I’ve never been to Montreal before. I had planned many things. I had not expected to be worried about basics, Montreal is about so much more than basics. I thought I had those covered. Here we were, France in the contiguous USA, such a charming juxtaposition, historic hotel, everything perfect, except for those two black things on wheels I get used to traveling with, the ones I take for granted; my luggage i.e. my underwear, my overwear, my toiletries – my life!
And everyone in Montreal wears black in so many edgy, elegant ways. I was wearing a smocky sort of grey flecked thing that was comfortable for traveling and could pass for stylish from a distance on a dark night. I felt incurably like a ‘girl’, like I wanted to burst into tears at the airport, then later at the hotel, then on a street corner after paying $15 for a single, tiny pair of unnecessarily saucy underwear from the only store open when I finally realized my luggage and I would not have relations on this particular trip.
Finally I managed to tame my surprisingly adamant emotional response so that at least it stopped leaking. I got used to bathing in a cloud of luxurious fragrance thanks to those little bottles in the hotel, and then donning the now painfully self conscious old clothes. I tried standing on my toes to look up and over my obstinate drabness, to at least catch a glimpse of the glossy charm of the place.
The day we arrived was a perfect early spring day, clothing aside. A perfect spring day that succumbed graciously to a perfect spring evening. I thought I’d wear the speckled grey thing. We wondered where to eat and wandered out into the throngs out celebrating the end of a grim northern winter.
Speckled Grey thing.
After mingling conspicuously with the fabulously young and glamorous along the winding roads of Old Montreal we ended up doing a T.S. Eliot in Little Gidding and arriving back ‘where we started’. The hotel we were staying at on the St Lawrence river had a lovely, intimate little wood and glass bistro we had noticed on our way out, floor to ceiling windows opening out onto the street. Sheer chance and good luck cleared the perfect table for us at an open window overlooking the endless array of outfits parading along the riverfront.
We shook out our heavy white napkins and I used mine to help minimize the amount of grey-fleckedness visible. They had all the important things you learn to rely on in a French restaurant like escargot drenched in garlic, and everything with frites all served on the crisp white table cloth. The warm tones of the saxophone played not too far in the background.
Later that night I stretched out on the comfortably deep stone window seat in my room at the hotel. There were things outside there capable of distracting me from the hollow tones of my wardrobe. Below me the cobbled street glistened. I watched as people thronged to eat at the pavement cafes lining the narrow street below and wondered at the stridently festive sound high heels make on cobblestones.
Montreal is a beautiful city that needs more than four days, and one set of clothing. I will definitely go back there but, next time I’ll bring clothes. I’ll take a suitcase small enough to fit above my head in the cabin. Small, yes, but big enough to take a little more than a grey flecked thing and one pair of saucy underwear.