22 November 2012

Montréal, Québéc: Bijou Du Canada Français

With my 22nd birthday fast approaching I wanted to enjoy myself in French Canada's capital city, Montréal. Taking off to the beautiful French inspired streets of Vieux Montréal, I made the most of my time in this beautiful Canadian city. Montréal, Québéc pushed me to make some new friends and to try something different! Bien sûr, le Canada Français était prêt à servir

Touching down into Montréal's Trudeau Pierre International Airport I made my way to my hotel in Vieux Montréal, which translates to Old Montréal. L'hotel became my residence for two and a half days, I had made a perfect choice of accommodation for a great weekend. Being that this trip would begin on my 22nd birthday I decided to splash out on a nice hotel. The art-deco infusion of the old architecture and retro art design set the perfect balance. I could have been a million miles away from Newark because the scenery around me was almost like a fairy-tale, Montréal's old town had captured my heart and I don't think I'll ever get over the contrast between this city and Toronto. My first impressions of how Old Montréal felt couldn't be put into words, if anything I pictured it France! French Canada was looking very different to what I had seen in Ontario! Oui, Toronto semblait être un monde loin!

It was after all the evening of my 22nd birthday and I wasn't planning on sitting alone in my hotel room! Jumping into the unknown I navigated my way through the metro system to reach Beaudry, a station in the heart of Montréal's Gay Village. I found a nice Portuguese chicken fast-food restaurant to get something to eat before I could toast my birthday properly as the Air Canada Rouge flight from Newark, NJ didn't have a good in-flight service. I was looking for something interesting to do, maybe grab some beers and see how the evening panned out. It was dark by the time I reached Rue Sainte Catherine and being a Wednesday it was quite quiet. I was learning that I didn't need to be in a group to have a good time, no I was fine because I'm a survivor! Choosing Club Sky to have my first birthday drink I even got talking to an Air Canada flight attendant who bought me dinner! Following on from the dinner I found this bar, let's just the rest of the night got scandalous for sure!

Montreal has such a amazing vibe, the fusion of old and new work together superbly. One of the main sights I saw was the outstanding, Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal. That cathedral commanded the attention and made the bitter cold look great! I must admit the French language that was spoken by the locals did sound quite familiar but had a different accent and pronunciation for certain words. I swear the history instilled within the buildings of Vieux Montréal transcended into the streets, seeing the street signs displaying the words 'Arret' instead of 'Stop' gave this part of the city a sense of individuality in my opinion. My birthday weekend was turning out to be amazing! I made a champion decision to spend my 22nd Birthday in Québéc, C!

I know that getting back on a Canada bound flight was the right thing to do! The November weather in Montréal, Québéc was bone-chillingly cold but it never stopped me from exploring the narrow street corners to see the hidden art galleries and restaurants, for which most of them served haute cuisine. I will be honest I didn't make the time to go to any nice restaurants whilst in Montreal because I didn't have the funds to pay for such lovely food, but I know that I will be travelling to France once I arrive back from my placement year in the U.S! Was I really in North America? Montréal had me under a spell and I was loving every single moment of it! Did I have a plan to execute whilst in Montréal? No, but I was taking in every moment! Montréal avait son propre plan de fou pour moi!

Taking the metro to the nearby neighbourhood of Mont Royal to see the Stade Olympique and Tour de Montréal. I reached the Mont Royal area without any difficulty but finding the Tour de Montreal proved to be a task that I never want to repeat ever again. I don't know whether the route I took was the best to choose but never-the-less I made it to Montréal's Olympic Park. During that Mont Royal afternoon I wasn't focused on finding the Stade Olympique immediately because the feel of the main shopping street felt so French, they possessed a feeling of familiarity as if I was back in the South of France. I did a lot of walking that day but it was all an experience, hearing the broken French spoken and recoginsing what some of the shop fronts meant. By the time I reached the tower it had just closed. I saw the whole journey and process worthwhile, I saw a lot of the Mont Royal area during my day M!

Fresh from a good nights rest and a hearty Chinese takeaway I packed my bags and headed for Montréal's Downtown area before my flight back to Newark, NJ. I appreciated Montréal's bustling city centre, the department stores served a sense of European cool whilst the architecture looked positively French! I found a HMV store, I stuck with the Canadian theme because I bought two Canadian albums plus a Kate Bush album, sorry Céline! From the winding streets to the slanted French conversations that both oozed Québécois realness, I completely understand that French Canada as Québéc has an identity that's truly its own take from France. The old town and port side of Montreal gave me life, I was exposed to a different Canada compared to what I saw in Toronto, Ontario when I visited in October 2012. My next Canadian city trip would ideally be to Vancouver, British Columbia but I know I have no holiday time left! Montréal, je vous remercie pour un grand voyage!

J'adore Montréal !

Joseph Harrison