09.07.2006 27 °C
A trip just isn't a trip if it doesn't start at the airport. At least that's how it usually feels to me. Unless I'm in for a long, cramped ride over lots of water, I'm not so much travelling as not going to work, or - at the very most - escaping for a weekend.
And so I forget how much there is to do here at home. Montreal is a huge, vibrant city - I've really never seen a place like it anywhere. Walk downtown and you'll hear every language, see people of every colour, admire every style of dress and haircut (with the unfortunate mullet, or "coupe Longueuil" popping up now and then). It's easy to forget what we have in the winter, when it's 30 below and the longest you want to be outside is the 5 seconds you need to sprint to a warm, waiting car.
But summer...I realized today, with Neal arriving in just a few hours, that we're in for a summer of seeing Montreal all over again. There's something about Neal's enthusiasm for the city that makes me want to show him all the little corners, off the beaten path, that I've seen maybe once or twice in my entire life. And so I rediscover my city, and the province, all over again.
So far, we've got a long weekend in Quebec City planned next week. Old Quebec is beautiful - long, cobble-stoned streets; old stone buildings; the Chateau Frontenac; the boardwalk; the St. Laurent with Ile d'Orleans in the background; a stop at Pape Georges for maple paté and a glass of wine; the sound of the caleches; the tight, touristy feel of Quartier Champlain. I've seen it dozens of times, but I love it each and every time I return.
And then the rest of the summer is left for Montreal: the Old Port with the rapids of the St. Laurent; the locks; the Cirque du Soleil tent; the incredible sangria at Jardin Nelson; the museums and street vendors and the crash of novice Rollerbladers.
And the festivals: the Jazz Fest, with hundreds-of-thousands of people lining the streets; the Just for Laughs Fest; the World Fil Fest; the Carrifesta; Shakespeare in the Park (which I've never ever gone to see); the Food Fest; and more that I can't remember for the life of me.
Then there's Little Italy, with the best coffee in the city; Ferraris parked in front of the fancy restaurants; Milano's grocery with imports that make me dream of Rome; football shirts in every window; and the best-dressed people in the city. Neal will insist on a few trips to Little India for Vindaloo at the BYOB place. There's a hike up Mount Royal and, on Sundays, the Tam-Tam jam at the foot of the hill - hundreds of bongo players and people dancing to a rhythm you can feel for a mile.
Even right here, near home, there's the Pointe-aux-Prairies park, with miles of walking paths through the last of the woods here in the east; bogs full of frogs; wild birds; and, if you're lucky, the occassional deer. It leads all the way to the old cemetery, with old war graves and a day's worth of reading tombstones. I haven't been in ages, but I'll take Neal and it'll be like new to me again.
How easy it is to forget that people come here, to the city I see every day, to visit. They actually sit down and plan a trip to Montreal - plotting the sights to see, places to stay, where to eat...I could never understand it - why people would come here for their only 2 weeks of vacation, when it's no Paris or Rome or London. But sometimes I get a glimpse of it.
If I were to live somewhere else for a long time, and if I took the plane home, I'm sure Montreal would feel like a trip for me, too.