I love Montreal.
To my close friends and family, this isn’t a surprise. They’ve known since my first trip in, oh, 1997 or 1998, that this love affair grows. I’ve been there about a dozen times, though I haven’t been since 2009.
That’s too long.
Why am I blogging about this now?
Probably because I am starting to organize photos. And with that comes seeing old photos from my Montreal trips. With so many people, too. Early on, there was a core of us who would venture up there each year. Usually for three days or so. Sometimes some new people would come. Other times, it would be a smaller group. In total, if I count right, there were 13 different people who made the trip up with me over the years. Thirteen! The groups changed here and there. Some went back more than others.
But I always found a way to go.
People have bagged on us at the last minute. There’s been times when we had groups come up at different times. But those trips were oh so fun.
Montreal Expos games. The Montreal Allouettes of the Canadian Football League. Trips to clubs and bars and find eating establishments. Being up there one year for Canada Day was quite the experience, too.
We’ve met more people than I can remember — some, however, I’ve kept in touch with.
Amazing experiences, strong beer and weekends of fun have always been the norm. One year, one of the guys going with us also noted that his grandmother had grown up in Montreal. After he did the research, we ended up finding the place and taking a few photos. We even talked him into knocking on the door. Alas, nobody answered.
There are stories upon stories from these trips. So many that it could probably fill a book. Instead, they hold a special place in my mind.
Over the years, I’ve tried to make Montreal a permanent place in my life. If given the chance, I’d move there in an instance and wouldn’t think twice about it. I love Montreal that much. I’ve applied for school there and jobs. Maybe some day.
We once went there when the exchange rate was so favorable to the US dollar that we almost doubled our money. Talk about feeling rich! I just looked at the exchange rate and the Canadian dollar is worth just a smidgen more than the US buck now. How times have changed.
Since the first trip, I’ve witnessed the change in “safe” travel. When we first went, we needed our licenses. A few times, our birth certificates. Now you need a passport. To drive into Canada. We also discovered the quicker ways in and out of Canada — the secondary border crossings. It’s easier because there are fewer cars. Though a few miles off the main path, it’s well worth it because we don’t get caught in the long lines at the main crossings.
One year, staying in the main crossing, it took us three hours to go about 2-3 miles and get through customs.
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been there. A few of us went in 2009. I then went to Ireland in 2010, so that made me skip Montreal. Last year was tight on the wallet as it was the first part of my current situation. Who knows about this summer. I’d like to think it’s possible.
I’ve always said the best part about Montreal is it feels like you are going to Europe in North America. And, depending when you drive up, it’s a trip that can be done in about five hours. It feels longer because you go so many hours through the Adirondacks, but it’s a pretty easy trip.
I’ve been there through many seasons, too. Winter, spring, summer. Never really in the fall, though. I bet that would be awesome with the colors. I’ve been there to ring in the New Year, celebrated Canada Day and the Fourth of July and have been there when major events were going on in the city. Montreal really is the city of festivals and the summer is quite wild.
And we always found different ways of having fun.
From sporting events to comedy clubs. From bars to clubs. From dressing up and hitting up “classier joints” to enjoying a beer down on the pier. From being told we couldn’t go into a bar because of our shoes to having one of the best steaks we’ve ever enjoyed (and cooked right next to us). From late-night chats on the balcony to the amazing views from Mont Royal. From the motocross action on the streets to all the entertainment we’ve seen.
These memories will never leave me.
I enjoyed being there when my “little bro” took his first trip above the border. I still can’t believe the year we were bouncing from bar to bar on Crescent Street and ran into two people who we went to high school with. I’ve enjoyed every establishment we ever entered — from seedy to high class.
And the poutine. How can I forget about that?
The first time I ever had it was at Dundee’s. I’ll never forget it. One o’clock in the morning and on the outside deck, having some Labatt and poutine. Holy crap was it divine.
Don’t know what poutine is?
It’s french fries. With an amazing gravy. And cheese curds. Yes, it’s unhealthy as all hell. But it’s like heaven in a small dish. Amazing. I have it every time I return to Montreal.
There was once a time two of us went a day earlier than the others. See, one person backed out at the last minute. So I had a hotel for an extra night. Being I was stuck with it, me and another went up early. Well, not really early. At night. We went through a nasty storm, got through customs in less than a minute and arrived at the hotel at about 1 a.m. After parking, we went to check in and were told they were over-booked.
Uh, say what?
I produce all the paperwork and they are stuck. Deal with it, I say. Figure something out. I’m not paying a dime more, either. We got an executive suite for the weekend.
Talk about awesome.
We’ve stayed at many different hotels. Some with incredible views. Some with awesome locations. Some with all of the above.
One year, two of us went for five days. Three or four others came up a few days later. What an experience. And this is where stories and memories will always last. We ran into some guys from Europe who were involved with the F-1 race the week earlier. Needless to say, they can handle their drinks. Soon enough it was me and them as the other member of the crew headed to the hotel. The night went into the wee hours of the morning and we ended up at Burger King where a fella was begging for some cash. So we chatted for a while with him, bought him a burger and told him I’d give him 5 bucks, but he needed to take a photo with me.
Snapshot taken. Sheesh!
I always feel like a different person up there. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I can blend in. I can have fun. I can people watch. And nobody knows me.
Well, outside the time we ran into those two we went to high school with. And the time we got pulled into customs and ran into a few people from our town (they were heading up for a baseball game).
But I enjoy it up there. I can kind of be in a different world. I can’t wait to go back. Maybe this summer. I can hope anyway, right?
Simply put, I can sum up Montreal in a few words.
I love Montreal. And that feeling won’t change anytime soon.
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