It’s been quite a few months since the previous post, because life hit top gear once I began packing up in Montreal. I’m now back in Melbourne, still a way off from life on cruise control but, busy as I am, never a day goes by without thinking about my second hometown. Photos from Montreal friends showing off the autumn colour and now the first snow makes me really miss my old life: the quotidian pleasures, the rhythms of the seasons, time with mes amis. Of course it’s great to be back among everything that’s deeply familiar, including many dear friends, and rediscovering how wonderful Melbourne is, but I wish I could clone myself and live here and in Montreal simultaneously.
Forming such a strong bond was not what I expected when I arrived in Montreal. I departed Melbourne in love with the city of my birth, so it never occurred to me that I could also feel at home in and indeed truly love another town. Sure, as a tourist I had fallen for places, from Venice to New York, but I didn’t anticipate how a city can snuggle into your soul when you live there for years.
I quickly fell for Montreal because of the big-deal things I wrote about on this blog over the past four years: the things that tourists come for such as the city’s historic heart and major festivals, and getaways to places nearby that put it into context, including beautiful Québec City. It’s the everyday things, however, that made my love for Montreal really take root and grow.
Things that never happened when I visited Montreal before, and probably never could as a tourist, like going to a great festival not just once but night after night, year after year. Bringing home warm, divinely scented bagels from St Viateur. Walking up the street and seeing two Montreal icons, the Olympic Stadium to my left, Mont Royal to my right. Having friends over for a cinq à sept. Eating poutine whenever I felt like it, choosing from a vast array of excellent, inexpensive Québec craft beer, and getting excited by the arrival of each season’s flavours, from maple to pumpkin spice.
I saw the trees outside my window quickly transformed from dead to lavishly alive each May, and autumn’s vivid colours glow in the sunshine of a surprising Indian summer. I strolled to the local park with my skates or up to Mont Royal with my snowshoes, and carried groceries home through snow that squeaked and crunched or across slippery ice. Met friends at a terrasse or park on the first warm day of the year, like everyone else in town, as if it were in our DNA. Enjoyed traditional celebrations during the seasons in which they were established, and make sense, including Christmas in winter, Easter in spring and Halloween among crackling leaves and cool winds.
Yes, a lot of what made everyday life in Montreal a little wondrous for me was linked to the seasons, which were more intense than in Melbourne, and at the opposite time of the year. As Christmas decorations flourish around town, and Christmas foods proliferate on supermarket shelves, my usual excitement about the most wonderful time of the year is tempered by the fact that it will be in summer this time.
It’s great to see Christmas puddings and fruit mince pies piled up at irresistible prices again now I’m back in Melbourne (Québec doesn’t go for these Anglo Yuletide treats, despite them being ideally suited to winter). I’m looking forward to enjoying chilled sparkling shiraz, another of my Christmas favourites, once more. The prospect of festive celebrations with people who have been friends for years, even decades, fills me with joy.
But there’s no snow, no chance of choosing a massive Christmas tree in freezing conditions, no way to listen to songs about sleigh bells and snowmen without a sense of irony. The festive season in Montreal will always tug at my heart, as will memories of so many aspects of my former life. I’ll visit as soon and as often as I can because, even though I probably won’t have time to get in synch with the city’s rhythm, there surely will be moments when I feel right at home. Please leave a light on for me, Montreal.
This is the last post for this blog. Thanks for dropping by and sharing in my life in Québec!