Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Canada Summer 2013: Poutine and other Montreal Observations

August 9, 2013 -- It's always the little things that are different when you visit a foreign country and Canada is no different. For example, the food is a bit different in Montreal. Poutine originated in rural Quebec and is now synonymous with the province. Poutine is made with french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. Here is an example:

And of course the license plates are different. Quebec license plates say Je me souviens, which in English means I remember. Here is an example:

And the postal bins are different. Canada Post is the country's primary postal operator. They are certainly more colorful than the United States Postal Service's blue mailboxes. And of course they are in French as well as in English.

There are also many old-fashioned phone booths in Montreal, which is something you see less and less of in the States because of the rise of mobile phone technology and Wi-Fi access. Bell is a Canadian telecommunications and media company headquartered in Montreal that serves most of Canada.

 If you visit Quebec you should definitely brush up on your French or keep Google Translator handy on your smart phone because most of the signs are strictly in French. Quebecers are fiercely independent and don't like using English. There is even a language police that enforces the dominance of the French language. In the rest of Canada, all the signs are in both French and English. But not in Quebec. Here is an example:

And speaking of food, what would a trip to Quebec be without a Crêpe? The staple of the French diet. And in Montreal they even will cook up a breakfast Crêpe in full of the all those hungry pedestrians walking by.

Here are the offices of Montreal's French-language daily newspaper La Presse. The headquarters is located in old Montreal.

And here is a picture of the Palais des congrès de Montréal, or Montreal Convention Center in English. According to Wikipedia, the convention center "features 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2) of exhibition surface area, 65 meeting rooms and 18 loading docks.

The Illuminated Crowd sculpture by Franco-British artist Raymond Mason is one of the most interesting public artworks in the world. It depicts 65 people of all ages, race, facial expressions and conditions on four platforms, illustrating the degradation of the human race and symbolizing the fragility of the human condition.

Also located near the entrance to McGill University was an outdoor photographic exhibition documenting the shameful history of forced assimilation of aboriginal children in Canadian residential schools. Canada, despite many problems still remaining, has come a long way in recognizing the cultural and physical genocide of First Nations people. The United States could learn a lot from how Canada acknowledges its indigenous people.

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