Someone asked me recently, “Why did you pick Montreal? Did you go on ‘The Price is Right’ and win one of those random vacation packages?” And it struck me that Montreal might be a slightly odd choice — why Canada instead of Cancun? Especially after such a burly winter.
Obviously, aye, Canada is everyone’s first choice for an exotic vacation spot. This year marks my 30th birthday and my mom’s 60th birthday (sorry to let the cat’s age out of the bag, mom). Other than the fact that we’re 30 years apart in age, mom and I share a never-staved desire to visit bigger places. And destinations with European flair never hurt… donc, nous allons aller à Montréal (so, let’s go to Montreal).
After chillin’ with my Uncle Benjamin (mom’s younger brother) in Denver — gorging on prosciutto, red onion and parmesian salad and a plethora of pastas at Maggiano’s — we departed early in the a.m. for l’aéroport. Mom had so kindly booked all of our tickets and in doing so, had mistakenly booked mine as “Kirkpatrick” instead of “Florence” (sorry Kirkpatrick clan, I simply must be “Sylva Florence,” the famous author).
Since flying to Canada (aye!) requires a passport in this golden age of modern travel, my name on my tickets had to match the one on my passport (aye…). This simple feat of typing required me to stand in an extensive line at Frontier (because apparently Frontier issued our tickets… although everyone at Frontier — and both of us — were more confused by this fact than a blind, mentally challenged goose flying north for the winter). Frontier was experiencing a certain unexplainable catastrophe; people were missing flights like a severely hung over golfer misses Sunday tee time. A woman kept walking around saying “Anyone in line not late for their flight? Anyone?” And everyone who was late for their flight looked at each other like, “wtf?”
Thankfully, Mom had better fortune changing my name on our outgoing American flights — it was simply wham, bam, you’re name’s correct, ma’am.
At any rate, we accomplished our tedious mission, grabbed egg bagels and made it to our gate in plenty of time to nibble and people watch. Our plane was slightly delayed (foreboding?) but we made it to Chicago in time for Chinese in the food court and coffee at good ol’ Starbucks. As I was correcting my coffee to cream ratio (coffee to cream as a spot of dog poo on a snowbank), a young man who had been sweeping the food court walked up to me.
“I just have to tell you,” he said, beaming shyly. “You’re beautiful.”
“I got it all from my mom,” I said, gesturing in her direction with my stir stick.
“Thanks for making that,” the guy said and my mom laughed.
Another plane, a little nap and waking up to see the sun still gleaming on the St. Laurent river as we cruised in above a sea of buildings and trees. The airport itself was strangely deserted at 8 p.m. A man herded long strings of carts into neat rows in baggage claim like a loud line of metallic sheep. We found the bus that would take us into downtown Montreal, bought passes and 45 minutes were walking to Hotel St. Denis and climbing up old but tidy stairs to room 400. Next door, we found dinner and wine at an Italian restaurant (with seven percent of its residents boasting Italian descent, Montreal has a tangible Italian influence). And then we traded booths for beds and crashed.
If our travel day involved more sitting than standing, our first day in Montreal involved more walking than anything else. Just a couple blocks from our hotel, on St. Catherine street — in the heart of the Gay Village — we found a breakfast joint named Cora. We sat on the patio, underneath endless strings of pink balls that marked the summertime pedestrian area. I ate the crap out of a massive plate of chocolate brioche French toast, drowning happily in a sea of cream underneath the weight of a mound of fresh fruit. People strolled by in an endless stream and the sounds of silverware mingled with French conversation and distant sirens.
And then we walked into infinity, obliterating breakfast, completely forgetting lunch…
Refueled by dinner, we hoofed it back to our hotel. Once we got back, mom wanted to ditch her walking shoes and I, of course, wanted to par-tay. Somehow, I talked her into venturing out again and we set off in the opposite direction on Rue St. Denis. Five minutes away, we found a lively street lined with outdoor cafes. Live music blared from several venues, people walked up and down the street chatting in French, cigarette smoke combined with diesel and spilled booze. Two or three blocks of this sort of lively atmosphere, dipping in the middle, all of it lined on either side by trees full of glowing orbs. As we sat at a bar, sipping on wine (mom) and vodka tonics (me), the orbs changed slowly from green to blue to pink to purple and back again.
When we finished our booze, we walked the rest of the street until we reached a busy intersection. On the way, we passed a rat pack of punked out street kids, their Mohawks blending into the shadows on the buildings, their bedrolls confiscated by sleeping dogs, discarded instruments and girls who lazed about passing joints to each other in the dark. A man sang “We don’t need no education,” in a decidedly French accent. Indian restaurants sidled up to Lebanese ones and the odd shop or private residence. The alive vibe had me all fired up for a night on the town — but mom was tired, so I gave in and went back to the hotel. Of course, once I put my feet up, I felt that the rest of my body needed to go up too and sleep wasn’t far behind…
I spy with my little eye… another blog on the horizon! Stay tuned for another installment of outdoor adventures, calorie loaded French fries (yes they can be made more fattening), mysterious bug bites and travel nightmares…