We have been living in Montreal for 2 years and a half. When we left France most of our friends and family said they would visit us “shortly”. The fact is only my mother came after 6 months. It takes some time to people to realize that they can visit you. Most of the time they could come but crossing the Atlantic Ocean seems to be a giant step. So we spent the first year and half without hardly any visit. The good thing is that it has changed. We have got many friends and family members who have visited us for the last year.
After a couple of visits I designed a tourist circuit through the city. It really takes one day to visit the “attractions” in Montreal. The “one thing to do” is to climb the Mount Royal, this is the step one of my program which also includes the underground city and the old Montreal. This is my one-day program for visitors. After that, I like to make them discover the small things that make Montreal an enjoyable, unique (and sometime weird) city: the old industrial neighbourhoods, the incredible amount of wedding dress shops on rue St-Hubert, the micro-breweries, the Irish pubs, the diverse cultural communities, the multitude of summer festivals, the hyper-specialized friperies on St Laurent, etc…
And what I have noticed is that people don’t want to know about how the life is in the city. They don’t really care about the “small” stuff. They want an Eiffel Tower or an Empire State Building or a Golden Gate Bridge and they want to take a picture of it. So they are kind of disappointed when they visit Montreal because the Mount is a big hill, the underground city is a big mall and the old city is not old according to european standards. And it’s hard sometimes when we realize our friends don’t see the magic of our city.
I talked about it with my cousin who went in India a couple of years ago. He told me that the real travel was not to get to famous places, it was to figure out how to get there, buy a train ticket and share the everyday life of people.
So this is what we do. Instead of guiding our visitors, we let them wander in the city. They can discover by themselves, discover place we did not know about. The small places are better when you are not guided to them.
In 2 weeks we are going in vacation in North Carolina. We have decided to drive over there (around 14 hours if you don’t stop). I am actually more excited about the driving part than the beach part. Because we intend to stop in small diners on the road. All the Fat Nancy’s, Sweet Sue’s…( and other Pataterie in Quebec) how can you get more authentic than that? (note to self: order salad and coffee)
I hope there is no Eiffel Tower in North Carolina, just authentic people and dinners. And I hope I can enjoy how they live over there.
Do you have a touristic totem in your city? What are you looking for when you travel?
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