It had been ten years exactly since our last trip to Montreal, not including many departures and arrivals at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Yes, Feng, I’m sure—I’ve just checked the blog, and it’s more reliable than my memory.

Yes, Mark was just a few months old, can you believe he is almost 11 now?

Yes, coming back to Montreal was long overdue.

Why don’t we go to Montreal more often? It’s only a two-hour drive from Ottawa, after all. Well, maybe that’s the problem. It’s too long of a drive to relax in Montreal for a day every now and then but it’s too short of a drive to justify splurging on a hotel room or Airbnb.

Plus, let’s be honest, I never managed to fall in love with Montreal. It’s just me, really, there’s nothing wrong with Montreal—I’m in the minority here.

The thing is, unlike American tourists or English Canadians, I’m too French to pretend that going to Montreal is “just like going to France”. But at the same time, I’m too Canadian by now to seek an ersatz of French lifestyle in the New World—speaking my language and immersing myself in a culture that vaguely resonates with me could have been a relief when I first came to Canada and but by now, I’m used to English Canadian culture and Ontario finally makes sense.

In fact, Montreal is always a bit of a culture shock for me. It’s no secret in Canada that Quebec is a unique corner of the country. It’s not just the language, it’s… everything, from laws to norms to values. This explains why even though I can read and understand everything, I feel like I’m in a foreign land. What are these TV shows advertised on billboards? Is this a supermarket or a clothing shop? Why does everything close so early on Saturday? Do people in Quebec actually love bread as much as the French do or are all the numerous Paris-style bakeries run by French immigrants hoping to conquer the New World?

So many questions, and zero answers.

It didn’t matter. This was a last-minute trip, just Feng and I. We needed to escape. It’s been a stressful month, a stressful summer, a stressful year even. We didn’t plan anything and didn’t try to go see anything in particular.

Instead, we just wandered around, from the residential streets and the impossibly steep and twisty outdoor staircases–a deathtrap with winter weather conditions, right?–to the Vieux-Montreal, from the Old Port to the Jean-Talon Market on Sunday.

We got some take-out Chinese dumplings and sweet bread in Chinatown and brought our dinner back to the motel.

We walked, we talked, and walked some more before driving back to Ottawa. So not a classic Montreal tour but a nice break and a breath of fresh air.

425 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC
425 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC
Rue University, Montreal, QC
Rue University, Montreal, QC
CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice Chinatown, 40 Rue De la Gauchetière O, Montréal
CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice Chinatown, 40 Rue De la Gauchetière O, Montréal
Place Monseigneur Charbonneau, Montreal, QC
Place Monseigneur Charbonneau, Montreal, QC
Place d'Armes, Montreal, QC
Place d’Armes, Montreal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Marché Bonsecours, 350 Rue Saint-Paul E, Montréal, QC
Marché Bonsecours, 350 Rue Saint-Paul E, Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Marché Bonsecours, 350 Rue Saint-Paul E, Montréal, QC
Marché Bonsecours, 350 Rue Saint-Paul E, Montréal, QC
Downtown Montreal from the Vieux-Port
Downtown Montreal from the Vieux-Port
Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Vieux-Port de Montréal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Rue de Castelnau East, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Marché Jean-Talon, Henri Julien Avenue, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC
Villeray borough, Montreal, QC

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8 Comments

  1. Isa September 28, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    Tu vois, je m’étais jamais rendue compte à quel point j’étais québécoise avant de passer beaucoup de temps dans les Maritimes. Ca a vraiment été un choc (car ma relation avec le Québec, c’est quand même pas mal amour-haine…)
    Mais comme toi, ça a été un vrai choc culturel même si j’ai adoré les Maritimes au point d’envisager sérieusement d’y vivre ! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Zhu September 29, 2023 at 12:52 am

      I totally get it! I suspect that each province/territory developed a very unique culture. I mean, this is the case in most countries, especially big countries, but it’s stricking for me in Canada, especially between Quebec and the rest of the country.

      What was your biggest culture shock in the Maritimes?

      Reply
      1. Isa September 29, 2023 at 1:34 am

        It was a surprising one! They fucking love their queen! Especially in Nova Scotia. We found the rural areas very loyalist and conservative, english-speaking side! We didn’t expect that. But the thing we loved the most, being in the french-speaking side, was how friendly and vibrant were the acadians and acadian culture. We loved it. We felt more at home with them than with the quebec peeps. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Zhu September 29, 2023 at 1:47 am

          Oh, this is funny, I wasn’t expecting that!

          I don’t think people in Ontario are that interested in the Royals… even when they visited years ago it was a bit of a “yeah, whatever”. Only people who strongly identified as British around me (a few of them actually born in the UK, older folks…) did care enough.

          I love French-Ontarian culture for the same reasons you loved Acadian culture 😉

          Reply
          1. Isa September 29, 2023 at 2:46 am

            One of my main point of “weird” interests in life is the french-speaking nations and populations in Canada.
            I would love to read an article about les franco-ontariens !! (appel pas très discret du pied)

          2. Zhu September 30, 2023 at 2:24 am

            Taking note 😉

  2. christiane October 14, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    I’m with you! I find Montreal meh, but great restaurants though! I have family there so i go to see them when i can.

    Reply
    1. Zhu October 17, 2023 at 6:59 pm

      Next time, tell me where you go eat! Our Chinese food picks were meh compared to Toronto (and expensive too).

      Reply

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