Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A small vacation

I went to Montreal with my wife on the weekend, to get away for a couple of days. Which was nice, but she wanted to go see a bunch of stuff. So I had to do things. That was OK too. Technically, I suppose, we were in Longueuil, which is a really nice area and has a fantastic atmosphere along St. Charles where all the restaurants are. I was too tired to keep my eyes open Friday night, but managed to keep my mouth open to pour beer into it, and that was good enough.

On Saturday we went to Parc Safari, which is about 40 minutes outside Montreal on the 132. It's a "safari" park, where you drive your car through the place and feed gnus and emus and ostriches and such. From your windows. Which sounded kinda cool, but it really wasn't. The traffic was nuts. The sign outside said the "tour" would last 70 minutes. 70 minutes in, we were still in the same traffic jam we were in when we started. Looking at a rhino and some elephants from behind fences. There were some zebras roaming around, but we were told not to feed them because they bite. We did anyway. We were bored. They didn't bite.

Eventually, things thinned out and we moved along really fast toward the end, hoping to just get the hell out of there. Being able to see zebras and elephants is neat, but when you're in a 90-minute traffic jam, you are probably bored with looking at the animals, who just stand there, pretty fast. More than anything though, I felt sad. Sad for these animals whose sole purpose is to stand there and interact with people as they drive through. Like Wal-Mart greeters with antlers. And the whole thing really is a big drive-through. You drive through, and instead of getting your feed at the window, you give out your food to the animals from the window. It's like a giant, slightly exotic, reverse McDonalds. And equating such incredible animals with McDonalds made me kind of depressed. I'd like to see them in the wild. Like on a real safari. And not through the window of my own car as they stagger up to the windows for some generic every-animal-can-eat-it food.

There was also a walking tour, which was slightly better. But it's still animals in cages, and I still felt bad for the chimps who had to sit in their pen and had the big wire fences preventing them from climbing the trees, or for the tigers who just lay there because there was nothing else to do. It's not like these animals are being rehabbed, and set free in the wild. They're there for the rest of their lives. Walking over glass tubes for glassy-eyed tourists like me. I felt creepy just being there.

Then we went to the Biodome - which is totally different, and totally great. It's set up like a rainforest, where the birds and monkeys and sloths live all together in one great big habitat, free to go wherever they like and flying around in the giant dome. Then there are the huge fish tanks and penguins and puffins and so forth. I would never go back to Parc Safari. But I would go to the Biodome again and again. That place is amazing.


  1. Eric,
    I enjoyed this piece and agree wholeheartedly. For the same reasons you have listed, I will never go to a zoo and will make sure my 3-yr old daughter will never either. Keeping truly beautiful and grand creatures like that penned up just so we can view them like exhibits is completely wrong.