I arrived in Montreal around 2pm, tired from little sleep the night before, which I followed up by getting up before 8 and running 10 miles. Never even met my roommates – they were asleep when I went to bed and when I got up, and had left when I got back.
Still, I had to cancel cinema plans as, after a rainy morning, the day was bright and sunny. Not guaranteed in October, and the whole point of having time is to be flexible and take advantage of such things. I figured I would just walk through town, then realised it was the perfect way to stroll up to Mont Royal. And then maybe the cinema (I did not make it to the cinema).
The Mont (I call it that because it’s not really a mountain) looms above the city, looking a bit precipitous, even inaccessible as you approach (I came at it from the South East). That might be because there are buildings right in front – it looks like it will be an impossibly steep climb, but it’s a little easier round the (East) side. There, picnic tables were scattered on the grass, most of them stacked up – I presume they get to winter somewhere that they won’t be ruined by freezing temperatures.
I ended up, as did great crowds of people on this fabulous afternoon, at Mt Royal Chalet, a scenic building in its own right. Inside the chalet is mostly open space, for events, high walls and windows, artworks round the edge and a couple of installations to tell you the history of the chalet, which was built as a make-work project.
The walk down was no less scenic, with the wide trails well used by bikers, runners and walkers. There are other, less-used, mud trails off through the trees, too, which are well worth a stroll. You’ll find your way down eventually – I did, anyway.
That was a very civilised walk on a lovely day. Canada is a fabulous country. Much of the attraction of the USA, but without the feeling that people have given up. There is some hypocrisy in my saying this – I have always been proud to work for universities, where the clothes you wear absolutely do not define you, and found people who still bear judgment based on clothes very old-fashioned. And wrong. But still – people just seem so much more attractive here, and part of that, whisper it, is that they’re making an effort with their dress. Probably they are just also in better condition, too. Add in greater safety, less edginess and my continually finding little touches – no intrusive security on public buildings, free refreshments at Toronto (domestic) airport and so on – and it is all a welcome relief. It also just feels more European – especially, perhaps, this French side. That does lead to one downside – it is much harder to get a friendly nod or greeting from people. That, at least, the US definitely does better.