One of the great things about conferences is seeing a new place, or a city that you barely know. I last went to Montreal over 15 years ago for a conference, liked it and hoped to see more. As I barely travel for pleasure, it took this long for me to return. Last time we were in a more eclectic neighbourhood, this time, downtown, so my memories seem to be of two entirely different cities, linked only by Rue St. Catherine, the city's high street shopping centre.
This time round, I didn't get to see so much but made it out to Lawrence in Mile End for dinner and while I saw some interesting boutiques, they were all closed. Given the cold, snow and hectic schedule, I ended up seeing more of the Underground City, which I didn't know about until this trip. While much of it consists of tunnels and mall shops, we did have a decent food court with a Second Cup (Canadian Starbucks but better) and a great bakery/sandwich/quiche place, Premiere Moisson, which also appears to be a chain but a really good one. Despite trying to avoid wheat, I couldn't resist their apricotines, pains au raison, quiche and chicken pie. Given that I'm seeing my endocrinologist today, I deserve the bad news I anticipate I'll be getting. That said, I can't get many pastries this good and buttery here and being back means it's easier to pass on naughty foods--it's almost impossible to avoid carbs when you are forced to rely on restaurants, have no cooking/storage facilities and are in a city you don't know in an area devoid of supermarkets or the likes of Whole Foods. And much as I wish I could be that person, I cannot survive on two salads a day, especially when pastries of that calibre are available and being eaten by everybody around.
I liked Montreal and would like to return in less than 15 years. I just wish conferences had a day off every other day so you could explore without missing work, panels, meetings, receptions, scholarly interest groups and those all important chance conversations in hallways.
The conference came after spring break which meant I spent mine writing the paper and finalising my revisions on an essay on D.W. Griffith (forthcoming in an anthology). Then the conference, now the aftermath--the work, grading and housekeeping that I put off or couldn't do because I was here. By the time I get through that it will be tax time. After a week of little sleep, I'm now entering into the busiest time of year. With the weather telling us it's still winter, it's luring us into thinking we have a little more time for all that still has to be accomplished this semester/academic year.