Start with Beauty, End with Beast

There was one last stop I wanted to make before we headed out of Montreal Monday morning.  I'd read good things about a place by the name of Beauty's Luncheonette that has become one of Montreal's most beloved breakfast institutions over the years.  Hymie and Freda Sckolnick opened Beauty's Luncheonette in 1942 and 62 years later, it's still going strong - albeit modernized a bit, but never skipping a beat when it comes to serving exceptional food.  That's nonagenarian Beauty (AKA Hymie - Beauty is his bowling moniker) above, engrossed in some paper work.


I chose the Beauty's Special, a sesame seed bagel filled with ribbons of deep orange smoked salmon, a thick schmear of cream cheese and slices of ripe tomato and purple onion - perfect in every way.  The coffee was great, the waitress was vivacious and before we'd left, we had a rollicking conversation going with Beauty, our waitress and a lovely couple from Toronto.  I was so glad I'd insisted on going to Beauty's, ending our visit to Montreal as it did on a note of breakfasty triumph.

We threaded our way out of Montreal and began heading east along the St. Lawrence river, marvelling at it's immense size and importance.  We'd be covering a good many verdant miles for the next couple of days on our way to Canada's Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island and Nova Scotia.  I knew from extensive research not to expect many wacky or awe inspiring roadside attractions, but there would be more than enough beautiful scenery and quaint pastoral settings to suffice.  We took small roads that wound through an endless series of little bitty towns, each sporting at least one enormous Catholic church topped with a gleaming silver roof and spire (tin? zinc? I'm still perplexed and intrigued as to what they use to paint them).

We stopped in one of the larger towns when I saw a Target.  I absolutely HAD to go inside and ask how the locals pronounce the name - was it Tar-ZHAY, as I hoped and suspected?  I must admit I was a bit disappointed when the gal at the register laughed and pronounced it almost exactly as we do in the States, only a bit more like Pepe LePew: Tar-GEHT.  Ah well.

Back on the road, after resigning myself to a dearth of oddities for the next couple of days, I was delighted to stumble upon two different sculpture gardens that were more than worth a stop.  The first, Parc des Trois Berets in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli was situated on the grounds of an impressive modern building perched along the banks of the St. Lawrence river, a school founded directly after World War II by three self-taught wood carving brothers with impressive skills.  The sculptures are the product of a yearly international competition sponsored by the school  My favorite was the chainsaw vertebrae with recently hewn wood chips:

A little further down the road in St.-Roch-des-Aulnales, a series of floating disembodied furniture by the side of the road alerted us to the presence of the whimsical Parc de Folsculptures, an art installation by artist Daniel Hamelin.  The overall theme is Art Fou or "crazy art" in English.  The Parc surrounds a pink gallery building that looks as though it was culled from a Barbie on Venus play set (including a huge white plastic dome and futurist bubble windows) and is accessed via a rambling leafy pathway through a thicket of brightly painted assemblages using the detritus of the machine age.  Many of the pieces had humorous sayings, instilling a sense of playfulness to an otherwise dignified space.

Translation: "I have retained my childhood. And you?"

In the pond in front of the house, kitchen appliances!

It was obvious that the presence of the Bourgault Brothers sculpture school had had an appreciable effect on the region as we noticed random sculptures gracing the lawns and pastures of many a home. We were headed to the Le Martinet hotel in La Pocatiere for the evening which I had reserved solely on the basis of the English definition of martinet which is someone who is very strict and demands obedience from others (welcome to my wacky mind).   La Pocatiere is home to a large railway/subway car assembly plant (Bombadier) and several regional colleges and as such has a sophistication that sets it apart other most of the other tiny agricultural village that surrounded it.  La Pocatiere is also famous for its monadnocks, which I am telling you just because I love that word. Monadnock, monadnock, monadnock!  Impossible to say and an intriguing concept to boot.

Due to the increased urbanity of La Pocatiere, there were a number of gourmet options for dinner and we selected the excellent Cafe Azimut where I was elated to find a Pink Lady on the cocktail menu and ordered one post haste.

We sat on the terrace in the pleasantly warm breeze and supped on local foods prepared by a talented chef.  I had a bavette of beef resting on a bed of wild mushrooms, crowned by a thin wedge of brie.  Sensational.  We didn't tarry over our dinner, though, because the lady at the hotel told us not to and we weren't about to disobey.  Certainly not with the sight of several beautiful monadnocks gilded with the fading twilight just outside our window.

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