I wasn’t planning on writing about our Montreal trip again, at least not quite so soon, but recent events compelled me to do so.
One of the strongest impressions I had of Montreal was how very French it is. That might sound a little silly – of course it seems French, most people there speak French. What I mean is that I’d expected Montreal to be a large Canadian city that happened to have French as a first language. Instead, I discovered Montreal to be a very French city that happens to be in Quebec and Canada. I’d never before appreciated the French identity of this part of Canada. I’d read about the nation within a nation, but without a very clear understanding. I understand it a little better now. Experience is a great teacher.
Although this was our first trip to Quebec, I found Montreal to be strangely familiar. The advertising billboards, the waft of cigarettes, the music spilling out of cafes, some of the restaurants and cafes themselves, these are all reminiscent of some of the cities we’d enjoyed during our four years in France. Even the architecture of older buildings and the cobbled paving stones echoed old France. In the right light and with a bit of a squint, we could have been promenading in Perigueux or Paris, or strolling a boulevard in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux! A fine city, a large and attractive port, and not too far from where we lived back then. Parts of Vieux Montreal down by the St Laurent river could have doubled for Bordeaux. Hardly surprising historically, but still a pleasant surprise for us, provoking a pang for our time in France.
We are all connected. It might be through memory, history, family, friendship, travel, or simply through digital devices, but that connection is there. Naive I know, but wouldn’t it be something if we could appreciate these connections, promote them positively, and enjoy our sense of collective community? We have so much to learn from each other! Our connections to each other are far more relevant, valuable and human than our differences (I love our differences – think about it, we’d be boring without them – and they should be celebrated and respected) Oh, my naivety…
I far prefer to be out in wild landscapes than large cities, most likely because of the quiet and contrast. It’s not an escape as such, more a need for a different experience. They’re all real parts of my world, with the natural world a nose ahead for me. Yet I am happy enough to live in and visit cities where there is a vibrant and generally peaceful multicultural community. Places where differences are treasured, and the valuing of these differences binds the community, making it better for all.
I have to say that after recent events in a place we called home, it is hard to think positively, but we lose so much if we don’t. How I feel just now is hardly unique, and goodness knows, there are many experiencing far worse, and at first hand, all over the world. What a tragedy that these events might be what connect so many of us…