You fly in and plop into a setting without any logical geographical approach; obviously your impressions are superficial. So I do not pretend to delve into the distinctions between North American neighbors, Canada and the United States. This is a quick take from someone who has lived in Texas, a long way from that border, for all her adult life.
1. How ignorant am I? Up until I climbed Mont Royal, I was clueless that was the derivation of the name of the city I was visiting.
2. Staying in the Mont Royal Plateau area, we were plunged into a land where everyone was youthful. Frequenting Southtown San Antonio, we’re accustomed to being the oldest one in a restaurant.
3. Montrealers are fit. They walk; they ride bikes; they climb stairs. While we were there, the marathon ended a few blocks from our house. We walked a lot. We were staying in a Bermuda Triangle of metro stations, in the exact center of three stations, each probably a little more than a mile from our flat.
4. I bike-share in San Antonio all the time and threatened to make the Mister do so in Montréal. Stations are everywhere and highly used. I read the more people riding, the safer they are. It’s true car drivers are extremely alert and diligent about yielding to both pedestrians and cyclists in Montréal, but, be careful what you wish for. Although numerous, the bike lanes are crowded, particularly during rush hour. Someone like me riding would have tailgating traffic piled up behind. These people are serious commuters; they are not riding leisurely.
4. Canadians are incredibly calm and orderly drivers. No squealing brakes; no cursing; no birds shot; no screeching starts. Once in a great while, you might hear someone give an extremely slight tap to their horn.
5. Canadians have longer attention spans than I. In museums, they stop and read all the accompanying text in exhibits. They patiently sit through all related documentaries. They stay in their museums a long time. While I found the Samurai exhibit at Pointe-à-Callière interesting, I felt an unappreciative, uneducated bumpkin breezing through in contrast to the Montrealers devouring the detailed description of each warrior’s outfit.
6. The housing stock in Montréal is amazing. Miles of three-story, sturdy structures all being refurbished for young urbanites.
7. Living in a loft, I’m accustomed to hauling groceries up a floor to the kitchen. Staying in a second floor apartment in Montréal was fine. Loved the space. But my stairs are inside. Most of their stairs are wrought-iron and outside. How in the world do they manage maneuvering them when iced over in winter? Thank goodness this Texan did not have to try.
8. While I did not witness hoards attending mass, Catholicism is emphasized, if only to remind everyone this is not turf conquered by the Church of England.
9. Quebec is amazingly stubborn. French is dominant, but it has been hanging in there for a long time. The French were expelled by England more than two centuries ago.
10. My belated apologies to Dr. Wayne Reilly. I was pretty all-knowing while I was at Hollins College. Or at least I thought I was. I preferred the laid-back, liberal air of Dr. Henry Nash. I concentrated on important, real world issues; my thesis surely would resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Brought up provincially in then-little Virginia Beach, I totally dismissed Dr. Reilly’s focus on separatists in Canada. What a waste of time. When the secession vote came squeakily close in recent years, I felt my face redden in embarrassment for my attitude 40 years prior. Mea culpa.
11. You have to love a city where a piano sits on the sidewalk inviting people to play. Someone always seems to be playing, and an appreciative audience is always nearby.
To view more snapshots taken during our vacation in Montreal, visit shutterfly. The Mister shares photo credits. If a photo is taken at some wild angle, it definitely is mine. It really bothers some people, but I have this theory. People don’t always look at things geometrically straight on, so why should photos have a level point of view?
Or maybe, that’s just me. I’m the only one not pausing to see things squarely.
Maybe that explains a lot….
4 thoughts on “À vous de jouer: Random snapshots and superficial observations of Montréal”
We need to find a piano…….
Once again, I enjoyed the observations on your blog, your own constant questioning of your beliefs, and your willingness to update them. Have you seen Ben Affleck’s ARGO? Well done! Three cheers for Canada!
I hope to tour some Canadian cities some day. This was a lovely tribute.
I was in Montreal once – I remember the old buildings, the cobblestones of some of the back streets. There, on a whim, I bought my first vintage postcard – a family, from the 1920’s, vacationing with their priest in tow. They were all posed in front of a beach scene, which included a stuffed alligator.
Your observations make me wonder if I should go back again.