The Montrealers have quite a lot to thank the French for, such as brutally claiming Quebec [province] from the original inhabitants, introducing their lilting language, giving the region some quite delightful architecture and establishing the production of cheese. Despite this the Montrealers seem to hate the French even more than they despise Les Americains.
Noted local musician Dan Bigras, playing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, opened his set by enquiring [in English] if there were any Americans present. Three hapless persons in the front row innocently raised their hands, whereupon the great man spent the rest of the evening speaking ever broader Quebecois and making jokes at their expense. Sometimes he switched to picking on the French instead and once or twice had a go at the ‘other’ Canadians. That would be those who are not Quebecois. In between he sang [great voice, terrific range] and expertly played keyboard [again, respect].
I’ve wandered quite a bit in my life and [perhaps foolishly] consider myself a traveller rather than a tourist. In general I travel for work rather than amusement. I’ve slept in places as diverse as an abandoned cowshed in the Swiss Alps, the railway station at Boulogne and on red sand in the wilder bits of Australia, where the trick is to unroll your swag only as you’re getting into it for the night so as to be sure that nothing reptilian [or otherwise] occupies it before you do. I’ve mended mosquito nets at the youth hostel in Suva before turning in for the night and walked down the west coast of Scotland in wild weather hefting a pack. I think it’s fair to say I generally maintain a fairly optimistic outlook and am pretty flexible except where bedbugs are concerned.
I try to become familiar with at least a few words of the local language wherever I go. I find it helps. For example, if you make the effort to speak French in France the locals invariably respond in a friendly fashion. They might find you slightly hilarious but they will be gracious about your massacred attempts to mumble pleasantries.
J’adore la France.
I came to Montreal to revisit what was once home [hey, my brother was born here] but with the exception of the charming young lady serving at the epicerie on Maisoneuve, the lovely people at the Fairmont Bagel bakery and lots of friendly dogs; I encountered nothing but venom and sullen stares from the Montrealers [or are they properly called Montrealists?]. I even tried dressing sedately in jeans and a Tshirt in case my distinctive clothing style was the problem. Same response.
So after some thought here’s my advice to the residents of Montreal. If you want people to continue visiting your city and giving you money to prop up your economy, try at least to pretend that you don’t mind them breathing.
If you want the rest of the whirled to leave you alone why not declare yourselves La Republique de Montreal, close the borders around your town [most of it should be easily defensible, being on an island] and keep the rest of us out. That way you can enjoy yourselves without all those nasty foreigners cluttering up the place. Perhaps you could put a box at the border so those people who like being insulted can just put their money in and listen to a recorded message about how pathetic they [and the rest of the whirled] are and then go away again. Et moi? I can take a hint and have gone somewhere else.
After a short train journey we’ve arrived in Quebec City, which by contrast appears to be full of genial folks who bear with my rusty French, are helpful and actually know how to smile. As opposed to just baring their teeth.
Tomorrow should be a lovely day.