These days, when a trip to the supermarket can be a wild extravagance, vacation plans have been cast aside by many economy-minded families. It comes as pleasant news, then, that it's possible to take a vacation in Montreal, where the visitor can expect a 15 percent return on his American dollar -- as well as lovely summer scenery and a lively list of activities.
Among the wide range of Montreal museums, galleries, theaters, and shops are five rather unusual spots, places permitting sight-seers a view of everything from handmade, one-of-a-kind stained glass windows to an exhibit of totem-pole carving.
Boutique Soleil (430 rue du Bon Secours) is a boutique-cum-art gallery in the old Montreal section of the city, and it's run by a petite, redheaded woman named Suzele Carle. In the gallery in the front of the store are various exhibits which change on a monthly basis. Ms. Carle isn't afraid to take chances with the work she displays here; frequently it is of some young up-and-coming Montreal artist or craftsman. The gallery recently featured the work of Jean-Jacques Hofstetter, who creates unusual geometrically shaped metal wall sculptures with real necklaces, rings, and brooches set into them.
At the rear of the shop is the Tricots d'Ariane boutique, where exquisite hand-knit sweaters, dresses, coats, and accessories are for sale. All the wearables are designed by fine artist Ariane, who happens to be Ms. Carle's daughter. Although prices can be steep (one Canadian-wool sweater coat is $400) , the colors and workmanship are distinctive.
The Boutique Soleil is open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Les Arts Amerindiens Ltee.(28 rue St. Paul est, Old Montreal), which has handicrafts, clothing, furniture, art, and toys made by various Canadian Indian tribes, is the only store of its kind in Montreal. Prices there range from about $2 for miniature totem poles to $3,000 for certain Eskimo sculpture. In between are moccasins, lovely boxes decorated with porcupine needles, baby-sized buckskin jackets, maple syrup, silver jewelry, dolls --even a set of seal-paw bookends, $45 for the pair. And an Eskimo dictionary ($10) will fill you in on the 14 different ways to say the word "snow."
Until the middle of August, visitors can observe totem-pole carving by native Indians each afternoon. The demonstration is free.
The shop's hours are 9 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week until Labor Day; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily thereafter.
Another interesting stopping-off point in Old Montreal is La Guilde Graphique (9 rue St. Paul ouest). This airy stone and wood building serves as a workplace and salon for Canadian and foreign graphic artists and as a lithography gallery for art lovers. While visitors browse amid the eye-catching pictures on the walls and in the oversized bins, artists are producing lithographs, seriographs, etchings, and silkscreen prints in the upstairs workrooms.
The guild touts itself as the publisher and distributor of more than 1,500 original limited edition graphic works at moderate prices ($25 to $300), and some of Quebec's most well-regarded contemporary artists, including Pellan, Cosgrove, and Riopelle, are represented here. Exhibits, spotlighting the work of particular guild artists, generally change on a weekly basis.
La Guilde Graphique is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Step gingerly into Elena Lee's world of glass at 1518 Sherbrooke ouest, in downtown Montreal. There on display are magnificent tulip-shaped lamps, stained-glass doors, perfume bottles, bent-glass jewelry boxes, pale pink goblets, zebra-striped vases, and etched-glass wall hangings -- nearly everything handmade and many one of a kind. Inexpensive trinkets are not to be found here: One multicolored, crushed glass bowl, designed to resemble a landscape, is priced at $150, and Tiffany lamps can cost as much as $2,500. Yet probably nowhere else in Montreal can you see as comprehensive a collection of the work of some of the most outstanding blown-glass and stained-glass artists, and Ms. Lee is an effervescent woman who happily explains the glassmaking process to all interested listeners.
The shop's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Also in downtown Montreal is La Galerie Libre (2100 rue Crescent). The gallery, which has been in existence for some 23 years, is noted for its avant-garde leanings and for its eagerness to promote the work of young, exciting Canadian artists. Huge, realistic paintings of cows by Serge Lemonde and eerie, puzzling portraits of young men with shaved heads by Gilbert Farley are assaulting, never dull. From Aug. 9 until Sept. 4 the primitive-style paintings of Felix and Cecilia Vincent will be highlighted, and from Sept. 6 until Oct. 2 the gallery will feature the paintings and collages of Susan Scott.
Hugo Delrue, who has taken over the ownership of the gallery from his father, its founder, is, as his father was, a jewelry designer, and a handsome collection of his original rings, pendants, bracelets and pins, many set with precious and semiprecious stones, are on display and for sale.
La Galerie Libre is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.