Mount Royal Frenchiness
My recent work in Albany, NY, placed me fairly near the Canadian border, so I seized my moment and dashed over to Montreal in search of maples, meese, and French ‘Mericans.
Montreal literally means “Mount Royal” and this became quite evident as I drove into the city and saw the large green mount/hill looming behind the city, just like Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. It was only about a 20 minute walk up the steep hill and at the top was a fantastic lookout, complete with shops, art pieces and a silent disco. It was a great vantage point to start my visit of this shiny, happy city.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, given the severe Frenchiness of Quebec. French is the official state language and clearly the dominant mother-tongue, but they’re mostly all bilingual anyway. We’re always hearing about them wanting to secede, thinking that they’re better than the rest of Canada and claiming that they belong to France, even though France doesn’t seem to care. I saw the fleur-de-lis everywhere and English translations were the exception, rather than the rule. Nearly every street was a “Rue” and they even had a Notre Dame Cathedral (but what French city doesn’t). Actually, Quebec reportedly has more than twice as many Notre Dame cathedrals as the whole of France. The region doth mimic too much, methinks.
My most unexpected moment was discovering an adult ball pit, like in kids’ playgrounds but without the pee smell. It was some kind of interactive art installation but who cares, it was fun. A little down the road, I found a large “Simon” game where I joined other randoms in trying to repeat Simon’s pattern as it got longer and longer. Indeed there seemed to be many free, interactive events throughout the city. I guess it all comes alive in summer, like NYC.
The city really exuded health and green-thinking. Every single person looked young, fit, and happy. Lord knows where all the old or ugly people go, but clearly they’re expelled from this city or thrown into a ditch to facilitate the circle of life. Cyclists and cycling tracks were numerous and I saw plenty of recycling and green initiatives around the streets. Yes they had a Bixi bike share system and yes I used it to dash around the city to see all the neighbourhoods and sites. I felt like one of the fit, young, healthy people.
Being in Montreal was sort of like seeing the best bits of North America and France combined. The people seemed cultured, healthy, and progressive like a European city but also quite friendly with American accents. This might be what Paris would feel like if you removed all the snooty French.