Thursday, August 15, 2013

Belle Ville de Montréal

Sometimes, at the end of a trip, all you can think about is your own home and your own bed. And sometimes, instead, you want to stay, maybe forever, get a little apartment with exposed brick, and learn French. The latter is what summertime Montreal did to Mike and I.
We were in Montreal for an auspicious union, the wedding of our friends Ronak and Uchenna. First, though, we stopped in Boston (after a weird flight) and I worked from the Cambridge office. I caught up with some old friends, got my fix of lobster and ale, and had brunch at The Neighborhood. All the necessary things.
We headed out of Boston by car, driving up through New Hampshire and Vermont so that Mike could see the glory that is New England in the summer. Montpelier, by the way, is just precious. We arrived in Montreal at sunset, with hot air balloons and gliders suspended over the fields on the outskirts of the city as the sun fell behind Mont Royal. Well, hello.
Our Air Bnb host had stocked the fridge with sparkling wine, and there was the aforementioned exposed brick wall. Charmed already. We wandered out into our neighborhood, the Gay Village (best neighborhood name, yeah?), under pink garlands. Charmed again.
Friday I awoke from a sticky sleep to go for a very sticky run - Montreal does, alas, have humidity - down to the waterfront. Then I headed to the mehndi ceremony, where two ladies wielded bags of henna like fountain pens and calligraphed our hands in super speedy fashion.
Back in our apartment (less than 24 hours in, it was OURS) we had cocktail hour on the little terrace. I know it is silly to fall in love with a wall, but this one did a number on me. It was across from our terrace, and it was pristine white with a blue spiral staircase. The staircase had hoops intended for planters, but since they were empty, Leslie decided they were tiny basketball hoops. Oh, Leslie.
These stairs were decrepitly dreamy
Happy hour
Ronak and Uchenna are delightful at all times but were especially charming in their traditional Indian and Nigerian garb at the sangeet. I wore my Indian kurti without the matching pants, which I hoped was modern and cheeky and not blatantly disrespectful (I got the ok from the bride ahead of time). After drinking and dancing and watching Ronak's nephew do a 5 year old's version of breakdancing for hours, we got on Bixi bikes and rode home in our finery, warm air in our faces.
A note on the Bixi bikes: they are the best. Bikeshares now seem to me the only civilized way to travel in a new city. You could figure out the public transit system, sure; you could shell out for a cab; or you could walk, but when you're trying to make it to events and you're always running late (as we were), bike is the only way to go. There was a Bixi stand a block from our rented apartment, we paid $7 for 24 hours of access, and all rides under 30 minutes incurred no extra fee. I rode to the mehndi ceremony, to and from the sangeet, on a tour around town, and to the wedding itself. I am very sad to live in a city without a bikeshare system - I don't know how I'll go on.
Saturday morning we rubbed the sangeet from our eyes and headed across town to Mile End, ostensibly for bagels but also to see the city. We ate our bagels on a city bench and watched the hip young thangs go by, then hopped on bikes for a jaunt through town to the waterfront. I showed Mike and Shwin the "beaches" I had found on my run the day before, stretches of sand along the river with tables, chairs, and misters for hot days. We were all thoroughly charmed.
Street art
The wedding itself was on the waterfront, on a deck high above the river. As the ceremony got started a huge cruise ship trundled by and blasted its airhorn for the wedding. All the passengers on the decks waved wildly at us. Ronak looked drop dead gorgeous in her red sari and the bridesmaids sparkled in the sun. I picked up rose petals from the aisle and crushed them to get their scent. There was some crying, and some cheering. Congratulations to Ronak and Uchenna!
Then, of course, we ate, drank, and made merry - in other words, danced our booties off. Late at night, poutine was served. We wrapped it up at 2 a.m. with one last song, "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster", which tickled Mike to no end.
Three hours later we woke up for our flight home. I don't want to talk about what that felt like. But it was worth it. Montreal, we'll be back.

No comments: