Tomorrow morning- eye blinkingly early - I'm going to take the 11 hour train from New York to Montréal. It will be my first time back in the city in two years, which is almost unbelievable to me, given that I still dream of Montréal and still think about myself as having come to the south from there, kind of as if I lived there longer than I actually did. Of course it helped cement that feeling of being "from Montréal" in my head, when I kept going back to Montréal for a year and a half after I moved south (I was dating someone who lived there).
But anyway, it's been two years. My French is rusty. My vocabulaire Québecois even rustier. I can't seem to remember the proper order of the streets that ran between my own street, Rue Drolet, and the main street Boul. St. Laurent, even though I walked past them several times a day for a year, and for some reason I find this vaguely disturbing. Henri-Julien, Laval, Hôtel-de-Ville, Coloniale, St. Dominique. There, I think that's right. (I just checked google maps and had forgotten de Bullion- how could I have forgotten de Bullion?!). Every day I would walk along Avenue des Pins from Drolet to St. Laurent and pass these same streets. I'd pass the Theatre des Quat'Sous, housed in an old synagogue, and the fancy restaurant Laloux where my parents once took me and where we ate coqilles st. jacques cooked with creme, orange rind and pernod and they served mousse de fois gras instead of butter with the bread. It sat across the street from a humble little potato place, Patate au Four, which I never tried but liked the idea that it was open late next door to a Buanderie- so you could get a piping hot potato if you were stuck out in the cold, dark winter doing your laundry.
This time, I'm not going alone. There is a fellow traveler (an adorable beau), who speaks better French than me but has never been to Montréal. I can't wait to show it to him. But it will also be good just to walk those streets again, speak that weird mixture of Canadian French and English, see my old friends, and wander through the used bookstores of the Plateau, stocked with beautiful francophone books and huge collections of discounted classical music CDs. I think I still have my 10% off discount card for the Bouquineries St. Denis and du Plateau, which I remember had this great window on Rue St. Denis full of curious book specimens, all of which I coveted. And of course we'll see some French cinema and visit Mile End, with its mixture of Portuguese cafes, Greek delis, and Orthodox Jews, and the Spanish and Portuguese places in the Plateau, and the lovely Café Côté Soleil on St. Denis to have a Montréal brunch, and then go for a walk up the "mountain" maybe with a picnic lunch from Marché Jean Talon and I'll see my friends and colleagues too- three days is starting to seem a little too short to fit everything in.