The city of Montreal began to unfold as I left the train station for the first time ever. Not driving in the city would be a first for me, and a good step forward in sustainable travel. For someone who had previously been at least a dozen times to the city more then 10 years ago, this would be a first time visit on feet.
The central business-like district of plain tall buildings rose up into the skyline of the city centre. I wove through the urban center and china town, past St. Denis then on to the M Montreal Hostel. The hostel’s musical lineup meant that I would not be getting all that much peaceful rest over my weekend getaway. Lucky for me, peace and rest was never part of the plan for Montreal anyway.
Festival FrancoFolies meant loads of free live concerts in the city for the weekend. Friday afternoon’s sunshine heated Montreal to just the perfect degree of laziness. I opened my package of poutine from Frite Alors (a recommendation from the hostel staff) and consumed the melted goodness mixed with greasy diner-style fries. After wandering amongst 4 different French musical artists performing, I made my way back to the hostel and came upon another performance. A group of choreographed performers used red umbrella’s in a contemporary and abstract compilation of silent umbrella antics in the park.
A two- four of Labatt’s Blue was being consumed by excitedly by travelers in my 16 bed dorm. The environment was reminiscent of a memory of my sister’s university dorm at Queens.
Strangers knocking on doors. People shuffling in and out. Commotion. Goofing around. Of course there was no studying in this establishment.
At 10:30, I made my way down to the basement to check out this hostel bar, and the Welsh band Roseville that would play. “It will be a big party. Will probably go all night,” the receptionist said at check in.
I made my way through the travelers, fashionistas and various other young Montreal-ers to the edge of the crowd to watch the band. They were good and loud. The volume in the room (in true nightclub fashion) was turned up to the point of almost complete obliteration of your neighbors voice. That level where you hear some of the words amidst mostly random sounds and a moving mouth. They sure look pretty though through that hazy bar lighting as they mouth words to you and you smile and nod. If what they said is really of any importance, they will repeat it or request actual acknowledgement.
My consciousness melted away into a fragmented hostel sleep sometime around 3am, when my earplugs could finally block out the party going on in the back alley patio.
The next night, a Francophone band played the nightclub, and my roommate Jules from New Jersey drank Jagger bombs and vodka cranberry as myself and Max from France stuck with beers. As the night progressed, and band ended, a pool game transpired where Jules used her cleavage against the billiard table pockets to distract the opponents (failing I might add). Drinking games started about this point with a deck of cards and couple of pitchers . . .this was my cue to listen to my body’s need for rest. Good Night Montreal.
My final day in Montreal I am feeling a little sentimental, and can’t help but enjoy this little pocket of French culture. Depaneur corner stores selling beer and wine bring me back to teenage years driving to Quebec where the legal drinking age was only 18. This is the place I came to to escape Ottawa as a college student and let loose in the “big city” on weekends, while now all I want to do is listen to the French and experience the new culture. I made my way across the city through Old Montreal to take in the architecture.