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Merci, Au Revoir,Montreal and Hello New York

 

I had the chance to escape from New York (no not like the movie) and visit Montreal, Canada this long Memorial Day Weekend. Wow was I impressed. This was not my first trip to Montreal by a long shot, but it was my first trip as an adult. When I was in college, Montreal meant three things to me: Hockey, Concerts and Strip Clubs. And not always in that order. I failed to see the beauty and the thriving cultural scene through my beer goggles. The city is charming, as are the people, restaurants and scenery. If you want a little bit of Europe without actually going to Europe, Montreal may be just your ticket. Yes, Montreal is in Canada, and Canada is another country, not located in Michigan as one of my crestfallen fellow countrymen discovered on line at the airport when asked for her passport. Much to her chagrin, she discovered she would need a passport to travel to Canada, as Canada is a country, not a state or a city. So much for those improved New York State Regents requirements in geography.

 

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I had the opportunity to visit my friends in Montreal, and they, along with the city, were charming and delightful hosts. While I did not get a chance to take in the whole city, they gave me their perspective. It’s always good to visit a city where you know people, they can show you the off the beaten path gems and diamonds in the rough. If you are located in New York or its environs, East Coast, Montreal is about an hour flight and a world away. I can see why it made the list as one of the world’s cleanest cities. Walking around I was puzzled my first day there. I was thinking to myself “what’s wrong with this picture” and then it hit me - the place is so clean you could probably eat off the sidewalk. I mean not a gum wrapper, plastic bag or tossed away soda can anywhere in sight. It’s obvious that people respect their city and the city does a good job keeping things tidy. A small thing to notice, but when you live in New York, where littering is an art form, you notice these things. Don’t worry New York, you are my hometown and I still love you, and you have vastly improved since the days of my youth, I was just dancing with another girl this weekend and in terms of littering and cleanliness, she just danced better than you.

 

Montreal has a lot to offer - if you are into the nightlife, they have a thriving club and bar scene. Food more your thing? Plenty of top notch restaurants. It’s a city of festivals, and a city of fun. Art and culture more your thing? Plenty of that with galleries and museums, and just the architecture and landscape of the city will leave you breathless. I managed to see a great exposition of Cuban art which I probably would not have had the chance to see since that sort of thing is embargoed in the United States (what, you thought I was not going to get political in this post, that it was all going to be travel tips and city reviews, think again, this is me). The city has a famous Formula One Grand Prix coming up in June, not to mention one of the world’s largest comedy festivals, Just for Laughs, and from what I hear, a kick ass fireworks competition. It also has a casino, located near the famous Biosphere from the 1967 World’s Fair (known as Expo 67). I managed to do what I always do whenever I walk into a casino - lose money. But it has great dining and the trip on Montreal’s Metro was an experience. Makes the average New York City subway ride look like a scene straight of “Nightmare on Elm Street”.

 

Okay, as you might guess I have a come down with a bad case of culture envy, city envy, country envy, with a side order of IAS (Inferior American Syndrome). I get this a lot. I travel somewhere and see how things are and begin to feel like a savage. I tend to forget that in terms of culture, America is extremely young on the world’s stage, we are the bratty teenager compared to most of the world. If you have a brain and a conscience, it’s hard not to hang your head in shame these days. My country is prosecuting a war that is not popular abroad, and is currently lead by a man who is despised and looked upon as a clown by most of the world. Try as we do, we Americans are really culturally naive, and I really feel this when I travel. Let’s just say that after Starbucks, Sex and the City and McDonald’s, our cultural lexicon is extremely limited and we are kidding ourselves when we pump ourselves up with this feeling of superiority. Yes, for now, we are a super power, whatever that means. Our motto should not be “In God We Trust” but “The Sword is Mightier than the Pen”.

 

Okay so this blog entry seems like and exercise in self-hatred and country shame. It is. But as my Canadian friend reminded me this weekend, “You Americans are too hard on yourselves.” That was a refreshing point of view. As I continually feel the necessity to apologize for being an American and living in a country who’s government has sponsored and supported war, misery, crime, and tyranny, I need to be reminded of this - that I, and we as a nation, are indeed too hard on ourselves. Like everywhere else, we have our good and we have our bad. Maybe I will never be a flag waving patriot, but I still love my country and want it to grow and thrive, and yes I want us to stand out in the world, not for what we can do to our enemies if they cross us, but what we can achieve once we set our minds to it. There are a lot of challenges that are currently facing us a nation, and indeed as a globe. The environmental crisis, poverty, hunger, tragedies on a global scale, and lack of faith and trust in established institutions have exploded to the surface and kick us in the balls on a daily basis. Now we can turn away, ignore these issues, grab a beer, watch a ball game, become obsessed with “American Idol” or overindulge in the multitude of distractions that are available to us. Or we can see this as an opportunity to take up these challenges and work with others around the globe to come up with creative solutions. The death toll in the Chinese earthquake alone was over 60,000 people. Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma) has claimed over 140,000 lives. Here in the United States, and estimated 37 milllion people live in poverty according to 2006 data from the US Census Bureau. Domestic violence, addiction, lack of health care coverage, a crippled education system - these are all bigger challenges our country has faced than anything the terrorists can do to us. Soon, we will have the opportunity to select a new President, who will supposedly guide us through this quagmire. But it’s not too early to think about what we can do on the micro level - that means the nation of one - you and I. Can one person change the world - yes believe it or not one person can - one at a time. Keep your eyes open, and you may just see an opportunity to do that.

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Interesting read. A lot of the text was unrelated to Montreal, but the parts that were... very flattering!

 

(In celebration of the awesomeness of Montreal, i will go for a 2-hour walk tomorrow and do a "tournée". Updated construction pix coming tomorrow!)

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Gregbx, pour être récemment allé à new york (moins d'un mois), je peux te dire que c'est pas propre comme à Montréal... mais NYC c'est quand même un géant qui est difficile à garder propre.

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Gregbx, pour être récemment allé à new york (moins d'un mois), je peux te dire que c'est pas propre comme à Montréal... mais NYC c'est quand même un géant qui est difficile à garder propre.

 

Comme Malek dit, NY est évidemment grandiose mais est en majeure partie bien moins propre que Montréal.

 

Un bon exemple de "géant difficile à garder propre" est leur métro... il est 7-8 fois plus étendu que le notre, mais semble vraiment vieux et crasseux comparé à Guy-Concordia, Rosemont, Laurier, et autres stations négligées d'ici.

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Bien sûr que NY n'est pas la ville la plus propre du monde, j'ai eu l'occasion de m'en rendre compte par moi même. Cependant, je ne crois pas que Montréal soit une ville particuliérement propre par rapport à d'autres villes en europe en particulier mais aussi par rapport à Boston par exemple (du moins d'après mon court séjour là bas).

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