Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just Floating

As hoped, visiting Montreal lifted me from the depths of summer boredom. While I had high high hopes for the city, being there definitely exceeded my expectations.

The trip to Montreal was in a small, rickety plane where you could feel every bump and shift during take-off and landing. As soon as the plane landed, it was obvious that Montreal is French-speaking. In fact, it is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. After clearing customs and renting the car, we made our way to Old Montreal and to our hotel. After getting checked in, I immediately wanted to get out and see the city. I took a walk around, quickly coming to the promenade along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Along the promenade, in the area of the old port, there were shops, restaurants, cafes, and museums. This area of the city was very lively, and walking around showed the diversity of the city.

Later in the day, the drive to eat dinner took us through most of centre-ville (downtown), which was starkly different than the ornately French Old Montreal. Like most modern cities, the downtown area of Montreal is dominated by skyscrapers and modern design. However, Montreal proved to be much cleaner and full of tree-filled squares and plazas. Centre-ville was also filled with people, as the last day of the Montreal Jazz Festival was coming to an end. The trip to and from dinner, and the walk after dinner, showed even more diversity in the city's population. Because of the language, Montreal has attracted immigrants from French-speaking countries across the world, giving the city large West African, Moroccan, Algerian, and Vietnamese communities.

The next day we found ourselves eating lunch and walking around in the Chasidic area of Montreal. The neighborhoods of Mile End and Outremont are home to the largest Chasidic population in Canada, and the community is quite substantial. The area has countless synagogues and restaurants, as well as clothing stores and supermarkets catering to the community. The neighborhood was also very artsy and bohemian, with galleries, cafes, and boutiques lining the streets. That night we ate in dinner in the other large Jewish area of the city, Cote-St.-Luc. While Mile End and Outremont are largely ultra-Orthodox, Cote-St.-Luc is largely Modern Orthodox. Interestingly, while the Sephardic Jewish groups of Montreal, originally from Morocco and Algeria, speak French due to the French influence in their home countries, the rest of the Jewish community is largely English-speaking. Even in Outremont and Mile End, which are traditionally areas of large Francophone populations, the Jewish community speaks Yiddish and English, not French, which has caused misunderstanding and difficulty between the Jewish community and others in the area.

Overall, the trip was very nice and impressive. Montreal is definitely one of the nicest and interesting cities I have visited, and takes a high place on my list of favorites.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lean Forward to the Next Crazy Venture

The summers in Boro Park are empty. Everyone flees from Brooklyn to the Catskills, and with them goes the excitement and the pace of city life. Luckily, one has music and books to distract from the lack of entertainment on the streets. For me, this means a renewed love of Kafka.

Even with this reading to distract me, the summers always make me feel like I am sitting and waiting. I can't help but get the sense that I'm on the edge of something great, but something that isn't quite revealed at the present time. Maybe this is because summers have always been the time when the world comes to a complete stand still; no duties, no burdens, simply sitting and relaxing all day. This "no duties, no burdens" is exactly what bothers me, though. Sitting around is much more tiring than doing something, that's for sure. Luckily, I will be going to Montreal on Sunday afternoon, and will hopefully move about to kill this boredom.