“Nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” – Chris McCandless
Just a little over seven hours north of Philadelphia / South Jersey is the second predominantly French speaking city in the world. Straight up interstate 87, just beyond the Catskill and Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, a beautiful European city shimmers along the Saint Lawrence River. Having been to Paris, I can honestly say that Montréal is as close as you can get without going to France.
From the rich history, stunning architecture, vibrant culture and French language, the city was quick to steal my heart last weekend. I had been to Montréal before about two years ago but it was only for a day as we passed through making a Canadian tour from Quebec City to Montréal to Ottawa and finally ending in Toronto before crossing back over into the U.S. This time I decided to make a long weekend out of the city that had intrigued me the most.
What I love most about Megalopolis (the massive stretch of cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston which encompasses Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New York, Atlantic City, Wilmington, Hartford and Providence) is the vast variety and easy accessibility to so many incredible places and cities. Luckily, I just so happen to be from Philly, sandwiched directly in the middle of all the chaotic action. I have always appreciated this. Even having traveled all over the U.S., Europe and Africa, there is something special about Megalopolis and always more to discover; a seemingly infinite variety. From the smaller places like Montauk and Asbury Park to Cape Cod, Alexandria and towns along the Chesapeake to the massive northeast cities, there’s so much within a few hours span it’s an overwhelming, overstimulating and exciting place to live. Montréal is seldom mentioned; it’s “up there” on the outskirts and in another country, so it’s not often frequented, which is unfortunate because aside from my home city of brotherly love, I think it’s my favorite in all the northeast. It’s completely different than the rest; very much European yet somehow right here, only a few hours away, no transatlantic flight or voyage required.
Yet somehow, so many people remain stationary, either lacking the desire or motivation to explore the world around them. You don’t have to be rich to travel, I’m living proof of that. I’ve never once regretted any of my travel decisions, they have only served to enlighten, inspire, challenge and teach me. Yes, you can make a weekend out of Montréal if you want. You just have to want to. I have this traveling addiction that desperately needs its fix every few weeks or so. Even if it’s something like exploring a new town up the coast from me or an abandoned school, building or bunker, sometimes that’s just what’s needed to temporarily quench the thirst until the next wave of inevitable and perpetual hunger. Although I have favorite restaurants, bars and spots in my home city of Philly, I’m more often than not exploring new places with my friends whenever we go out. People make a big deal out of going places but forget they live in Megalopolis: a place where you can have breakfast in DC, lunch in Philly and dinner in New York. But Montréal is unlike all the others, by a long shot.
The romantic, European aspect is what really captures me. From the cobblestone streets that wind up and down slopes to the wrought iron balconies on every apartment, the French language and foods and the fact that so many of the business owners, restaurant workers and university students are originally from Paris just makes Montréal so unique. I’m also easily distracted and interested in so many things. On the way to Canada we stopped in Albany which was originally called Fort Nassau and settled in 1614! I wanted to stop at Fort Ticonderoga but we didn’t have time. I could have easily made a week out of the whole venture.
Named after the mountain that resides in the middle of the city, ‘Mont Royal’ – Montréal is actually an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence river. There’s also a bagel rivalry between New York and I must say, Montréal wins if you ask me. Best bagel I’ve ever eaten. Their famed dish is Poutine, a french fry platter with various toppings, sauces, gravy or mixtures. It’s pretty good but if you eat too much of it you’ll poo-tine yourself.
I often think about how thankful I am for my job and how it allows me time for traveling. Had I lost myself in the journalism world and stayed in DC or New York I would have done exactly that – stayed. Sure I could’ve worked my way up at The Huffington Post or The Daily Caller, but I wouldn’t be able to take a weekend trip to explore a new city or a few weeks in Africa. When you see from a heightened perspective, it’s never money or status that defines success or riches. It’s genuine friendships like those who accompanied me on this spontaneous expedition, simplifying, having less material things and more rich experiences outside the comfort zone. But happiness is truly only real when shared. I’m blessed beyond belief to have the greatest friends in the world, closer than family, but I still long for something more.
Montréal is incredibly romantic, as is Paris, and I hope to share these places with my someday love. Surely she is worth more than visiting all the cities in the world. I would just love to do these things with her before I cross them all off my bucket list. Though, finding someone that can keep up with me has proven quite difficult.