By Freeman Fletcher (FILM ’18)
Last weekend, my girlfriend (yeah, you and me both) came up to visit Montreal for the first time. Given that I myself am experiencing this city with relatively fresh eyes, the prospect of designing a weekend filled with exploration, discovery, and romance was a daunting one. Thankfully, I had the city to help me out.
Montreal is vast and diverse. I’m talkin’ “Douglas Adams’ brain on hallucinogens” vast and diverse here. And it can get cold. I’m talkin’ “need a tauntaun’s stomach to survive the night” cold. At least, that’s the case in the winter. These are two speed bumps when it comes to wandering around a city (especially, as my shrink keeps trying to tell me, because apparently tauntauns “don’t exist”…).
First off, and general life advice here, embrace the vastness and diversity. To quote The Lion King in relation to Montreal, “There’s more to see than can ever be seen/ More to do than can ever be done”. It’s true. If you fret over seeing everything, you’ll undoubtedly miss it all. Pace yourself. There will be other weekends (unless your relationship is on the rocks and this is a last ditch effort to salvage it in which case… RIP), so there’s no rush. Craft a vague idea, two or three things you would like to share/show/try with your significant other and then leave the weekend open. Spontaneity is one of the many spices of romance (and one of the few that don’t involve fuzzy handcuffs). Por ejemplo, my girlfriend, being the smart and worldly woman that she is, asked if we could go to Chinatown on her first night here as it was the Chinese New Year. We did and discovered a joyous presentation of celebratory Chinese traditions, colorful and grandiose decorations, and absolutely repulsive candies that play out in the mouth like an old Butterfinger wrapped in cobwebs. It was fun and totally beat whatever plan I could have thought up.
The cold wasn’t much of an issue as the underground city is a beautiful thing. We made our way to the waterfront (a lovely though treacherously icy and bitingly cold place for a moonlit winter stroll. Exploiting the extensive subterranean network made me remember two key lessons to living in Montreal:
1) ALWAYS know where the nearest metro station is in relation to your current location. If you can get to a metro station, you’re fine but nothing kills the romantic vibe faster or more thoroughly than frantically trying to figure out just where the hell that station is while fending off the first pangs of a deep winter chill.
2) No matter where you’re trying to go, it’s always a block closer than you fear but two blocks farther than you hope. The journey is long. Propose frequent stops into the many small, fun shops that fill the streets of Montreal to warm up.
Navigating the chaos of a big city is like a Contra game for romantic opportunities: nigh on impossible (I don’t care WHAT Sarah Jessica Parker says). And yet, much like Contra, success is not unheard of. It takes a little creativity, maneuverability, and a touch of strategy but it can be done. So good luck (and don’t mess it up).