One Halloween Day
by Megan Kopp
"Criminal of the grave, come
out and behave." Our voices were loud and raucous, echoing in the narrow,
dimly-lit alleyway hemmed by surly gray stone buildings. As far as settings
go, this one was spooky perfection... and that's exactly what Montréal is at
Halloween -- a hip city not afraid to celebrate with spirit.
begins with an exquisitely-brewed cappuccino at Boulangerie Première Moisson,
sipped while viewing the cheery stacks of pumpkins engulfing the parking lot
of Atwater Market. Situated on Canal de Lachine (Atwater Street), the market
is a bustling blend of cheese shops, gourmet cooking supply shops, butchers
and the pièce-de-résistance (in my mind) -- Boulangerie Première Moisson.
exquisitely-decorated, glass-encased cakes and petit-fours and displays of
pâté and lunch fixings, it was difficult to think of breakfast. Sitting
down to a sample basket of breads, I stared at the crétin (pork pâté) in
disbelief. “For breakfast?” I queried my companions, having only ever had
crétin as a dinner appetizer. I’m hooked. Sipping on a bowl-sized
cappuchino, munching toasted bread liberally slathered with the spicy
“any-time” crétin, I was in heaven.
Brain synapses firing, it was
time for a trip through the past at the Mount Royal Cemetery (one of four
graveyards on the hill), where life wins over death. First established in
1847, the 165-acre Protestant cemetery is one of several overlooking the
city (the other large one being the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges
Cemetery). Oak, maple, birch, elm, chestnut -- these are just a few of the
tree species found in the garden-like atmosphere that is Mount Royal
Cemetery, designated a National Historic Site in 2000.
Birders stroll the ground in
search of some 145 species of birds and historians visit for notables such
as Charles Melville Hays (President of the Grand Trunk Railway and a Titanic
victim); David Thompson (explorer and surveyor with the Hudson’s Bay and
North West Companies, “the greatest of geographers”); Sir Alexander Tilloch
Galt (one of the Fathers of Confederation; Anna Leonowens (governess to the
King of Siam); and the sugar-man himself, John Redpath (established Canada’s
first sugar refinery). Guided walking tours are available.
Come afternoon, Old Port’s
Pointe-à-Callière, with its basement graves draws the brave inside. Built
on the founding site of the city, Montréal’s Museum of Archaeology and
History is an intriguing combination of old and new -- from the
award-winning, modern design of the Éperon building (housing the entrance to
the museum, restaurant and special exhibitions), the underground
archaeological crypt (and Montreal’s first Catholic cemetery), Montreal’s
original Customs House and the Youville Pumping Station (built in 1915).
After passing the entrance
booth, the scene is set with a multi-media show played out over an
archaeological dig site. Spectral images of Casimir Daudelin (officer in
charge of the Customs buildings), French explorer Jacques Cartier and
several dozen others re-tell the stories behind the birth and life of the
Entranced, I followed the
other visitors filing out the sidedoor as the show finished. We headed down
the steps to the basement, walking through “layers and layers of history”,
past the cemetery, into a crypt showing walls of an inn and a warehouse and
on into the basement of the customs house -- all brought to life by an
interpreter guiding us along. Momentarily disoriented when the tour ended
in the gift shop, across the street from where we had entered the museum, I
surfaced in the present and was ready for more.
Sundown brings out the ghosts
in Old Montréal, scurrying through narrow, dimly-lit alleyways and
skittishly avoiding the group of nearly 100 ghost hunters clustering around
the Ghost Walk Kiosk on the Old Port Promenade (across from Bonsecours
Market). Young, old, costumed and not -- the group was quickly divided into
English and French, given maps, tangible clues (a rope, a gascan, a toy
car...) and directed to head and find our first apparition. We stumbled
along to the first location, a dark, narrow, stone-lined alley. Cautiously
we called out, “Criminal of the grave, come out and behave.” The young
pirate in the front jumped for his mother as Pierre Lefebvre lurched out an
alcove and proceeded to fill us in on his historic hanging.
We circled Old Town in our
ghostly hunt, meeting Jacques Cartier at Place Royal, car thief Hector
Legault at Place d’Armes, witch Marie-Reine Besnard at Champ-de-Mars and
arsonist Ambroise Néron Duquenne at Place De La Dauversière, before sipping
Pumpkin Soup, dining on Bewitching Lemon Chicken and biting into Vampire’s
Delight Dessert at Le Bourlingueur (part of our guided walk package).
Replete, I savored the
stories of the day as I curled up next to the deep windowsill at Auberge
Bonaparte (a ghost-free boutique hotel in Old Town) and watched the lights
spreading spirited warm over gray stone streets and buildings. Life and
death, past and present -- all in one Halloween Day in Montréal.
If You Go:
For general information on
the Old Town of Montréal, visit
www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca/ or the Tourism Montréal website at
Free brochures (“An Historical Walking Tour in the Mount Royal Cemetery”,
“The Trees of Mount Royal Cemetery” and “Bird Watching in the Mount Royal
Cemetery”) are available by request at
prices and times of the Ghost Walk, visit Guidatour’s site at
www.phvm.qc.ca. Details about Pointe-à-Callière
can be found at:
http://www.pacmusee.qc.ca. To book a stay at Auberge Bonaparte in Old
Town, visit www.bonaparte.com.
# # #
Megan Kopp is a freelance writer published in a variety of markets including
Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, Western People, YES Magazine, Western Parent, Northwest Family and The Traveler’s Journal.
She has traveled extensively throughout Western Canada and the United States;
spent time in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala, Costa Rica,
Mexico, and Belize and have recently been re-directing her writing efforts towards sharing my passion for new sights, smells and