The first thing I would say if they asked me to describe Montréal is “it’s like New York City, but smaller”.
There is a high chance I just talk no sense since I have never been to NY, but this is the impression I had considering the typical landscape I get to enjoy in movies set in the Big Apple.
First thing first, Montréal is incredibly cold. I went there in the second week of March 2015 and saying I was freezing is a euphemism. I cannot simply blame my sensitiveness to cold, because the weather was simply too much. It’s not easy to walk around the city when the thermometers signal -10°, and everyone can agree with it, right?
Unfortunately, my trip to Montréal was just a touch and go, since I only spent one day and a half there. This is the reason why I can’t properly talk about unique places I discovered or unusual spots you must check out. Otherwise, I can give you an overview of the city through the impressions I had of it and the photos I took, waiting to come back there in the future and better explore it.
The place I probably loved the most was the Grande Bibliothèque, situated in Downtown. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the experience so much because of my passion for books or because it was a perfect refuge from the illegal Canadian cold weather, but let’s assume it is an objectively beautiful place.
I wandered around for almost one hour, scrolling any possible section to finally pick up a book about ladies’ underwear. I browsed its pages sit on a chair, placed in a strategic position where I had access to a breathtaking panorama.
The Grande Bibliothèque was also the first place I got to visit in Montréal, and probably this is the reason why I have such a fond feeling towards it. In any case, I loved getting lost in this library and I would willingly come back there to spend a whole day discovering its books.
The tour continued around the city, where we had the chance to wow at huge skyscrapers, take a snap of beautiful glimpses and fight against the freezing weather by seeking for warmth in any interesting shop we could find.
Something that really surprised me during this brief trip is related to how Canadians perceive buildings and history. In this regard, we visited a defrocked and dismantled church which currently hosts La Galerie de l’UQAM.
What upset me was the choice to remove everything inside and make the building suitable for a brand new use: this reveals the Canadian approach to their cultural legacy, which is the opposite to the Italian one. As a matter of fact, in Italy, we are educated about the importance of history and our essential role to bequeath to next generations our cultural heritage. This means that we preserve any kind of historical building, even if it is abandoned and doesn’t play its role anymore. In Canada, on the contrary, things work in an opposite way: if a building reveals to have lost that social role it used to fulfil, they consider it a waste of space and prefer to either destroy it or transform it into something new.
Talking about another building which is still used as a meeting place for its community is the Christ Church Cathedral, the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Montréal. There is not much to say about it, but I wanted to mention it because I found its architecture and decorations particularly beautiful.
In the morning of my last day in Québec, we planned to reach the Mont Royal to enjoy the view of the city from the top. Even if we covered most of the trip by bus, we still had to go uphill to reach the top: it was one of the hardest things ever. The wind was particularly strong and it felt like my cheeks (the only part of the face I wasn’t able to cover up) were going to fall off. Despite the freezing weather, the walk proved to be special: I got to see some very nice glimpses which helped me fall more in love with the city.
Once the top was reached, I can’t deny my disappointment: I might blame the thick line of balding trees, but that view didn’t excite me at all.
At least, I got to see the Olympic Stadium, even if from far away.
A few last words must be dedicated to Victoria Square: at that time the namesake tv series still wasn’t out and I couldn’t imagine how much it would have emotionally involved me, but now I feel so proud to have had the chance to see in person the Victoria Memorial in Montréal.
Such a nerdy thing to say, I know.
To conclude, I want to share my first impact with this city, in what I later considered a funny experience: when a classmate of mine was stuck at the airport security because of a mistake. On the plane, at the moment of compiling the immigration paper, she confused the word ‘tools’ with ‘towels’. Pretty silly, considering that no one would ever ask you if you are in possession of towels for security matters, but it made sense to her at that moment.
Because of this oversight, the staff members didn’t let her get out of the airport and led her to a room for extra security checkings. We had to wait for almost 2 hours, just because in front of her there was an Indian family composed of EIGHT members with TWO pieces of luggage each which needed to be inspected. A very long wait to then establish there obviously were just towels and no kind of tool. BUT, they later found out an incriminating jar, containing a home-made sauce with hare meat she had brought as a gift to her host family. They had a small discussion about the content and, when she was going to abandon all hope to rejoin us, they finally released her and the jar.
This is just a story I had to tell you, just to share my indirect experience with the Airport Security which welcomed me in Canada in an unusual way!
If you are interested in reading more about my experience in Québec, I suggest you the blog post where I exposed my culture shock: Letting a 16 years old kid drive during a snow storm sounds okay in Québec.