We are all connected

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.

IMG_20151105_210156One 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.

DSCF1587Although 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.

DSCN6182Bordeaux! 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.

DSCF1586We 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…

DSCF1633I 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.

DSCF1604I 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…

DSCF1610

My Montreal morning…merveilleux!

Quebec! La belle province! Montreal! Don’t worry, this won’t be written in French, or my butchered version of French, that would be too cruel for lovers of language. This week, I’m writing an urban piece, but it has a flavour of the outdoors about it. So bear with me, and we’ll take a trip…on y va!

Leafy Montreal
Outdoor flavour
We were lucky enough to visit Montreal last week. Mrs. PlaidCamper was presenting at a conference, someone had to carry her bags, and I secured that prestigious gig (just to be clear, Dr. PlaidCamper is more than capable of carrying her bags, but I’ll do anything to visit somewhere new…) I had never been to Quebec, never mind Montreal, and was curious to explore a new (to me) corner of Canada.

A healthy start...
A healthy start…
While Dr. PlaidCamper was making her contribution to global health, I started the day by making a contribution to my expanding waistline. Although I do believe a cup of great coffee and a flaky croissant is a health food if consumed without a cigarette. Obviously, Mrs. PlaidCamper is the expert on the health front, but I want to help, and this next bit is for the smokers of Montreal – stop it! There are far too many of you doing this, and you are too pleasant a bunch of people to want to self harm in this way. I think I passive smoked my way through at least a pack and a half…

Beautiful buildings
Beautiful buildings
When the smoke cleared – to be fair, the smoking is all outside (but it is hard to walk down a street without passing through clouds of exhaled smoke near the entrances of many buildings) – I set off for Mont Royal. I knew this to be a delightful park overlooking the city. It’s a place where urban dwellers get their outdoor fix, so I decided to head there to get my first real impression of Montreal, geographically speaking. The route I chose was delightful; mature trees shedding leaves in front of buildings far older and more architecturally interesting than I’d expected.

Looking for Mont Royal
Looking for Mont Royal
It is easy to find the park, looming over the city as it does. You catch glimpses at the far end of streets that rise toward the heavily forested hillside, with the huge cross and communications towers perched on top. Earlier, I had smiled to myself at the description of the hill as a mountain in some guidebooks. That seemed too grand a description. By the time I’d slogged my way to the top, via winding paths and seemingly endless wooden staircases, I was very happy to concede the title of mountain. It is steep enough, and an excellent workout if you’re so inclined, which I wasn’t, but it was an unexpected personal mini-triumph.

Clean air and falling leaves
Clean air and falling leaves
The air was clean, and heavily scented with leaf decay – far richer and earthier than alpine Alberta. It seemed to me a more familiar autumnal tang, reminding me of London and the parks I played in as a boy. Aroma driven nostalgia…autumn does that.

To the city
To the city
The views back down to the city and the St. Laurent river were wonderful. As autumn had hung on a little longer here, the leafy trees provided enticing and beguiling natural frames for taking photos of Montreal. I spent a while at the top, wandering wherever, and really enjoying the feeling of being in an almost wilderness – the green heart of a great metropolis. How wonderful for the people of Montreal to have this pleasant place, a beautiful space in the middle of their city. It was such a marvellous and colourful Montreal morning!

Marvellous Montreal
Marvellous Montreal
We are always grateful for the opportunities we get to travel and experience new places – it is energizing and rewarding to be able to do so. Thanks for reading. As ever, please feel free to share a story – maybe you have visited Montreal? – or make a comment, as they are always enjoyed and welcome, and keep your guy ropes secure.

At the foot of the hill
At the foot of the hill

At the top of the hill
At the top of the hill

Montreal
Montreal!