A few weeks ago, we decided to celebrate the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation by taking a trip to Montreal to see one of our favourite singers, Holly Cole, perform at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. While we were organizing that trip, I got an e-mail from my cousin, Judy, saying she was cleaning house a bit and had some cool artifacts from my grandfather's stint in the Australian military during World War I and would I be interested in taking over as the family custodian (I'll post on the goodies I got separately)? Indeed, I would and so we included into our plans a trip out to South Durham, a small burgh in Quebec's Eastern Townships. We just got back from our trip yesterday.
Saturday's Holly Cole concert was, as usual, awesome. It took place in the Théatre du Nouveau Monde, a venue I had never been to before. Kate, Lena and I shared a loge with a delightful woman who either spoke no English or chose not to speak English, so she had to listen to me murder her native tongue all evening. My French has never been very good, but I am out of practice, to say the least, and so not very good has deteriorated to pretty fucking awful. In any case, she seemed pleased with the effort.
Two things struck me about our night out. As many of you know, Kate has some significant mobility issues these days and gets around with a cane, or on longer outings, with a walker. Montreal has a great transit system. Except if you're handicapped. I had to haul Kate's walker up and down escalators and stairs. If you are alone with your walker or bound to a wheelchair, I am afraid you are out of luck. You cannot access the Metro (Montreal's subway system, for those who do not know). The other thing that struck is how the masses simply don't care that you're handicapped. They will not move out of your way, let you go first through a door, or in any other way facilitate your passage through a crowded space. Precisely one person, as we were exiting the theatre, made a point of letting Kate in front of him. That among the tens of thousands of people we encountered that night. Chivalry is dead.
The next day we headed to my cousin's house in South Durham, which is about an hour and a half east of Montreal. She lives in the house that her mother, my aunt, used to live in - a place I visited many times as a kid, but haven't been to in probably 20 years or more. It is a beautiful 19th century home sitting on four or five acres. The peacefulness of the place made me hate suburbia even more. We had a great lunch with Judy and her husband, Claude. She passed along the amazing family treasures to me (about which I am still overwhelmed and which deserve their own post). Then I visited with my aunt who turns 89 later this month. She is an amazing person and we were happy to have seen her.
On our way back to Montreal, we stopped in small town called Beloeil, which is south-east of Montreal, for some dinner. We stopped at a restaurant called Rouge Boeuf - a small town eatery with big town pretensions. It was very stylishly decorated, but it still had a paper cover over a linen table cloth and paper napkins. I grew up in the greater Montreal area and at one time was reasonably bilingual, but I have to admit, I was kind of uncomfortable in this restaurant. We were the only English speakers there, including among the staff who were unilingual French. I felt conspicuous. Nonetheless, the food was alright.
The next day, Monday, was our last in the city. My grandfather had died in 1984 at the ripe old age of 92 and through all the intervening years I had thought he was buried in the Eastern Townships, but learned that he was, in fact, buried in Pointe-Claire, a suburb on the West Island. So, we visited the grave, which also contains the remains of my uncle, Lawrence, who died in 1946 when he was only 24 years old, and my grandmother and my grandfather's third wife, Lotty. I was glad to finally get to go to pay my respects, but frustrated that I could have done it years earlier.
After the graveyard, we took a drive along the lakeshore on the West Island and had dinner at an old favourite restaurant in Lachine called Il Fornetto. The food is decent without being spectacular, and the service is friendly if not the most efficient. We dined al fresco and had a great view of the parkland bordering the Lachine Canal and the St. Lawrence River. A nice way to end a nice trip.
And that was our weekend in Montreal.