Hello, my name is Jeanine and I’m a love junkie. Hi Jeanine.
Yes, it’s true. I’ve been in a long distance relationship with a British boy for over 2 years and if that’s not love, then I must have a serious case of the crazies. We’re talking Montreal, Canada to London, England — roughly 3,251 miles, give or take a few, of land and sea and sky between me and the man I love. I’m not going to lie to you, long distance relationships are hard, kids. Sometimes I think I deserve a medal for surviving the whole ordeal, but I suppose my reward is that I’ve found the man of my dreams. I just couldn’t have predicted that I’d have to travel to England to find him and that we’d spend the better part of 28 months meeting at various airports in 7 different countries, spending blissful weeks together then being separated for two to five month stretches, connected only by post cards and late night phone calls and text messages and Skype dates. But soon, all this longing will come to an end– a new adventure is about to begin. Indeed, on June 21st, I am taking a leap of faith, packing my bags and flying across that giant pond, which has kept us apart for far too long. And I am ECSTATIC, people!
While there are so many things I am going to miss about Montreal, there’s also much to look forward to about my future in the UK and because I simply cannot resist a good list, I must share these things with you.
Things I am going to miss about Montreal:
* My family and friends, goes without saying. Each and every single one of them feeds me in some way.
* My neighborhood. The Mile End. Christoper DeWolfe describes it so perfectly that any attempt on my part would fall short. “Mile End embodies most of what’s best about Montreal: the effortless mix of languages, the whimsical architecture, the easygoingness and the sense that sitting in a leafy terrace on St. Viateur Street is more important than whatever mundane task you’re neglecting.”
* Hockey night in Canada and the way crowds gather in pubs and cafés with people spilling out onto the street, eyes glued to the screen, singing ooooolé olé olé olé. The entire city has playoff fever and it’s contagious.
* The heat of our summers. The lakes of our countryside. The smell of our August.
* Café Olimpico, where there’s always a long line of people at the counter (no matter the time of day or the day of the week) and the baristas know 80% of their customers by name and poison. Un latté, Patrick? Allongé, Jean-Simon? Two espressos for here, Zoe? It is, by far, one of the best espressos in town and everyone in the neighborhood gathers there– old Italian men mingle with hipsters and artists, intellectuals, IT geeks, young families and dogs. After living in the Mile End for over a year now, Vito finally knows my name and drink of choice. Allongé, no milk, no sugar, ever. I’m going to miss that sense of community. That feeling of home.
* La Petite Idée Fixe. It may be a dark dive but it’s my watering hole of choice. Where Jocelyne, the bar tender, reaches for the bottle of Jameson as soon as she sees me and where a double only costs me a tenner. I’ll miss it especially because it’s where my friend Roma and I meet once a week. It might as well be called my shrink’s office because that’s what it is. My inconspicuous den o zen. No pretenses. Nobody trying to pick up. There are a few gambling machines in the back, a terrace that looks like something that should be on a beach in Jamaica and a jukebox, which plays anything from Québécois folk songs to classic rock. And Roma. I’m going to miss Roma.
* The bicycles. The variety of bicycles and the various people who ride them.
* Tam Tams on Sunday. I love knowing that every Sunday, the heart of Montreal beats to hundreds of people gathering on Mount Royal to bang on their drums. Some people dance, some people picnic, other people play. But the overall vibe is summer chill.
* Exploring rooftops by night. There’s nothing quite like silently climbing to the top of a roof, looking at the stars above and the city below, waiting for the sun to rise, cycling home at dawn, stopping at a greasy spoon along the way, filling up, then going to sleep as the rest of the world wakes. It’s a different way of seeing the night, the urban stillness at 3am, the complicated beauty of abandoned buildings and parking lots.
* The alleyways. They’re alive here in Montreal. If it’s treasures that you seek, veer off the road and into an alleyway. It’s a whole other world of secret gardens and clothes hanging on the line, swaying in the summer breeze and children playing hopscotch (I’ve even seen grown men play pingpong in those alleyways).
* The colorful staircases.
* The little Italian restaurant on Stanley, which I walk by on my way to work. The same woman sits by the window every morning, reading her paper and sipping her coffee with her coat on. In the afternoon, the old man that owns the place takes a seat after the rush of lunch, eats his pasta, drinks his wine and smiles as I pass by. I find comfort in knowing that some things never change.
* Bring your own wine restaurants = WIN!
* Bagels and baguettes.
* The angel statue on Mount Royal and the Farine Five Roses sign in the Old Port. Beacons guiding me home.
* The French. The language. The laissez-faire lifestyle.
* Sunday brunch with old friends.
* Maple syrup that doesn’t cost a down payment on a house.
And these are the things I look forward to in London:
* Doing all the wonderful things that the British Boy and I have only been able to talk about for the past 2 years.
* The architecture, the gardens, the accent (music to my ears), the pubs, the history.
* Borough Market — a kaleidoscope of colors. I reckon I’ll be going there every weekend to stock up.
* The British sense of humor.
* Cultural activities abound. You name it, London has it– music, ballet, symphony, theatre, dance and art.
* Waking up in the same bed as my love.
* Strapping on a pair of wellies and going for a long walk in the woods. Being able to simply say wellie.
* The opportunities for travel. I could decide at a moment’s notice that I want to spend the weekend in Prague and I wouldn’t have to file for bankruptcy or sell a kidney to be able afford it.
* Sunday roasts with new friends.
* Going on a whiskey tour of Scotland.
* Long leisurely drives in counties that end in “shire”.
* Trying every single café and restaurant recommended by Brian Ferry. The man has crazy, good taste.
* Weekends by the sea. And wild swimming in rivers and lakes.
* Having friends come visit me from America.
* Breakfast at Tina, We Salute You. I had the best granola of my life there (best granola EVER!) with yogurt and warm honey and I want it in my belly again.
* Being inspired to take photos again and looking through the lens with fresh eyes.
* Making biscuits on a Sunday morning, with homemade strawberry jam, him drinking his tea, me sipping my coffee, us reading the paper.
Montreal is home. Montreal is where I found my bearings again, it’s where I found myself. And Montreal will always be here, waiting for me, if ever I need it again. But for now… a grand adventure awaits and the butterflies are in a permanent state of frenzie. I have dreamed of living in Europe for as long as I can remember. And the thing is, my dreams don’t even compare to this reality. The reality of this move outweighs and continues to outweigh my wildest dreams. I mean, love in London? Has a pretty nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?
What would you miss most about your current home if you had to move?
“Our lives are a flood of images and we are collectors who keep a strange assortment of images: moments of extreme emotion, pain, beauty, and fear stand out. Events we’re taught to remember: weddings, graduations, births, deaths. Then there are the millions of images that we can’t shake out of our heads, that come to us at strange times – things we can’t remember why we remember: the gold threads in an old stereo speaker, the way the light hit a thousand cars in a parking lot by the water, the face of a stranger in a restaurant, a friend standing in a pool – you can’t remember where, slapping the water with the flat of her hand. Memory is a sieve that holds curious things. A life is a trail of strange, colorful memories.” – Risa Mickenberg
Jeanine Caron is a regular contributor to Gypsy Girl’s Guide.