on April 6, 2010
Biodome is a part of Montreal's Olympic Village and in fact has been set up in what use to be the Velodrome, a bicycle-helmet shaped building next to the grand stadium with the Montreal landmark inclined tower. The whole Olympic Village and the Stadium in particular was, apparently something of a folly or a white elephant, and the city is still paying for it thirty years since the construction. However, the Biodome is an almost unqualified success.We visit on what is probably weather-wise the worst day we had in the four weeks we have spent in Canada (at the time of writing of this review). The temperature just below freezing and a sleet and hail drizzle is falling to freeze immediately on contact with just about anything. The tree branches are covered in transparent sheaths of ice, and a cold wind is blowing that chills one to the bone. It's not a weather in which brutalist 70's concrete architecture works very well: the whole complex seems and feels like some post-industrial wasteland. This type of architecture needs young crowds and sunny skies to make it appealing (or at least bearable). Once inside the Biodome, there are people, light and - most crucially - warmth and we spend enjoyable two and half hours there. Biodome is a unique combination of indoor zoo and a greenhouse, filling the space with flora and fauna typical for different ecosystems. The whole space is divided into several zones: tropical rainforest, boreal forest, St Lawrence marine environments and Polar. There is a huge range of foliage as well as surprising number of animals living freely in each of the zones, and altogether it looks (and feels) pretty convincing. The tropical zone has a lot of rainforest plants as well as a number of birds (including very decorative parrots and macaws), reptiles (cayman!) and mammals (sloth, some attractive monkeys and more). I liked the boreal forest section a lot, with its cool air, trees just green in the first spring shoots and a large pool with some playful otters. The marine ecosystem was also pretty good, with a selection of many fish (including huge sturgeon) in a large aquarium. But the highlight of the Biodome was undoubtedly the polar section, illuminatingly contrasting and comparing the Arctic and the Antarctic and the puffins and the penguins. Penguins win hands down, and you can see them walking, standing (they do a lot of standing, it seems) and after seemingly clumsy tumbles into the water, gracefully swimming. The polar section is behind glass, so one doesn't have to face sub-zero temperatures. The entrance ticket costs 16.50 CAD, there are also combination deals available with the Stadium Tower or with the Insectarium and Botanic Gardens (we got the latter, which costs 28.50 CAD). The whole complex is easily reachable by public transport (subway and a number of buses) and all in all, the Biodome is very enjoyable and pretty educational, and very worth visiting, especially if you have child with you, but I would recommend it even for adults on their own.
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