New library card

A little set of figures illustrating the evolution of the library card from its prehistoric state to today
A little set of figures illustrating the evolution of the library card from its prehistoric state to today

On Wednesday, after our trip to the Oratory, Pickles and I went to go and get library cards. We found this in a little glass aquarium near the doors.

It’s a bunch of apes with old paper library cards for heads, evolving into a naked man with a modern plastic swipey-card for a head.

I think it’s kinda cute.

St Joseph’s Oratory

Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory
Pickles, having a look back at the Oratory

Pickles and I went for a walk on Wednesday and stopped in at St Joseph’s Oratory, which is very close to our home. So close, in fact, that we use signs around the city that indicate the way to St Joseph’s as signs to help us get back home.

It is really a very beautiful building. It’s huge, for starters. And it’s built on the side of a mountain, so when you’re up inside the building, and you look out, you can see a lot of Montréal. I could see the Orange Julep building from there!

A statue of St Joseph, with candles
A statue of St Joseph, with candles

When we first got inside, there were a lot of candles. This is only one of the many banks of hundreds of candles. Some of them were just there in rows and columns, but other sets of candles spelled out words. This one spelled something out, but I can’t remember what, and I can’t make it out on the photograph now. Oh, and if you go behind this bank of candles, it will lead you to a tomb for Frère André (who, as far as I could tell, still lives in the small chapel on the site). You can sign a petition to have him canonised!

A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory
A weird rock face at the back of the Oratory

If you go behind the next bank of candles, you can find a weird rock-face with a net over it. I guess it’s there because the Oratory was built into a mountain-side, and so they never bothered to do anything with this part of the mountain. I don’t think I would have either. I think it looks pretty cool.

If you go up a few escalators, you’ll eventually make your way to the Basilica, and one of the things that struck me when I saw it first in high school, that Pickles also mentioned, is that it has a very modern-looking interior. I suppose that is shocking because from the outside it looks like a very old building.

St Joseph's Oratory Basilica interior
St Joseph

On our way up, Pickles saw a sign saying “Basilique” with an arrow pointing up the escalator, and she asked what it meant.

“Oh, a basilique,” I answered, “It’s a sort of giant snake that kills you if it looks at you.”

Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph's Oratory Basilica
Three of the apostles, as depicted in St Joseph

Inside the basilica, one of my favourite things is the carvings of the Apostles. They’re wooden, and huge, and kind of scary, but also kind of weird. Can you guess which three these are? I’ll give you 5 points if you can.

To give you an idea of the scale of these carvings, I don’t think that the top of my head reached the bottom of the Apostles’ feet.

On our way out, Pickles and I noticed a “reserved” set of stairs going up the mountain to the Oratory. If you read the sign, it says, “reserved for pilgrims who go up on their knees.” And you know what? People were doing just that. Old people. They did it while praying.

Maybe this is me being insensitive and too much of a Baptist for my own good, but it’s much easier to go up on your feet. In fact, if you can get up a little further, there are escalators too, so you don’t have to use your feet even that much. I went all the way up and all the way down and I didn’t have to be at all introspective or prayerful.

Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees
Stairs reserved for those who are going up on their knees

On the subject of Catholic things that I don’t understand, Pickles and I saw a prayer to St Joseph written out on a plaque for people to use. It was talking about how no requests, if prayed to St Joseph, will go unanswered.

For those of you out there who weren’t sure (like me) the “Joseph” that is referred to in “St Joseph’s Oratory” is the New Testament Joseph, Mary’s husband. So, it’s not referring to sold-into-slavery, dream-interpreting, Prime-Minister-of-Egypt Joseph from Genesis. To be honest, I don’t even know if he’s a saint.

I had an idea of what the Catholic church thought of Mary, but I guess this tells you what they thought of Joseph.

St Joseph's Oratory, behind a statue of St Joseph
St Joseph

Creepy statue

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

I went to the gym by Métro on Monday, and on my way there, I came across this statue. It’s supposed to be a crowd of people. I didn’t read the plaque that explained what it meant. I prefer the sense of mystery.

What is the man pointing at? Why is there a little gremlin person, crouching at his butt? Why is everyone standing so close together? Why are they all white people?

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

Another interesting thing: This statue was pristine. There wasn’t a bit of graffiti anywhere near it. Maybe this is because it’s right in the middle of downtown Montréal, and people would notice. But still, I see lots of buildings around there that have been vandalised.

Anyway, I like the contrast that the white crowd of people gives to the dark glass buildings behind them. And how creepy those gremlin-people are.

How to get a Métro pass in Montréal at the student rate

A Métro station in Montréal
A Métro station in Montréal
  • Submit your legal documentation to McGill.
  • Wait for your Québec Permanent Code. This number is generated by the government of Québec, and there’s nothing the school can do to speed up this process. This may take over a month. Your permanent code can be found in Minerva, under Student Menu > Student Records Menu > View Your Unofficial Transcript. If the box next to “Permanent Code” is blank, it hasn’t been provided yet.
  • Go to the James Administration Building. You can get a confirmation of enrolment for the OPUS card there.
  • You will need $13, your Permanent Code, confirmation of enrolment and a pen for this step. Go to the OPUS centre at McGill Station and fill out a form to request an OPUS card. Buy a card. They will take your photograph at this point, so maybe have a shower that day.
  • Put enough money on your OPUS card to buy a monthly student pass. For one month, it costs $37.
  • Buy a monthly pass, and use the OPUS card as your Métro fare.
  • Finally, get on the subway at your nearest Métro stop and reminisce about the days at UWO where your student government literally handed you a public transit pass on your first day of school. (Then again, the transit in London is nowhere near as good as it is in Montréal, so it’s best not to romanticise your memories of it too much.)

Right now, I’m on step two – waiting for my Québec Permanent Code. I eagerly check on the McGill student services site daily, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Edit: I finally got my Québec Permanent Code on August 5th. (I submitted my legal documentation on June 19th.) And yes, I did rush out to get a Métro pass. And yes it is everything I could have dreamed it would be. :)

Another edit: If you are moving to Montréal, consider downloading the iPhone app for the Montréal Métro that I wrote!