Montréal

Montréal is a city like no other.  I grew up on the West Island; my first job was in downtown Montréal; and I was there during the exciting, vibrant year of Expo 67.  Then politics happened – the FLQ crisis and bombs in mailboxes – and I left and except for a few initial return visits, I have not been back, largely because something is awry in Montréal.

Montreal street in evening

A lot of languages are spoken in Montréal – French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Creole, Vietnamese – but English is almost outlawed.  In Montréal provincial Language Police roam the streets searching out English words on signs and ensuring they are smaller and secondary to the French wording.  (There’s good use of tax dollars.)

A French tavern in Old Montreal had to remove the letters WC from its toilet doors.

The chef’s grocery list, which was written on a blackboard when the language police dropped by the restaurant, said “salade, oeuf, sucre and steak” and he was ordered to change “steak” to “bifteck.” (CBC news item)

An Italian restaurant was ordered to remove the word “pasta” from its menu.

Metro workers have been known to refuse to sell subway tickets to anglophones.

That being said, in March I visited Montréal – my second visit of the last two decades, and I still found it to be a city like no other, with a certain je ne sais quoi that charms.

The “underground city” has over 30 km (18 miles) of pedestrian walkways, indoor areas and tunnels linking 10 metro stations, 2 train stations, 2 bus stations, 62 buildings, 7 major hotels, 1,615 apartments,200 restaurants, 1,700 boutiques, 37 movie theatres and exhibition halls, 2 universities, 1 college and 10,000 indoor parking spaces.  This is particularly appreciated during winter snows and March winds.

Montreal street in early eveningIt’s famous for unique architecture and Ben’s smoked meat;  for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s legendary Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth hotel in 1969, The Montréal Canadiens, (that’s hockey folks),  and poutine – french fries with gravy and cheese curds.

Montreal street in early evening

Language issues aside, I had a good visit and no confrontations.  These shots are from Rue St-Denis.

Montreal street in early evening

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22 thoughts on “Montréal

  1. These photos of Montreal are enchanting. The colors just jump out. I have also perused your paintings. They are lovely and you really use white so well as an accent or a frame for your subjects.

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  2. Interesting! I hadn’t known they’ve gotten so rabid! You posted really nice, atmospheric shots. I went twice, way back in the 70’s, and loved it – but it was different, and so was I. For that matter, I’m sure I’d love much about it now, too – but some of those restaurant changes – Mon Dieu!

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  3. We traveled to Montreal from Albany years ago. The natives had a game they played of knowing by looking at the tourists whether to speak English or Frrench. Sounds like English is out. Too bad!

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    1. I was pleased with these quick shots I took – they do capture some of Montreal’s ambiance. Quebec politics are indeed bizarre and annoying and not really, I don’t think, in the best long term interests of the very culture they are trying to protect.

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  4. When he was at uni and we never had any spare money for traveling, R and I used to visit the city of his parents as a “Foreign” holiday destination – what fun we had! Rue St-Denis looks charming in the chilly evening glow .

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    1. Both Montreal and Quebec City definitely have a distinct flavour. We hit Rue St-Denis when the lighting was just perfect for some evening shots not requiring tripod and blather.

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    1. I can get very trepidatious (a word coined by my husband) when contemplating facing the francophones but the first time we stopped to consider our subway stop options a gentleman approached and spoke to us in English – so I suppose it comes down to time and temperament and luck as to whether you will be refused service, or assisted.

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        1. I found in Paris if one at least tries to speak French you are accepted. And their French is so beautiful and easy to understand. Quebec French is totally different, I can’t understand most of it because it is not what we are taught in school, and if you try out your French they often tend to pretend they don’t understand … I have found … IMHO, without wanting to get into a cultural debate or intention to offend …

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    1. It is funny, and it isn’t. It’s certainly become the butt of jokes recently with what has been termed “pastagate” – trying to banish the word pasta from menus …

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  5. Ooo, I visited Montreal in the 80s; my family splurged on a room at the Queen Elizabeth, even — a big deal for us. I’ve been reading/hearing of the intensified “anti-other languages” crackdown of recent years, and it just sounds so…harsh. We didn’t seem to raise many eyebrows being English-speakers at the time — but then again, we’re also Spanish-speakers, so maybe that made a difference somehow (also it was 30 years ago…).

    Still, I remember it as a beautiful city and one of my favorite trips.

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    1. Thirty years is the difference – the language crack down began after that. The rest of Canada is declared officially bilingual to recognize our French heritage, yet Quebec is unilingual …

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