northwest Coast Kwakiutl people, and their strong sense of identity and pride.”
Artist: Charles Joseph – Born in Alert Bay, British Columbia, in 1959

Sculpture Garden

The Eye, March 2018
Me & Claudia, March 2018

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Swimming, Smoking, Crying, 2009
Dana Schutz
American, b. 1976

One November morning in 2015, my group of friends and I were going out for breakfast, and as we walked past the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal it was mentioned that “Swimming, Smoking, and Crying” was a depiction of me. I couldn’t argue it then. I can’t argue it now.

La Foule Illuminée

The Illuminated Crowd, 1985
Raymond Mason
English, b. 1922

“A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology – or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death – the flow of man’s emotion through space.”

I find myself looking at photos of “The Illuminated Crowd” from time to time and I am always fascinated by the simple, yet detailed portrayal of human nature. So many human expressions to observe. I would like to see this sculpture at night, illuminated as the artist intended.

Le malheureux magnifique

Social isolation, sadness, and meditation? The first time I researched “Le malheureux magnifique,” I somehow got the idea it was called “The Wretched.” I was completely drawn to the sculpture while walking by, and my friend Becky caught a photo of me feeling exactly how this sculpture appears. Defeated. And yet somehow I managed a smile?

Parc Jean-Drapeau, Heavy Montreal, August 2016

I absolutely love the different murals all over Montreal.

Les conteurs, November 2017
Quai des arts, March 2018
Urban Animals, March 2018
Go Girls, July 2018

Food & Drinks

I don’t often talk food, but I adore the food in Montreal. I’ve never had a bad breakfast in Montreal that I can recall. If I did, I might not remember because I’ve had so many great experiences that the good would certainly outweigh the bad.


Fantastic breakfast, November 2013


Me & delicious poutine! March 2017

Dieu du Ciel !

Me and my husband enjoying some drinks, November 2017


An amazing brunch, March 2018

Messe des Morts: Creating Traditions

It’s interesting how humans regularly carry out rituals and traditions throughout the year. Most people don’t even question tradition because that’s how it’s always been.

At this point in my life I would say I’m pretty non-traditional. I can’t even seem to do traditional things in a traditional way. For example I was homeschooled, I received my bachelor degree at the age of 36, and I married my husband after being together for eighteen years.

I do tend to be highly ritualistic though. Perhaps it’s just a way for me to feel in control, to have some structure, to feel less anxious in my daily life.

It began in November 2012.
Messe des Morts. whiskey shots and white shirt sundays. poutine and late night pizza.
One of the only true traditions my husband and I have is going to Messe des Morts. It is our yearly pilgrimage north to hear cold black metal in our place of worship, that just happens to be a church. We congregate with our metal family to watch and listen to our favorite bands, familiar bands, and some new bands. We wear our “metal bests” (the amount of leather and boots is staggering). We see old friends, meet new people, and exchange money for memories that comes with a sense of well-being (merch is tangible memories).

Many of my favorite bands today made an impact on me during a Messe des Morts Festival. My iPod says I listen to Lifelover the more than any other band. This is probably true.

Fortunately I got to see them perform live once. Messe des Morts 2015. I had listened to Lifelover before, but it wasn’t until I saw Kim Carlsson perform with Hypothermia (MdM2015), that I became a Lifelover fanatic.

There was something so perfectly simple, so emotionally raw in Hypothermia’s music that I was captivated and curious. My “soul” felt understood. It became easier to breathe. A calmness in knowing I wasn’t the only one who felt such anguish.

I was hooked. I listened to their album Gråtoner on repeat for a year. No exageration. Every time I listen to it I feel better. More like me again.

I love hearing them perform live. Always a good time. Another band I became obsessed with after seeing them at Messe des Morts. Since the first time I saw them perform in Montreal, I have seen Mgła perform in Iceland, Ireland, and the United States as well as a second time in Montreal. Yep. Obsessed.

I’ve seen Uada perform live in Baltimore (MD), Manchester (NH), Philadelphia (PA), but my first time seeing them live was at the Piranha Bar in Montreal, Quebec, March 2017.
They remind me of the Pacific Northwest. Their sound. Their videos. Sometimes when I’m homesick, Uada makes me feel closer to the memories of my youth. Closer to the forests, the Pacific Coast shorelines, the Columbia River, the majestic snow-capped volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains. Closer to the wilderness of my home!

Meditative Metal: A comforting guitar drone with drums that mimic the falling of rain.
Those are some of my favorite sounds in metal.

Things I’ve said to describe different styles of metal I enjoy:
“This sounds like sunshine on a beach.”
“This sounds like winter in the forest.”
“This sounds like grey sky weather.”
“This sounds like dancing in a cave around a fire.”

I love these kinds of daydreams that arise when I listen to metal.

Forever Fan.

Messe des Morts. A Tradition.

Théâtre Paradoxe, formerly Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, November 2018

As times change, people are becoming less religious than previous generations and some churches are abandoned. When I was learning about Théâtre Paradoxe and its history I read that some churches that change purposes, from religion to music venues, enjoy knowing that they are still serving the community by bringing people together. I liked that.

Most of the photos were taken by me (Alicen), but I am sure I snagged some from Nathan, and maybe one or two from Becky, Heather, Andrew, Michelle.

Just for fun! Adventures in Montreal from 2014-2018 (I think). Some Messe des Morts. Some Heavy Montreal.