August 29, 2013

Fab Four back in town

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — This museum visit includes a rendezvous with the Fab Four followed by a spot of tea.

Pointe-a-Calliere, the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, presents two temporary exhibitions: “The Beatles in Montreal,” which celebrates one fateful night when John, Paul, George and Ringo came to town to perform at the Forum in 1964; and “The Tea Roads,” an exploration of the origins of the world’s most popular beverage.

Housed in the newly inaugurated Mariner’s House, a pavilion located at 165-169 Place d’Youville just adjacent to the main museum, “The Beatles in Montreal” is a magical, musical tour that pays tribute to a brief stopover in Canada almost 50 years ago. More than just a concert, the event created a media frenzy and influenced the world of Quebecois-style rock music forever.

John, Paul, George and Ringo get their own proper due with a full bio and introduction (as if one was needed). As visitors walk through the doors, vintage videos and Beatles music fills the air. 

An array of record albums and singles highlights a time line of the band from the days of the Quarrymen and includes a full Beatles history. The centerpiece artifact here was one that was literally driven into the museum space — and understandably why it’s placed on the first floor of the exhibit: John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Phantom V, which was built in 1965.

Originally painted in matte black, Lennon enjoyed a Sgt. Pepper-style psychedelic brainstorm and had the luxury car redone with “inspiration in a gypsy wagon, painted in a flowery style,” according to a press release. Lennon eventually outfitted the Rolls with a television, refrigerator, sound system and even a double bed. The Beatles even took the car to meet the queen at Buckingham Palace in 1965.

One flight up, a fun karaoke space lets visitors sing along to their favorite Beatles’ tunes. And then it’s on to the concert (make that concerts) in Montreal, broken down into a frenzied but lighthearted, well-documented account of when the Beatles came to Montreal on Sept. 8, 1964. 

The exhibit covers everything from when the plane first landed at 2:20 p.m. at Dorval Airport (as it was known back then) to the band’s takeoff in a private jet at 11:46 p.m. In between, swooning fans lined the airport as well as the Montreal Forum where two concerts were performed at 4 and 8:30 p.m. 

Chaotic, you say? “Twelve teenage girls were treated for hysteria, cuts or bruises; one police officer for a bitten thumb,” the exhibition text reads.

The visit concludes with a colorful roomful of Beatles souvenirs — lunch boxes, board games and even a yellow submarine area rug.

“The Beatles in Montreal” continues through Sunday, March 30.


Across the street, another road-to-success story steeped with history is explored with the exhibition “The Tea Roads.”

The space explores the birth of tea, now considered the world’s most popular drink. The exhibit text states that some 15,000 cups of tea are consumed on the planet every second.

Maps and time lines abound and first lead to China, where tea finds its origins more than 1,000 years ago. In all, 200 tea-related artifacts are featured — from a variety of crude pouring vessels to fancy porcelain cups and saucers.

Most interesting was the manufacturing process of tea. Like a grape transformed into a fine wine, atmospheric conditions — high altitude, well-drained acidic soil and lots of sunlight — must be just right to produce the perfect cup of tea. 

Visitors can get a whiff of a variety of dried bulk teas on hand — from a fragrant jasmine green tea to an earthy, bold black chai tea.

“The Tea Roads” continues through Sunday, Sept. 29.

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at

IF YOU GO WHAT: Pointe-a-Calliere WHERE: 350 Place Royale in Old Montreal. WHEN: Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. ADMISSION: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, $12 for students 18 to 30, $9.50 for ages 13 to 17, $7 for ages 6 to 12, and $42 for families. CONTACT: Call (514) 872-9150, or visit