Ever long for an escape from everyday norm? A norm that replicates a cycle of earning a living, and then falling asleep to earn a living once again. I reached an epiphany one night after my daily grind and eagerly entered words into google. Within a flash I booked a hotel for two nights.
I lay restless that night in anticipation of the adventure lurking at the morning light. The sun rises from around the earth, waking me from my slumber. I pack the car with some minimal belongings and a furry friend, a German Shepard cross, and head out to contradict my norm.
I speed down the expressway heading east towards Toronto. Skyscrapers transcend the skyline, as traffic congestion overwhelms me. Snow flakes splattered my windshield as I leave the high-rises for forests and farmland.
Then further I go as winter unleashes its fury, pummeling the highway in front of me. A car abruptly spins out of control while the driver frantically attempts to regain control. It comes scampering to a stop avoiding a concrete barrier by inches. I slam on the brakes and slide to a halt myself before checking on the driver, and carrying on with the caution I had lacked before hand.
After that, I drive down a four-lane highway surrounded by rock walls and snow coated trees. Road signs flash by transformed into a foreign language as I cross the Quebec and Ontario border. I had invested six hours so far to evade the city of Guelph temporarily; and my optimism is being cultivated.
As dusk converges upon me, I exit onto the outskirts of the city, with hope to uncover my finality soon, for my focus is fading. The streets eluded me and I “am lost”. Lost in a place where I cannot rely on instinct to interpret the signs for guidance. I overcome stubbornness and ask for help from a teller at a gas station. To my astonishment the road I seek runs parallel with my current location.
I then descend on the city of Montreal, yet my hotel is still a mystery. I search it out, on the verge of panic, while falling for the architecture where I have been immersed. I glance to my left, as a castle etched in a row of townhouses emerges from the night. I form a smile, since I have found my motel.
Slippery steps invite me into a pleasant atmosphere. The walls are a majestic white complimented by a red velvet carpet that summons me towards the check in counter. A man greets me with a smile and switches to English after realizing my native tongue. After acquiring a room key, I pass through the corridor with antique furniture and sculptures. The stairs creak as I head to the second floor and find my room. The room radiates a sense of home, as I drop off my bags. I conquer my exhaustion, leave the hotel, and stroll down Rue Sherbrooke in the downtown core. A cool breeze gives me goosebumps, as snow flutters down and cars drift by. Very soon, I admire an elegant building amongst a sea of analogous architecture lining the streets. Four colossal pillars support an overhang suspended over three towering wooden doors of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
I continue my adventure, observing structures built over the centuries. A fortified like
complex catches my eye. Grey brick walls enclose Collège de Montréal, a private school
erected in the 1760s. Rows of windows intertwine with masonry to cover the exterior elevating
to a small stone cross. My legs feel like bricks as I head back to the hotel and succumb to my
As the sun glistens through silk curtains prompting my eyelids open, I climb out of bed preparing for other adventures ahead. I head south by car towards the St. Lawrence River, clueless to what is to be revealed to me. I open the window allowing my dog to sniff the brisk February air while I pass by industrial buildings lining the ports and the Montreal Science Centre. The road leads me astray into a dimly lit tunnel as the walls engulf me until sunshine appears on the other side. I soar upwards on a metal grated bridge stretching across a panoramic river drifting towards the Great Lakes.
Soon residential houses surface on the street after my arrival in the city of Saint-Lambert. I discover a field of white wrapped in a chain link fence. Parc à Chien is a furry friend’s dream; and my dog darts to the entrance. Her black and tan markings glimmer in the sun, as she skips over the top of the snow greeting her new friends. I calmly say “Bonjour” to the people I come across with an attempt to blend into my current culture.
Back on the road, I follow signs for Montreal, finding myself once again hovering on a bridge across the river. Beneath me a rollercoaster rises from a small island, along with rides that tempt an escape in the summer months. I end up back on Rue Sherbrooke in surroundings familiar to me, and then I head towards Mont Royal, creeping up the incline of settlements nestled on the mountain in search of a preservation of nature.
Luck yields an entrance with steps attaining snow carpeted slopes speckled in the trees. Excitedly, I hike up the trail, peering through barren trees to structures arching up from the roadway. Cross country skis glide by through snow packed tracks, while others explore the terrain by foot. Laughter splits the frosty air as I approach a bend in the path. Kids in full winter gear slither down a slope with a grin on their faces as adults look on.
My attention shifts to a green dome peering out of the mountain treeline ahead. Intrigue subdues and pushes me back to the car to further climb the mountain by vehicle before reaching the Westmount Summit. Saint Joseph’s Oratory gazes down at me in mystical form. A cascade of steps arises at the entrance under two spires separated by four columns, while emerging from the columns there is an stupendous green dome peaking with a cross.
My stomach grumbles, as hunger takes over and I drop the dog off at the hotel. I head out under the darken sky illuminated by street lamps and walk towards another hotel. Renoir, located in the modern Sofitel Hotel, looms between diverse facades of buildings. I sit at a small table draped in a white table cloth and precisely placed cutlery, while scanning the leather sheathed menu, before I decide on a five-course tasting menu promising an array of flavours.
With no disappointment, my taste buds tingle from buttery Foie Gras merged with sweet jelly and a tart brunoise of Quebec apples. My server appears in an ironed white blouse and black pants. She tops up my water glass and removes my empty plate in a graceful manner.
Minutes later she appears with an olive oil poached salmon sprinkled in coarse rock salt. She pours a broth overtop as the fragrance of lemongrass and coconut arouse my senses. I will stop there to leave the rest as an enigma for you to divulge in, rather than ruining the surprise, just as my waiter had said. I left with a satisfied “belly” and a delightful soul.
The next sunrise, Montreal disappears in the rear-view mirror. A nostalgic feeling and regret washed over me for not even touching the surface of what the city was offering me. Farewell, Montreal. I’ll be back soon.