It’s been years since I was last in Montreal, but once this difficult time ends and we are all able to move around safely again, it’s the first place I want to go.
My husband and I have visited Montreal many times, at all times of the year. In summer, we walked through parks blooming with flowers, past gently splashing fountains. We dodged the many bicyclists, sat outside and had a glass of wine at one of the sidewalk cafes as the sun went down. In autumn, we moved indoors, visiting art museums and galleries on rainy afternoons.
But I might like Montreal in the winter most of all, with the snug, warm efficiency of the Metro and the underground city.
One winter we traveled to Montreal to take part in Montréal en Lumière, a weeklong festival celebrating warmth and light in the darkest month of the year. Ours was the last plane allowed in that evening before a storm forced the airport to close, and our cab fishtailed through the streets of Old Montreal to our inn, snow falling thick and fast past the glittering streetlights.
As part of the festival, restaurants served incredible meals outdoors, in big white tents hung with heat lamps. A toboggan slide was set up in the middle of downtown, near an outdoor stage where musicians played and people danced in the falling snow. My husband and I toasted marshmallows over fire barrels while a Chinese dragon dance snaked through the crowd.
Later, inside, we attended the red-hot performance of the Buena Vista Social Club one night and the next night took in a performance of Cirque Éloize, Montreal’s enchanting European-style circus, with acrobats and unicyclists and mournful clarinets.
Yes, winter might be the time to go again.
But whenever we go back, whatever the season, we will visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts and look at the paintings by the Canadian Group of Seven. We will have dinner along Duluth Street, which is dotted with tiny, ethnic restaurants.
We’ll walk through Marché Jean-Talon farmers market to ogle the bright fruits and vegetables. We’ll head down to the Vieux Port for dinner at one of the lovely French restaurants and look out at the ice skaters on the harbor, or at the rain slicking the cobblestone streets.
And we will hike up to the top of Parc Mont Royal and undoubtedly get lost, as we always do, on its crisscrossed wooded trails. We will finally find our way out of the trees into an open spot where we will stand and stare down at the beautiful city and all it holds.
And we will be so glad to be back.