I’ve used this prep time to tinker with the blog a bit. No grand upgrade, just a lick of paint and personalization. You will also find that the pictures that cycle on my banner at the top are actually MY pictures now, so that’s kinda cool, plus I added an email subscription button on the right back on the front page if it takes your fancy. If you sign up to it you’ll get fired an email alert each time I post! Anyway, the below post is one of the ‘canned posts’ I’d written a while back but was sitting on for the new-blog-that-didn’t-happen. Enjoy!
I’m so, so tired. And so, so hot. Whoever said Canada was a cold country was an evil lying douchebag who conspired to make me spend horrific amounts of money on cold weather gear that I’ve barely bloody used!
The combination of ball-searingly hot temperatures and enough humidity to go swimming in has turned north america into one of the circles of Hell, which is just great of course. This is apparently to do with the Jet Stream shifting and dropping all of North America’s rain on the UK, which would be funny if I was anywhere other than here or there right now. So it was with some trepidation I entertained going to Montreal for the long weekend as the thought of being hemmed into a hostel and boiled alive to the smell of five other guys testicle sweat wasn’t exactly something that was enticing me into action. I am still haunted by those first few days staying at the Canadiana Hostel in Toronto when we first arrived here, with an AC unit that sounded like a Harrier Jet in hover mode that kept being turned off by whoever was sleeping next to it and thus pan frying us all in our own juices.
When we arrived and the hostel turned out to be this quaint little heavily customised thing situated above a holiday tat shop and a Poutinery in Old Montreal I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. It had such a…sketchbook quality to it. Every surface seemed to have been written on by someone and what hadn’t been written on had posters or a chalkboard giving tourist ideas or whatever. The room wasn’t took crowded and the AC didn’t make my skull vibrate so that was good too. Old Montreal itself was fantastic. I can’t think of the last time I just stood somewhere and felt so utterly overwhelmed but so utterly surrounded by awesome at the same time. Toronto’s first impressions didn’t even come close to this. Everywhere I looked there was fantastic architecture, little stalls selling all sorts of various wares, about ten thousand people at any given moment and a big ‘Fuck You Frenchies!’ statue of Nelson right in the middle of it all.
I don’t really know where to start with Montreal to be quite honest. It was just so vast and so utterly fantastic. We were only there for three days and with all the energy in the world there was only so much we could do in such a limited amount of time. We got there at something horrid like 2am and were extremely surprised to see so many people walking around the area even that late. It would seem that Montreal definitely subscribes to the European ideal of ‘drink at a leisurely pace for as long as you like’, as opposed to when the UK tried to adopt it and it became ‘BINGE BINGE BINGE BINGE FUCKIN’ BINGE YA WEE SCROTE GET IT ALL DOWN YER NECK COME ON NOW YOU SLAGS BINGE BINGE BINGE”…you get the idea. The ambience was just like Toronto in the sense that we felt quite happy to walk around the city at any time of night and we felt utterly safe, as apparently did all the families that were around the city late at night. The thought of being out late even in the well-lit parts of London gives me pause, let alone somewhere like Maidstone or (lol) Dartford, so it’s always refreshing to find somewhere like that.
the next day we checked out the French-Canadian idea of Notre Dame which was the gaudiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. I mean I’m not a religious man at all, but it strikes me that when you’re building huge elaborate golden shrines to Jesus et al it feels like you’ve missed the point somewhere guys.
We were also treated to literally the most cringe inducing approach to acting that I’ve had to endure since the sex education videos I watched back in Junior School. Some sort of highly pretentious, and I think history re-writing, ‘re-enactment’ of the key moments of the founding and construction of the church. It was the bit at the end where they really embraced multiculturalism and called all religions bar their own inferior that I bet went down really well with some of the blatantly muslim tourists in the audience. Anyway, religious awkwardness aside we walked across a tremendous amount of the city. Early on in our trek Dan suddenly realised we were right next to Mount Royale – guess what the cities named after, go on, guess – so of course we had to go straight up it. This would have been a cracking idea if I had brought any sun tan lotion with me at all but that would have required some kind of forethought. A very hot, skin-burning, sweaty walk later and we finally made it to the top.
In the evening we had no idea what to do. We did go to a nice if expensive Italian restaurant that claimed to have hosted Charles Dickens when he was thrashing out A Tale of Two Cities which could be bollocks but I like to believe it’s true. However after the eating we were again stumped. Now if you’re inclined to even the slightest bit of party-animal-ness then Montreal would be fantastic for you, because it has more clubs than you can possibly get through in a month. Or even two. But we aren’t, since we’re 27 going on 67, and so the prospect of merely having a quiet pint was dashed by the sheer volume of people in town. In fact, there really was a massive number of people in town. All of whom were walking in the same direction. I guessed it was for some sort of fireworks display since everyone was homing in on the river and indeed it was a fireworks display. A proper one. That went on for nearly half an hour. Hear that Toronto? That’s the sound of Montreal laughing at you.
The next day we then decided that what we really needed to get ourselves going was a heart attack. Following a lead from one of the chalk boards in the hostel we were summarily indulged.
After inexplicable surviving our encounter with the Quebecois dish of choice we decided to keep walking through some of the outskirts of the city to go and check out the nearby Botanical Gardens and Biodome. It’s a funny thing to say that here I am, voluntarily going off to see a bunch of plants. If you had told me just ten years ago that I would have been doing that I’d have told you to pull the other one ‘cos it’s got bells on. It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I give up listening to Metal though. Anyway hanging over all the buildings in the peculiarly named Angus region of Montreal (I mean seriously, Angus? An entire district called Angus? Do they have a Scottish fetish or something?) was what we initially mistakenly believed to be the Biodome but was in fact rather topically the Montreal Olympic Stadium from the 1976 Olympics.
All you people back in the UK who are hating on the massive branding and commercialisation of the London Olympics? Look no further than this bizarre building as the reason why. The ’76 were a massive financial disaster for the City racking up such a massive debt that Quebec only finished paying it off in 2006. This led the Americans to push for mass branding and private interest to try and prop up a tournament that was rapidly losing any ability to pull interest from nations to host, and so in 1984 when the LA Olympics were hosted they were heavily funded by 7-elven and McDonalds. Thus history was made, precedent was set, and none of you mugs can eat chips within spitting distance of Stratford. All because of Montreal. Good job guys! So we checked out the Gardens, which were pretty cool, and the biodome, which was pretty underwhelming, and then trudged back into town. Where we again didn’t have any idea what to do. We didn’t even know where we were going to eat.
In our defense every other restaurant was crammed whilst this was half empty because who seriously is going to eat Fish & Chips in the culinary capital of Canada, and it’s not like we’ve had fish and chips in the last year! So it turns out we were going to eat Fish & Chips in the culinary capital of Canada because we suck. Anyway Dan at least had some absurd Maple battered Haddock which sounded fucking bizarre to me but he insists it was nice. Why the Quebecois in particular feel the need to put Maple on everything I really don’t know, but why they aren’t all the size of blimps just seems to be unfair. The evening yielded to yet another lemming moment and yet another crowd by the river. I felt that it couldn’t possibly have been MORE fireworks, not after the half hour display the day before surely? That would be CR-
Turns out it was Canada Day. I’d kind of forgotten. Might explain why there was so many people in town, hurp durp.
And then the next day happened, and then we went home.
And I have to ask you this. Yes you, you who goes to Malaga or Ibiza or whatever every year. You who goes on nothing but Cruise ships. You who goes abroad yet surrounds yourself with English people, English food, English shops, English…attitudes to the point that all you might as well do is just wait for a decent weekend and fuck off down Camber Sands. I ask you – What the fuck are you doing? There’s a whole damned world out there and I’ve only seen a part of it, but Montreal has got to be the best example of all that’s fantastic out there. And its not full of English people, English Food, English shops. It requires that you actually move around a bit to full appreciate it, so you can’t just sit in a cabin and watch the same bit of sea whirl by every time you dare to glance away from your English dinner. It’s a fantastic, colourful, vibrant, wonderful, buzzing, ecstatic city that I wish I had more time to explore and fully intend to go back to at some point in the future. It’s everything a holiday should be about, and if you only ever do one proper holiday where you break away from the rote English way of doing things do yourselves a favour and go to Montreal. I promise you, you won’t regret it.