Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"La vie en rose"

It takes roughly 6 hours to get from Greensboro to Montreal.
Loaded up with ALL my winter attire, and I really do mean ALL of it, every thick sweater I own, I spent Christmas in Montreal this year. The thing was: Montreal was quite warm. And that was not the only pleasant surprise on this trip…
Although this time I was planning to just see family and stay in and get a serious case of the cabin fever, I reluctantly accepted the invitation to go out, after 4-5 days of heavy Romanian cooking and eating, of too much sausages and “sarmale”…
There is something about the city that makes me feel like I am in Europe. Before I went to Canada the first time in 2006 I thought I would feel more like being somewhere in YankeeLand, America. Not so! I felt more like in Northern Germany, or Holland. My sister always says she feels more like in Northern France, but I have never been, so …
The city has an Old World feel and safety about it that’s unusual in a metropolis, to me. Yes, there are times of the day and spots even in New York City where I feel borderline “safe”, but not many!
In Montreal, I feel like in my own back yard, with nothing to fear, no danger awaiting. There is a peace in the hustle and bustle of the city that’s hard to describe. Easier to grasp though. There is a slower pace and a friendlier attitude of the French, I guess, that are reassuring and inviting. And I think the French is what makes the city feel and look “non American” to me. Not much to annoy the Americans who expect to hear English; but enough of it, where it makes it feel you’re abroad.
In just the couple of days of sightseeing that I set aside on this trip, I still managed to entertain the eye, and the palate with some of the bazillion things Montreal has to offer. That’s the thing about a big city: you never run out of things to do and see, I guess… The trouble there is: what to do with such a variety and so little time?? But I usually like little portions of time on my hands: gives me no hour to waste! And I love the concentration of those little chunks of time. It’s what stays with me.
One day, we went shopping in the Underground City on Rue Saint Catherine. I hope I got the street right here, but I know I got the place. It’s this huge honest-to-God Shopping City, built indoors, mostly under the street level, but also above, but all indoors. I hate shopping, but I love shopping with my sister, because she loves it so much! She’s like a professional shopper. She wastes no time. She’ll make a list of what you need, and then take you there. Like the project manager of shoppers, she has all planned out and timed!
One thing that stuck with me on this tour was the $1 lockers they have. It’s Montreal, or as my sister says, “The North Pole”, so everyone wears thick, heavy clothes : well, “for your shopping convenience” they have these lockers you drop a coin in and then you lock your baggage and your coats in. So convenient!
I was also fascinated mostly by all the various cultures cuisines in the Underground. Anything from Lebanese to Serbian and Japanese seemed to be represented, as in a Babel Tower of goodies. My sister had to have a shawarma – her favorite sandwich since forever, and I just gawked at all the sushi fast food counters, because as much as I love sushi, and as beautiful as everything looked, I was saving myself for a “flamm” at Les Trois Brasseurs later. No, it’s not a pizza. It’s better than a pizza! The menu looks like a newspaper, and working for a paper here, I can appreciate that; it’s even called “La Gazette” and along with their own beers it features these very thin and loaded with flavor “flamms” which are like pizzas, only better. Maybe more like flat breads?!
Another day, we went to the Beaux Arts Museum. I have not been to a museum probably since college (don’t ask: that’s a LONG time ago!). There, I saw for the first time ever original works by Dali, Picasso, Warhol and Rodin, amongst soooo many others. I am never a museum fan, typically, but I’ll have to say, if it comes in small portions and at long intervals of time, it can be very relaxing and mind opening. With the risk of stereotyping, if America is all about movies and amusement parks, Europe is about museums. Anyone I know goes to Paris, and Madrid, Russia and Rome for the art! The museums. Reconnecting with the way I grew up, as a perpetual student, was good too, this way … Refreshing. Rejuvenating. I don’t do spas, so, this was my spa treatment. For the spirit – which I’ll have to tell you, I worry more about than my skin!
Some pictures I took there were because of the viewpoint of the art, or the materials, some others were for their fame. They were all taken because they opened my vision and they all provided food for thought. They were never “dry” … They fed me! In many ways! Creative, spiritual, visceral. Check out the gift shop when you’re there. It’s not cheesy! At all!!
Another stop was the lounge bar at Suite 701 on Cote Place D’Armes for an appetizer and wine dinner . Very subdued, hip but classy, modern d├ęcor, model-like handsome wait staff, and THE best cheese plates I have ever seen! You felt like in The Iron Chef contest, and you were given the opportunity to sample and judge! The judging would have been easiest: all the plates would have won! The presentation of the dishes was outstanding, but they definitely passed the tasting challenge too. True feast for many senses.
The seafood plate was oozing with sea smells and full of flavor, once you tasted it! The best smoked salmon I have had in a long while, and the best oysters! And what a presentation! The fries came like in Europe, of course, with mayo on the side. Yum!
Once outside, in the surprisingly warm Montreal, we soaked up in winter decor and snow, like we were walking in a fairy tale.
It was such a nice break from the routine. And like my French teacher said in school: she used to go to Paris once every two years. She didn’t have much cash, but she said she needed to see Paris every two years, “to feed herself with beauty for another 2 years, and then her routine life became more bearable” … Now, I see where she was coming from!
Note: Enjoy Montreal Pics Here.

No comments: