In my daily IM conversation with my friend Tyler (who, in the true essence of IM, sits only two rows away from me) we tired of small talk and finally landed on the topic of all the exciting trips we'd take for distraction - Colorado, Utah, New Hampshire, a tour of the South, his hometown in Georgia, San Francisco - a road trip accross the country even! Him having never been west of the Mississipi and I who wouldn't know a southern gentleman if he picked me up in a 19th century horse and buggy, we had oh so many good ideas. Its always fun getting to know a new friend--it mimics the honeymoon period of all romances within a friendship. For the first week of your friendship you never run out of fascinating things to say, you're enthralled with your similarities, small annoyances are still cute quirks and, best of all, you are completely taken by all the glamourous things you will do with said new friend - Trips to Budapest, half marathons, the opera, or drinks at this great pizza and beer bar. For the standard friendship, this cute little honeymoon phase usually wears off within a week or so of pizza and beer eating, after which you realize that most of the plans you made were happy inklings that will never to come to pass. This rule of new friendship, although generally reliable, was not the case with two dangerously whimsical and equally as stubbornly committed to being unpredicable people as we turned out to be.
Our conversation went something like this:
"Too bad we aren't going anywhere fun for memorial weekend."
"Yeah. Too bad."
"Hey. Why dont we go somewhere!"
"I dont know. Boston. The adarondacks. Vermont. Montreal. Virginia?"
"Montreal is awesome. Lets go there!"
"Ok. You think Im joking. But Im dead serious."
"I am too."
"Do you think we will be good travel partners? I hardly know you. What if we want to kill each other after two days."
"I guess we will find out."
Five hours of scouring train tickets, plane tickets, travel websites and discount airline traps of all kinds, we were sitting in an STA Travel office in the West village giddy with excitement.
"Hello. We want to go to Montreal."
The ticket agent, hardened by years of bubbling, youthful travelers but nonetheless taken aback at our dual enthusiasm, raises an eyebrow, "Ok. When would you like to fly out?"
"Um. Tomorrow? Tomorrow morning please."
Approximately 14 hours later, we arrived at the airport, two near strangers, tired, poorly packed and absolutely thrilled. As our plane took off we turned to each other and said simultaneously, "We are SO awesome!!"
Turns out we were not only good travel partners and fast friends - but also mirror images of one another. By the time our plane touched the ground in Montreal, we had discovered that we were each other's very own dopplegangers - mannerisms, aspirations, interests, talents, histories, beliefs, you name it. Who ever thought my long lost twin would end up being a redheaded GUY from Georgia? To top off the sense of uncanniness one feels when they have met their long lost, separated at birth redheaded brother , we were born within 5 days of each other, same year. Wierd. By the end of the trip we would be giving advice as such "Well from what I know about you, and seeing that I AM you, I would suggest that you do X about this problem".
As you all know all too well about me when I meet a new friend, acquaintence or unfortunate neighbor on a train... Im not sure I shut my mouth for more than 5 minutes during the whole flight in to Montreal. My normal verbal diarreah was thus enhanced by the utterly platonic nature of our fast friendship and by the feeling that in reality I was merely talking to myself, and myself, in redheaded form, was reflecting myself back to me in his (my) responses. And it was a good thing I came equipped with my normal knee-jerk reaction distraction mechanism (words. lots of them) because I hadn't been on a puddle-jumper plane in years and now, stuck in this hot little tootpaste tube of an airplane cabin with a lot of French Canadians and no snacks, I can remember why I avoid them. Ah turbulence. So THIS is why they serve alcohol on planes.
Montreal...is...gorgeous. Quaint yet regular. Modern yet historic. Exotic and yet oh so comfortable and strangely familiar just below the surface (aka the French is fabulous and all but when you are nearly peeing in your pants to find a bathroom you can ask in English). I couldn't quite decide which city it reminded me most of - Portland in the financial districts, Seattle in the residential, Dublin in the drinking quarter and Budapest in the old district? I couldn't quite decide. But whichever it was, I was in love. And keenly intent on leaving the place with a near perfect french accent. And the men...let me just say in passing, I'm not sure Ive ever witnessed so many good bone structures walking around all at once. My "type" just took on a whole new meaning.
We spent the first afternoon shopping, had an accidental run in with a 40% off sale at French Connection and turned up, arms full of bags and parched, conveniently on the deck of an irish pub. The afternoon was glorious, the sun still high and the brie sandwiches, suprisingly delicious at this dank Irish dive. Getting up from a situation like that...sun, people watching, brie cheese, beer and the satisfaction of bags full of new clothing...is a bit like getting out of the bathtub when you are a kid. Nothing could be more excruciating. Luckily, a night on a new town was beckoning to us as a just reward if we could only pull ourselves from those warm wooden deck chairs and drag ourselves back to our hotel.
Just when I thought Montreal could not be more delightful...I discovered our hotel room's balcony by accident, getting out of the shower. The window was one of those floor to ceiling doors, the balcony one of those European-style terraces, a simple white fence suspended just out from the window with no room for you to step out, only enough room for you to hang out over hte street, carelessly suspended halfway inside and out of the window. Standing there alone in the room, the sun setting over the "Mont" casting late in the day shadows through the window, bringing in a breeze so warm I nearly dropped my towel and leaning out this oh so glorious terrace window 25 floors above MOntreal, I immediately began my Jackie Onassis routine...wave to the loving crowds, oh how they love my dress...oops, now Im a ravishing Italian beauty stolen from my terrace in Rome and carried away to Paris by some dark-haired Hungarian blacksmith...or maybe just a small town girl from Colorado on spontaneous holiday from very big city life, standing before all of Montreal in a towel...while three teenage boys look on from below...oops. Now Im legs in the air, toppling over the edge of the bed in a frantic scramble to get inside...
The next two days were spent in utter bliss - the most uncomplicated, unregimented vacation I have ever taken - eating, drinking, eating more, walking walking walking, buying, pointing, laughing, eating, more drinking, repeating and pointing " I love I love I love!". I loved Montreal so much, that, in fact, by the end I never even finished the sentence i.e. "I love that church"..."I'd just point and say "I Love." This was much more efficient, because I could point out more than one object of my affection at one and express my overwhelming love for it. The city is a strolling, rolling city, with all kinds of quiet charms and very few airs or in-your-face spectacles - things that keep my beloved New York forever running. Old Montreal was particularly captivating and we haunted it for 2 days solid. Narrow alleys, cobblestone streets, old stone buildings, flowerbeds hanging charmingly from stone windows, hot chocolate and brie sandwiches in small restaurant with low ceilings much like a wine cellar in an old castle except doors wide open to the street and the steaming rain from outside. Cupcakes across from an old church served by happy smiling French Canadians. 7 solid hours in the sun, eating out, walking out, hanging out...Running around desparately in search of sunscreen for our irish skin after said 7 solid hours. Ah. Heaven.
To top off an altogether perfect weekend, we missed our flight home. 50 dollars in flight change fees bought me and my newest best friend 3 more hours of wine drinking, penne eating and philosophizing at the airport until we had not a single problem, curiosity, belief, traumatic experience or hidden disappointment left unexplored. From the plane, I watched the setting sun leave pink streaks of stay clouds accross the horizon, like torn bits of a princess' dress as she runs home from her carriage, slowly turning into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. I Cinderella, hereby leave my glass slipper in Montreal and run back to my steamy, muggy, hungry New York. Who said Cinderella needed prince at the ball?
And after 3 days of non-stop talking that you all know only I can do without taking breaths (only bites and sips) in between, I slept the whole flight home.
(Pictures coming soon)