I’ve visited Montreal so I could attend the wedding of my good friend Tung. This was the first time that I’ve witnessed a traditional church service (having only attended civil ceremonies previously), as well as a Vietnamese blessing. The whole event was skilfully put together (including the gorgeous weather during an otherwise damp week), and was immensely enjoyable.
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Tung and Angela, wish them the very best for the future and thank them both for inviting me to Montreal to allow me to share in their special day.
Discovering the City
I arrived on Wednesday, not knowing what to expect, but within minutes of arriving at the airport, I quickly sensed a very European flavour. Whilst I knew that the province of Quebec was French speaking, it was still surprising to see and hear French when visiting Canada.
Montreal is a mixture of various influences. Whilst the architecture (in addition to the language) is very much of French origin, there are naturally influences derived from British imperialism and the country’s proximity to the United States.
On the British side of things I saw a number of English companies that are not normally seen in North America, and noticed postcodes similar to those in the UK. That and of course the images of Her Majesty on coins and bank notes, although the fractional units are based on that of the US Dollar (1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢).
Other American influences ranged from telephone numbers, plug sockets, makes and styles of car, but as many of these are designed with a North American market in mind, this is not surprising. Sadly the American influence extends to television, taking me no longer than five minutes before stumbling upon ‘Canadian Idol’.
The city is a also a mix of old and new. The downtown area is that of modern sky-scrappers, an underground city, shopping malls and small parks, whilst Old Montréal and its Port are full of Baroque style buildings and churches.
On the whole I found the city to be incredibly non-threatening, which is surprising given the prominence of a foreign language. However you are always safe in the knowledge that if your French doesn’t extend beyond ‘bonjour’ and ‘merci’, you can always revert back to English and be understood—all the thrills with none of the spills. French-Canadians have a reputation for being snobbish and stubborn in their choice of language, but of those I met, both at the wedding, and whilst exploring the city, all were extremely friendly and courteous.
In fact, I can’t recall the last time I have walked around a city, or caught a subway train, and not felt threatened by my surroundings. The Montreal Metro deserves a special mention for it’s ease of use and cleanliness. I wish the same could be said for San Francisco, which frankly scares the living daylights out of me when ever I elect to use its public transportation.
The only downside of my four days in Montreal was not being able to see any of the comedy performances taking place—the famous Just for Laughs festival in full swing at this time of year. Had I checked ticket availability a few weeks prior to my departure I would have been able to get tickets for Jim Jeffries, a comedian I saw in Birmingham a few years ago, and have wanted to see perform again ever since.
It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore, to learn that I am very keen on making a return visit, perhaps for next years Just for Laughs festival. There is just so much I still want to see and do here (including the former site of Expo 67 and it’s remaining Geodesic dome designed by Buckminster-Fuller). It’s rare for me to visit a metropolitan city and feel so relaxed, so a return is a must!