As my second week in Montréal crawled to an end, I finally got the adventures I had been waiting for. My schoolwork lightened up and I was able to walk around Vieux Montréal on a beautiful Sunday afternoon alors que le soleil rayonne sur la ville. The wind didn’t do much to ease the heat but I was more than happy to endure a higher temperature and mild sweating if it meant exploring the Old Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, and the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The area was crawling with tourists, as expected, getting their caricatures drawn, scoping out souvenir shops, and pining for their next meal of poutine and smoked meat. But if I’m being honest, I can’t say I wasn’t on the same mission.
Passing through Place Jacques-Cartier, my uncle gave me a mini history lesson on some of the historic sites nearby, like the significance of Marché Bonsecours and Hôtel de Ville de Montréal (Montreal City Hall). It turns out that President Charles de Gaulle of France spurred quite the revolution back 1967, when he ended his speech on top of City Hall with “Vive le Québec libre!"
Let’s just say the streets have been anything but quiet since. To this day people are still rooting for Quebec’s independence.
As if to epitomize everything I love about Montréal, I took advantage of my day off from school thanks to la Journée nationale des patriotes, a holiday in Québec to honor the 1837 rebellion against the British, and explored the more modern side of the city on Rue Sainte-Catherine. Happily I walked the streets, window-shopping as I do, and enjoyed another sunny day in the city.
Between Vieux Montréal and Downtown, walking from one end to the other would essentially mean passing by almost 400 years of architectural evolution. I’d say that’s pretty amazing.
Probably the most interesting thing to happen this week was being exposed more and more to what Canadians think of Americans and the differences Canadians find significant. Just as an example, a few of my classmates pointed out that when it comes to American lingo, one thing they notice Americans say is “tissue” rather than “Kleenex,” and “sneakers” instead of “running shoes.”
What's so wrong with leaving your options open?
Having grown up in the states I can’t say I’ve kept up with any sort of Canadian-isms, besides maybe constantly feeling the need to say sorry, even to inanimate objects. But the everyday communicational habits of foreigners are always fun to discuss.
Past just communication, it’s been interesting having to explain that Floridians do not in fact spend all their time at the beach or Disney World, and they have actual jobs and hobbies beyond partying on the sand. A kind soul asked me what Spring Break was like, and to their absolute joy I explained that yes, many times that fateful week in spring is more times spent at the beach than not, filled with college students consuming an unnecessary amount of alcohol and unknowingly ending up on some rendition of Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition. Apparently even with that explanation, Spring Break in Florida couldn’t sound more exciting.
This fascination with stereotypes doesn’t rest exclusively with Canadians, however. Rather, far from it. Back home, the moment I mention I’m Canadian I am bombarded with questions that make me wonder if anyone pays attention to the fact that I’ve lived in Florida since I was four…
“Oh so what's your favorite hockey team?”
“Do people eat moose?”
“Why does everyone say ‘eh’? Like what does that even mean?”
As bizarrely common as this is, it has never bothered me much. Canada also has a wonderful reputation for being a much more polite and eccentric version of the US. I don’t blame Canadians for thinking Americans are a bunch of gun-owning, beach-going, pick-up truck-driving partiers just as much as I can’t blame Americans for thinking Canadians are all maple syrup-eating, Nickelback-loving, hockey-playing hipsters.*
To each their own, eh?
One thing I am especially proud of as I enter my fourth week here is the significant improvement in mon français. The time it takes for my brain to process what I want to say and when it actually leaves my mouth has gotten much shorter as my vocabulary has grown.
And if we’re keeping to the theme of improvement, I also haven’t set off the fire alarm in my apartment in two weeks!
Donc, I'm looking forward to sharing another week of adventure and discovery… À bientôt!
* The stereotypes I mentioned are exactly that, just stereotypes. These are descriptions I have come across but do not personally believe to be all-encompassingly true.