One unusual detail about travel is I can tell you where every single summer Olympics in the past 60 years or so has taken place. This isn’t really intentional but rather happens because an awful lot of major cities have old structures left over somewhere on the edge of town from when they hosted the Olympics, but ever since they honestly have little idea what to do with them. As a result you have a tourist attraction where something famous did happen but is now more appropriate for filming a zombie movie.
Montreal’s old Olympic Park definitely falls into this category- it was a bit questionable when I visited about 13 years ago, but since the Montreal Expos morphed into the Washington Nationals so the stadium is even more destitute and in needing a coat of paint. So between that and the fact that I was in the unusual position of visiting Canada in the middle of a heat wave (what?), I went into the Montreal Biodome instead.
The Biodome is one of the best “take an old Olympic structure and actually do something constructive with it” thing I’ve ever seen- they took the old bicycle velodrome and converted it into a zoo with four different ecosystems. Really well-done with interesting species and exhibits, and you don’t have to be outside to boot (a detail probably more interesting in the wintertime for the average Montreal citizen). A sampling-I happened to catch the “birds of prey” show which I didn’t really understand, being in French and all, but saw a few species and the one most interesting was the great horned owl. Mainly because I’d never seen one so close before so I was rather impressed with his size, the fact that he has feathers on his feet to protect them from the cold, and the fact that he had the coolest neck movement I’d ever seen. I’m not just referring to the whole “can turn his head a virtual 180 degrees” thing, when his keeper moved to body another direction he’d seamlessly rotate his head accordingly so his eyes never moved until he was damn well finished with whatever it was he wanted to look at.
Shows aside, there are four different biospheres of the Americas represented, but my favorite had to be the Amazon jungle one. Lush jungle with random animals here and there I’d never really seen before, such as the world’s largest rodent known as the capybara-
The fella that stole the show in my humble opinion though was this guy-As anyone who’s been to their fair share of zoos knows, it’s rather unusual to see the snakes move. This friggin’ giant anaconda, on the other hand, was rather the exception to that rule because when I showed up he was at the beginning of this log-trough working his way to the water. (Apparently anacondas like to spend time in the water lurking for prey, which makes me super-excited to visit the Amazon now.) Many happy minutes ensued watching him slither down to the water and admiring his girth, although I was rather appreciative to be doing it on the far side of the glass!
So hey, Amazon-land was pretty neat. The following area, Canada-woods-land, was well done but didn’t hold my attention half as much because I’ve already seen a lot of things they had on a regular basis. (“Whoa guys, don’t freak out but there’s a white-tailed deer here!”) But the polar ocean land was cool, mainly because they had puffins-
I’d never seen puffins before but always thought they were cute. It should be noted however that most of the polar ocean area was dominated by a penguin exhibit, which is kind of strange in a Canadian zoo because they only live south of the equator, but no one ever asks my opinion on these things.
So if you’re in Montreal and bored and the outdoors seems unattractive, I’d recommend checking out the Biodome. Hopefully you don’t have to be inside because the zombie apocalypse finally hit Olympic Park though.