We're back! In one piece, too, after many travel adventures and a stop in Sacramento on the way home (not really, but close enough) for a wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents' house. The summative statement? I love Canada.
To be fair, I'm making that statement on the basis of a very limited visit to a very small part of a very large and diverse country. But I'm ready to go back again to make sure that I have it right, and I think that's a pretty good sign. Thanks to everyone who wrote with suggestions - we tried to hit as many as we could realistically, and we enjoyed every one we made it to. As a side note, the conference presentation (the reason for the trip) went very well (to my delight and relief), as did my presentation to the business meeting of my professional section. Whew!
If I had to sum up the one thing that so many of our wonderful experiences had in common, I'd say it's either kindness or serendipity. Serendipitous kindness? (Not one word, but it works.) To give just one example among many, we went to Notre Dame de Bonsecours in Montreal, on the excellent recommendation of people like greenmtngirl (I don't have a link - if you have one, send it and I'll attach!)(I'm embarrassed because someone else told me unequivocally to go because the view from the tower of the church is so wonderful, and I can't for the life of me remember who - whoever it was, you were right!). We climbed and climbed and climbed to the top of the church (263 stairs, if I remember correctly; the docent kindly told us the exact number before we started), to come out onto a breathtaking view of Montreal, laid out before us in the crisp (not to say frigid) evening air. My camera died right then (I'm convinced it was the cold), but my cell phone came through for me, and I was able to take pictures of the two remaining lifesized angels standing guard on the roof.
I loved the rampant bilingualism of both cities. It's not something that one sees very often in the U.S.; the use of languages other than English in public places is fraught in so many ways. And it may be that there were language politics playing out of which I was blissfully unaware as I moved through both cities, but I will say that I felt absolutely that people were more than willing to let me try to make my way along in French, and equally willing to help me out when my French failed me. It is rare that I get to feel like a participant in code-switching interactions (French not being a very common language around here, and my Spanish being too embarrassingly bad to try to join into any bilingual conversations that I may be lucky enough to be privy to), and I loved every minute of it, as both a linguist and a marginal francophone.
We ate. We ate like pigs, in fact, and I think the only thing that saved me from rolling home is the fact that we also walked and walked and walked. Our hotel in the Latin Quarter was a half an hour walk away from the Palais de Congres where the conference was held, and we walked all over the rest of the city - to the McCord Museum (also recommended by greenmtngrl), which had a particularly stellar exhibit on oil (the kind that comes out of the ground) and the cultures that spring up around both its use and the results of its use; to the Cathedral; to the river; and back around again. We went out to the Botanical Gardens, which were fabulous. We visited the Insectarium there (where I held a stick bug the size of my hand), and the greenhouses, where we saw flowers that I've tried to grow here, but which seemed much happier there.
Quebec was equally wonderful, although even colder. It didn't once get above -2C when we were there, which I am assured is cold, even for people who aren't from Southern California. Younger Daughter was extremely grateful for the many handknits I'd schlepped along with us.
She pretty much walked around huddled up like that the whole time. But look at that sun! It was like that right up until the morning that we left, when it snowed. The sun meant that the views of the city were stunningly clear and beautiful.
Still and yet, I'd go back in a heartbeat. Especially if I could go back when there's more daylight to explore those two cities. There was so much more I wanted to see, people I wanted to talk to, food I wanted to eat. I guess that's the best way to leave a place, right? Wanting to go back.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
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Thank you for peeks into your journey! Beautiful, and interesting. Great to hear your presentations went well. Hurray!
Not many days ago I read this article,
and was saddened to realize that while the CA gov't talks of recognizing and honoring their First People the reality is starkly different.
I'm impressed at all the walking you and YD did! She's a trooper!
You're making me want to visit eastern Canada. I've been a few times to BC but never east of there.
And yes, you're right! HOW did you NOT visit even ONE knit shop?
Glad you are back home safe and sound. What wonderful memories you'll have, sounds like a wonderful place.
All in all, it sounds like you had a wonderful time. Glad the Conference went well too!
O I love QC and Montreal, and your post made me feel both places in my bones -- such wonderful cities! Gosh, I'm lost in my own reverie of memories of the places now. So glad you had such a great trip and weren't conked on the noggins by those aggressive squirrels. :)
Oh, thank you for the photos of the Notre Dame de Bonsecours angels... I miss visiting Montreal. When I lived in Vermont I went there pretty frequently and almost always made time to climb the tower and look out over the lovely St. Lawrence and the bright city. Sigh.
I am very glad you enjoyed your trip so much and that the suggestions were helpful. And I found your observations about the good Indian/bad Indian scripts really interesting. I'm working on an anti-racism dialogue for work right now, and that would make a great example for one of the sections.
A delightful report. Thank you.
I was in Montreal in 1967. Yes, you're right, the EXPO! I was 11. I have very limited memory of anything related to it.
And so now I'll go again, on the strength of this photo essay. I'm SO glad you two had a grand time!
Montreal is so beautiful! It's the cathedrals. And statues. Next time I visit I have to go to Quebec City as well.
You forgot to mention the smoking! I, native SF Bay Californian, was scandalized. ;)
Looks like a wonderful trip! I've never been to either city, but they're on my list of places to go. We've been talking a lot about places we might be willing to relocate to (as part of the job search process), and Canada is actually pretty high on the list. =)
Sounds like a terrific trip! I've been to Montreal fairly recently, but it's been...hmm...over 20 years since I went to Quebec. It's on my list to go back- I want to take my husband there, as he's never been.
Your comment on the curation of of exibits reminded me of two museums with the opposite problem: one we visited in Calgary, where the native narrator is explaining that he and his people liberated horses from the inhumane way they were being treated by the settlers (hard to blame them for the action, but the cheery self-justifying tone made us roll our eyes) and the new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, which presented very interesting information on a number of tribes...but again without any attempt to determine what was actually true (to the entent that it can be known). I can understand why- almost any attempt to analyze the data will offend someone- but it's frustrating to feel that you're getting two (or more) biased stories with nothing but your innate cynicism to tell you how much of either/any is true.
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