As a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain pelted the new residence, I booked it north for my yearly pilgrimage to Montreal.
It’s been seven years since the first visit – initially undertaken to celebrate my birthday and practice some french. Since then the birthday hasn’t changed much, but I’ve long since come to terms that Québécois is dangerously close to indecipherable. More likely I’m simply unable to parse words spoken around me and too quickly. Happily I have managed a few abortive exchanges before outed as an anglais. Better yet they usually assume I’m french – I guess I dress the part….
This particular year comes with a certain foreboding. In coming north I passed New Paltz and indeed stopped long enough to get my favorite pizza – Roccos buffalo chicken slices for the curious.
The remainder of the drive was in a mix of clear weather followed by awful bluster. I pulled aside in Schroon Lake and got a glimpse of a life I might well have some day – rural mountain living so very far from what I have now. That’s the crux of it really. Instead of driving life-to-vacation I drove from life-to-old-life-to-vacation and the snow topped mountains provide a clear visual token of just how dramatic that change has been.
There’s simply no time. Choice by choice by choice and few are even made. Most aren’t even considered for lack of time, lack of information, lack of presence. How ever am I supposed to manage it all – or anyone?
My final destination was the Auberge le Pomerol which I hesitate to even mention since it’s by far the best place in Montreal and I’m not keen to see that ruined. The location is half the credit – directly across from the main subway station and just outside the lively Latin quartier and old city. The remainder is the charming narrowness and petite rooms made welcoming by small snacks and a basket of croissants brought by in the morning. It’s like the finest rented room from an earlier age. A genuine welcome.
In prior years my arrival has been accompanied by a small student riot. The city is quiet this year – I instead treated myself to Montreal de Lumière, an assorted festival / outdoor art gallery. Not even single digit temperatures can ruin the city’s liveliness so cleverly ensconced within a nearly four hundred year history. Rabid graffiti murals, Art Nouveau, and old stone gothic all populated by college students seemingly immune to temperature and old couples walking hand in hand. There are the police laughing at their peaceful city and spiral staircases so thoroughly impractical leading to tasteful studettes or claustrophobic restaurants. Neon announces the liveliest streets just as curtained dormers guard the quietest. I love it here…and have every time I’ve come.
Friday was an early night – 10ish on account of the cold.
The following morning I woke to my warm croissants and fresh oranges. I read some and lazily assembled. Only around 9 did I brave the 1 degree exterior. Despite the cold I walked Le Village, Sainte-Marie, and Lornier. In truth I should explore further afield – I rarely take the subway in lieu of walking and I always stay at the same place. It’s decidedly un me-like to pass the afternoon in the hotel, but this is a truly rare place.
The utlimate destination of my promenade was Burger Royale. The burgers are fine but the macaroni is worth the entire trip. Just as I walk the same streets I eat the same food and wait at the same coffee shop for it to open since I’m invariable early. I take a few photos – mostly of the many murals in town – but they don’t change all that frequently. I instead pretend to live here – somehow without working – and not at all caring about everything else that might be. It’s Halloween in a sense…and I dress up each year like a normal person not profoundly stressed by the constant engine of more.
That evening I attended the season opener of the Montreal Impact in the Stade Olympique. Again a great tradition. If only to live on such perfect clockwork…ahh…I could do I think but only here.
Next year I often think. Next year I’ll stay longer and explore more of Quebec. Perhaps in the summer. There are, of course, other things I want to see like La Maurice. If I’m wise I won’t visit Montreal that trip. No good spoiling it. Truly.
In any case I walked the distance. Took a little over an hour but I was still in the stadium well ahead of the match -Impact versus Seattle sounders. Birth town versus home town? Perhaps.
It was a good game, sort of. Montreal led until the final injury time when they allowed a goal to give away victory for a tie. Frustrating. Almost worse than a loss…
No worries. I held my scarf and sang the fight songs and heard the bell’s clang after each Impact Goal. There’s quite the ritual to it with clapping after certain superb plays and the customary referee booing. I’m frankly not convinced sports aren’t a sort of religion…
In any case, I made my way back subway. No use braving the cold both ways. Might have made another go of the city but the temperature was too much and there’s nothing I haven’t strolled pat anyway. In the end, I made another early night of it and an early return the next morning. The weekend as a whole was less an adventure and more…a reminder. It’s the connection between quite a few lives at this point and serves as a useful anchor of past and present. Fitting it should be Montreal. I’d describe the city the very same way…
More Final Thoughts