So I finally made it to Montreal! I have been dreaming of visiting for a number of years after meeting a number of Quebecois. I'm not going to say I was dissapointed (I wasn't), but it was not at all like what I had expected.
I guess I had a trumped up dream of a quaint little village, with winding cobblestone streets and little French cafes on the edge of a hill, with a city wall and tiny little buildings. It was not quaint. Yes, some streets in Old Montreal were cobblestone, but they were straight! It was a grid city just like every other city in the New World. The cafes were there, but of course, the night clubs and bars were far more popular. To be fair, Quebec City still has it's city wall and is probably smaller and closer to what I imagined, but I was so surprised!! It is an enormous city (especially in compared with Ottawa), with suburbia rolling out in quartier after quartier. On any random street, apart from the Arret sign, it could be any city in North America.
However, Montreal was wonderful! It was so multi cultural! Now that I have seen it (although Montreal is not all of Quebec), I do not agree with their desire for independence. They are a bit different, but not completely unique. They really are still North American to a T. The strip malls and chain stores are still everywhere, and the houses, appartments, shops and living are generally also the same. I do love the French influences, but honestly, English was EVERYWHERE. And, as my Moroccan friends said, everyone there is Moroccan!! (or Algerian, or West African, but basically, immigrants are everywhere!).
We had miserable weather while we were there--raining on and off all day, but we managed to see most of the major sites and catch up with relatives! One thing I didn't like though, was all the girly bars. It was disgusting, really, but I suppose that's the liberalness. I guess, coming from Asia, I just don't like it, and seeing it so pervasive everywhere there was certainly something I can criticise! Alternatively, the liberalness also stretches to gays--it seemed as we walked down Rue St. Catherine, the main drag, that I saw more sexy effeminate men than blokes, but that could be just the fashion conciousness! One goes with the other I guess. As Omar pointed out, it's not a great city to be in as a woman... too much competition!
Interestingly, Montreal is at a lower latitude than Paris. Amazing how Montreal seems so cold, yet is actually further south. It is cold, it's true, and many people who've been there in winter say the depression is strong, but yet it rates as in the top 20 cities that people would most like to live in the world. What do people need to be happy, hmm??
Overall, Canada impresses me. I could consider living here to (an eternal consideration no matter where I go!). It is American without the Americanisms. It is more chic, more unique, and more quirky, and that appeals. I've known a few Canadians who I've thought were odd and quirky, but now I see where they come from and they fit! (I wonder if people think that when they meet me? I know I'm odd, so it's okay!) I also like that it's less stuffy and more liberal. Men have longer hair, and women are less blowdried, Ms. California perfection. I saw a woman on the street that looked just like Alanis Morissette, and it blew me away that so many women look like her--dark haired, wavy unstyled (or subtly styled) hair, or Avril Lavinge, the "rebel" fashionista. There are still the odd Celine Dions, blonde and manicured, but they just offer balance instead of the typical. I guess I empathize with the more "real" people who don't wear heavy makeup and seem down to earth. It's a casualness, I suppose, and perhaps that's because of summer. It's not trying to impress--it's just comfortable. Montreal was a bit different--tight pants everywhere there. I felt so sloppy!
I'm back in Ottawa at the moment--am actually in the University of Ottawa library! I think this'd be a great place for me to come and study for my exam on Monday! I've got this weekend here and I fly back to Chicago on Monday. From there, off to Dublin and Europe so I can really feel some USD to Euro exchange pain.