Canada, Oh

My trip to Canada was brilliant. Not without its low moments, but generally fabulous. Included in this post are a few photographs I took in Montreal.
Unfortunately, there was only one day of good light for the Holga. Still, one is better than none, and that day included a trip to one of the Catholic cathedrals. I haven't processed that yet, but expect good things.
Elizabeth and I hadn't seen each other since summer stock last year, so I was really looking forward to seeing her again. As far as I am concerned, she can travel with me any time that she wants.
Montreal is considered by many Americans to be very European, and by Europeans to be terribly American. Well, I don't know about that. It's a very chic city, where everyone wears artfully tied scarves. Elizabeth and I both bought several scarves. Many of the buildings have strange second floor entrances and beautiful wrought ironwork similar to that of the Vieux Carre in New Orleans. If you paid attention in history class, you may recall that many Acadians fled to Louisiana during the colonial period. It's always interesting to see the signs of things like that.
Many people in Montreal also speak English. If you have an anglo accent or any kind of linguistic stumble, they will switch languages. This frustrated me greatly. I wanted to speak French, but found English to be quite the crutch in Montreal. I wanted to flex my linguistic muscle, as I had to when I was in France. Elizabeth does not speak French, and asked the meaning of various signs. The signs invariably included words that I don't know (it's the same language as much as we speak the same language as the English). The one that really drove me nuts was l'erable. It was everywhere, and I'd never seen it before. Well, that would be a very Canadian word, I thought once I realized its meaning. L'erable means maple. They're just falling over maple this, that, and the other in Canada. After seeing the first vibrant red leaves in Mount Royal park, though, I can understand why it is so iconic.
There were two things that made the whole trip worthwhile: the Chinese Lantern Festival at Les Jardins Botaniques and a Pink Martini concert at the Place des Arts. Elizabeth advised going up to the gardens before the weather changed, so we saw the lanterns on the last day of summer. We couldn't have planned it better. The gardens are high above the city, next to the Olympic Stadium, with a breathtaking view. We had just enough time to stroll through the gardens before dusk. The lanterns really popped as the light left the sky. I'd expected generic, round lanterns, but the gardens had all sorts of shapes and sizes, hand-painted, made to look like ducks, swans, long boats, and many other surprising figures. Naturally, the only photo I was able to take is of the most boring lantern there, in one of the Chinese pavilions.
Pink Martini was amazing. The Place des Arts is similar to Lincoln Center, but all inside, linked to the Metro station of the same name. It seemed a very well laid-out complex. They even had custom paint jobs on the lighting instruments to make them blend into the beige acoustical treatments. The audience was lively, large, and mostly French-speaking. The band spoke French, with charming mistakes, between songs. I hadn't noticed before then how adorable the pianist in Pink Martini is. He got quite the reception! I'd just seen Pink Martini at the Barbican in March, but this was a very different experience. The crowd in Montreal was more engaged. They clapped sooner and more accurately. They also gave two standing ovations. I can't wait until their next album comes out.
Generally, Montreal is pretty cool. They ask if you want to have separate checks straight away in restaurants, so you don't have to ask. The make-up ladies at The Bay on Ste. Catherine rock. One of them told Elizabeth that she looked as though she'd just come in from playing outside while trying on blush. Everything must be labeled in French, making our trip to the Lush store especially novel. My canister of dusting powder has no English translation, but it does have a creepy pic of some guy named Graeme who works there. There are a lot of cool vintage stores and used book/record stores. We stayed in the Plateau, quite near Mt. Royal, so we had many to choose from nearby. Our cabbie even pointed out a place to score drugs and gave an explanation of the local drug laws on the way to our auberge!
I don't know if I will return to Montreal, but it seems like a great place. I think that I might like to explore other parts of Canada, like the Atlantic Coast and maybe out west. I'd love to be able to pick up Canadian magazines like Maclean's at the local B&N. Their writing is so sharp and fearless in a manner that has largely disappeared in the mainstream press here. And Canadian humor and advertising is so fab. The weird beavers for Bell, the funny posters for the birth control ring on the wall in the ladies' room... maybe they seem cool because we don't see them all the time. Or maybe all those additional years in the Commonwealth really paid off for our neighbors to the north.


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