Montréal’s underground city is a famed tourist attraction, winding underneath the equivalent of forty-one city blocks, extending over some twenty miles worth of tunnels, with shops, museums, interactive exhibits, and apparently even housing in it. It is touted as a glorious place for tourists, but in reality, it is more of a practical place for the people of Montréal, who have to otherwise walk outside during the coldest parts of the winter (and it does, apparently, get very cold). However, it is a place to be, and the portion of the underground city closest to where I am staying also happens to have something I have been hunting for since I first arrived: a bookstore.
Usually I make finding a bookstore one of the first orders of business when I arrive in a city, but this trip has been a little crowded, and as of yet, I had not been able to even take the time to locate a bookseller, much less pay them a visit. I had been quite excited to make this particular stop, however, as this is Montréal, which means–gasp–French books. Now, before you go about thinking me to be all snobbish and uppercrust bilingual, let me first remind you that my French skills are best used to get me into trouble, as well as to stress that my particular brands of French books run as follows: children’s stories, books from Urban Comics, and classic books I’ve nearly memorized in English.
Thus I had set off for the Underground City, hoping against hope that I would soon find myself in a large bookstore, where I could shop to my heart’s content. But alas, that was not to be. As I walked through the doors and began looking around, I noted that there was, of all things, a Barbie exhibit. Now, I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of Barbie–at least, I wasn’t as a child–but an entire Barbie exhibit? I just had to go.
And boy, have they rolled out the red carpet.
The collection is simply all of the Barbie dolls (or at least the most popular ones) arranged either in model scenarios or in glass cabinets. There had to be well over two hundred dolls in there, maybe even close to five hundred. If that sounds like overwhelmingly a lot, I will add that the dolls set up in the scene boxes, like the fashion show one, managed to pack in a lot of dolls: there were at least twenty dolls watching the fashion show, plus the dolls on the rotating stage, and the announcer doll. Other boxes included, of course, a James Bond theme, a Lord of the Rings theme, a weird let’s-mash-all-the-vaguely-fantasy-and-scifi-leftover-dolls-together theme, and a royalty theme, each with at least a dozen, if not closer to twenty, dolls in them. Then there were all of the Barbies in the wall.
It was incredibly fascinating. It was interesting to see which of the Barbies had aged the worst, and how that had affected their color. It was also interesting to look at Mattel’s around the world collection, which featured Barbie’s in either the traditional or stereotypical dress of many of the world’s countries. It was also interesting to note the evolution of Black Barbie as opposed to Barbie (because apparently Barbie is white unless otherwise specified) and the introduction of the Designer Barbies, with their couture gowns.
I probably spent a good forty-five minutes looking at the dolls. It’s quite surprising, actually, but then, it also makes me wonder what other goodies the underground city might have to offer.