Wednesday, June 18, 2008


We visited Montreal in mid-June. It's quite unlike other cities I've visited. We stayed in the Vieux Montreal neighborhood, the old part of the city. The city as a whole has a very modern vibe, with a thriving foodie culture, but it also has a real sense of its history, with wonderfully preserved older buildings peppering the downtown area.

What really struck me about the place was the bilingualism. Most people to whom I spoke addressed me first in French. When they realized I couldn't speak French worth a damn, they switched seamlessly into an accentless English. A couple next to us at dinner switched back and forth between English and French throughout their meal. I've seen this sort of thing among some of my Spanish-speaking students, and I know it's actually pretty common in many countries, but to my limited American worldview, it was pretty impressive.

Also impressive was the food. The residents of Montreal really like meat, to the point that they make Coloradans looks like a bunch of tempe-sucking fruititarians. We had one of the best dinners of our lives at Garde Manger. A simple salad, consisting of thinly-shaved vegetables with an apple vinaigrette, was remarkably tasty. My main course was bavette et frites -- a medium-rare flank steak served with steak fries. It's hard to explain how something that sounds so simple could taste so damned good. They have a number of excellent fish items on the menu, as well, and we tried the trout, which was phenomenal.

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